CREEPY AS ALL HELL,
and wonderfully rich and
compelling to boot.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. McElderry/S&S, 2014, 208 pages.
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Blog: Emilyreads (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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CREEPY AS ALL HELL,
Blog: Ink Splot 26 (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Hi! I’d like to introduce you to Mimi Kirkland. She plays Lily on Austin & Ally this season. Her character is a spunky and energetic fan who begins taking music lessons from Ally so she can hang out with the star. In real life, Mimi loves to spend time with her family and enjoys participating in outdoor activities such as bike riding, swimming, and playing tag with her 2 sisters and her dog.
AND . . . she has offered to answer YOUR questions! Do you want to know what it is like to be on a Disney TV show with Laura Marano and Ross Lynch? Now is your chance to ask.
Leave your questions in the Comments and come back here on March 13 for Mimi’s answers!
Sonja, STACKS StafferAdd a Comment
Blog: The Open Book (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Publishing 101, author advice, book marketing, Bookstores, Add a tag
So, here you are: you’ve gone through the long, grueling process of writing draft after draft of your book. You’ve gotten an agent, who then sold it to an editor. You’ve revised and revised, until finally it’s ready to go to print. And now…you wait.
Authors often ask me: What can I do while I’m waiting for my book to come out? Here are five of my top suggestions:
1. Develop your list of contacts.
It may seem obvious, but one of the most important things you can do while waiting for your book to be released is to simply put together a list of all your professional and personal contacts who you think should know about your book. This includes family, friends, coworkers, professional contacts, fellow writers, and contacts from any communities you’re personally connected to: religious communities, volunteer organizations, even neighborhood restaurants where you’re a regular. Don’t be shy! All of these people will be excited to find out that you’ve published a book, and many of them will want to support you by buying a copy. Create a clean list of email addresses so that when the book is released, you can easily send out an email to everyone to let them know (even if you are connected to many of these people on Facebook, studies show that they will be more likely to make a purchase from a direct email). After that, don’t forget to add new contacts to your list as you meet new people at conferences or events.
2. Reach out to your local bookstore about hosting a launch party.
As soon as you have a release date for your book, get in touch with your local bookstore to see if they would be willing to host a launch party for you. Many bookstores are happy to do this, especially for local authors. Launch parties at bookstores are a win/win: you get a space for hosting and don’t have to worry about handling book sales yourself, and bookstores get an influx of people who are excited to purchase books. Coordinate with your publisher to make sure you pick a launch date when books will definitely be available.
3. Refine your online presence.
Now is the time to make sure that your online presence is everything you want it to be and contains all the most updated information about you. This means, first and foremost, having a clean and updated website. Put a book cover, release information, and any reviews you’ve received on your website as soon as possible. You may feel like only your mom visits your website now, but once your book comes out, traffic will increase, and your website should be in top shape before then. You should also use this time to decide which, if any, social media platforms you want to use. Delete accounts you don’t use instead of letting them languor un-updated for years (or, at the very least, add links that redirect people to your website) and start getting in the habit of updating content regularly on any platforms you want to use.
4. Come up with a list of topics related to your book.
Book releases today are almost always accompanied by blog tours or some other type of blog coverage. You can do your part to get ready for this by putting together a list of topics related to your book on which you would be willing to write guest posts or answer questions. These could include anything from the research you did for the book to your playlist of songs you listened to while revising. Be creative! Share this list with your publishers so they can use it when shaping their pitches for bloggers. They may also work with you to shape some of these topics into longer pieces to pitch to online or print publications.
5. Get to know local opportunities.
Spend some time looking into any local or state book awards for which you might be eligible, and pass them on to your publisher to make sure they are submitting your book. Are there any book fairs or book festivals in your area? The deadlines for getting on panels at these events are often many months before the event happens, so the earlier you find out about them, the better the chances that you’ll be able to participate. Don’t assume your publisher already knows about everything; while publishers have extensive lists of awards and book festivals, no one knows your area better than you, and you may find something they’ve missed.
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to bother your publisher! Even if they’re busy, they’ll appreciate the work that you are doing to prepare for your book release and be happy to work with you.
What am I missing? Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll answer the question: What do I need to include on my author website? (use the links in the top left sidebar to subscribe so you won’t miss it.)
How to plan a successful book launch
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Blog: The Chicago Blog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Biography, Books for the News, Add a tag
The Reverend Gary Davis was born in Piedmont, South Carolina, on April 30, 1896. He died in Hammonton, New Jersey, on May 5, 1972. In between, he become one of the most protean guitar players of the twentieth century, and his finger-picking style influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead to Keb’ Mo’ and Blind Boy Fuller.
Born partially blind as the sole surviving son to two sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South, by the 1940s, Davis, ordained as a Baptist minister, was playing on Harlem streetcorners and storefronts, making his living as an itinerant, singing gospel preacher. By the beginning of the 1960s folk revival, he had moved in circles that included Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie, recorded a series of albums for the legendary Folkways label, and been embraced by a generation of educated, middle-class young people eager for fodder to spur a folk revival. See his performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival for further illumination of this cultural congruence. Even before his death in 1970, he was the subject of two television documentaries. Davis’s legacy, however, still exists outside a canon that has acknowledged his peers, including Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson—his music, like his troubled life, is the stuff of myth, and as such, has charted a more intimate course through a series of covers and the musical offerings of his students, a group numbering in the dozens.
In concert with the publication of Say No to the Devil: The Life and Music of the Reverend Gary Davis, the first biography of Davis, written by Ian Zack, one of his former students, we’re putting together a special feature, with performances, of every student who studied with the Reverend. In the meantime, here’s a teaser list of some names, just to give you a sense of the breadth of those who sought Davis out, and in whose own compositions, the master player’s gospel still lingers.
Roy Book Binder
Allen Evans (one of Davis’s final guitar pupils; a week or two before his death, Davis gave him a two-and-a-half hour lesson, then wanted to arm wrestle)
Blind Boy Fuller
Jesse Lee Kincaid
Dean Meredith (drove Davis to visit Woody Guthrie at Brooklyn State Hospital in 1964)
Dave Van Ronk
As a bonus, here’s Bob Dylan playing Davis’s arrangement of the song “Candy Man,” from a 1961 Minneapolis hotel tape (it’s really good):
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Blog: Wands and Worlds (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: aliens, diversity, humor, middle-grade, science fiction, Add a tag
Smek for President
Science fiction for kids is rare enough; truly funny middle-grade science fiction is even rarer. In fact, off the top of my head I can only think of one book in the hilarious middle-grade science fiction genre: The True Meaning of Smekday. Now that number has doubled, with the publication of a worthy sequel, Smek for President.
If you haven't read The True Meaning of Smekday, why not? Go forth and read it now! It's a great road-trip buddy comedy about a girl and an alien on the run from the evil alien overlords.
Beyond this point there will be spoilers for the first book.
In Smek for President, human leader Dan Landry has taken credit for defeating the Gorg. No one, human or Boov, knows that it was really Tip and J.Lo who discovered the Gorg's weakness and defeated them with hundreds of cloned cats. Tip is living an anonymous life trying to adjust to being a regular girl again. J.Lo is infamous on two worlds: he can't seem to stay out of trouble in their community on Earth, and to the Boov he's still the Squealer, who accidentally signaled the Gorg in the first place. Tip and J.Lo decide to take a trip to New Boovworld (formerly known as the moon Titan) to explain to Captain Smek what really happened and clear J.Lo's name.
Hilarious hijinks ensue, including a low-gravity chase that is every bit as awesome as you'd hope for a low-gravity chase to be, an escape into a garbage-pit, (with obligatory Star Wars reference) and a lonely bubble-billboard. There's more awesomeness that I can't say anything about without spoiling the book. There are several comic sections that extend the story throughout the book.
There's not much else I can say, except that this is a perfect middle-grade book, and fans of The True Meaning of Smekday will love it. Anyone who hasn't read The True Meaning of Smekday would be well served to read it first.
The protagonist Tip is mixed-race and dark skinned. She's also an awesome character that boys and girls of all races can identify with. (How many times am I allowed to say awesome in one review?)
Buy from Powells.com:
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New IMAX Movie About Humpback Whales!
Humpback Whales is an extraordinary journey into the mysterious world of one of nature’s most awe-inspiring marine mammals. Set in the spectacular waters of Alaska, Hawaii, and the remote islands of Tonga, this ocean adventure gives an up-close look at how these whales sing, feed, play, and take care of their young. Humpbacks were nearly driven to extinction 50 years ago, but today are making a recovery. Join a team of researchers as they unlock the secrets of the humpback and find out why humpbacks are the most acrobatic of all whales, why they sing their haunting songs, and why these intelligent, 55-foot, 50-ton animals migrate up to 10,000 miles round-trip every year.
• Humpback whales are found in all oceans on Earth. Populations migrate between summer feeding grounds in temperate polar waters and winter mating grounds in tropical waters. In a sense, the humpback connects all of the world’s oceans.
• Humpback whales are named for the arching motion they make with their backs in preparation for diving. Their scientific name Megaptera Novaeangliae means “great wing,” referring to their large flippers.
• Some of earth’s largest mammals, humpbacks can reach between 40 and 55 feet (about the length of a school bus) and weigh up to 50 tons (about the weight of 500 average-sized human beings). Their lungs alone are about the size of a compact car.
• Humpbacks are one of the few animal species in which females are larger than males.
• The humpback diet consists of krill and varieties of small schooling fish and they have been observed eating up to a ton of food a day when in feeding grounds.
• Humpback whales can swim in bursts up to 16 mph, but swim at slower speeds when feeding.
• A newborn humpback calf can be 10-15 feet long at birth and weigh up to a ton.
• Only the males sing. A humpback song can last as long as 20 minutes, and sometimes the same song will be repeated for hours.
Do YOU think we should do more to protect humpback whales? Join the Save the Planet Message Board to share your thoughts about these glorious animals!
Humpback Whales photos copyright © Brandon ColeAdd a Comment
Blog: Emilyreads (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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A different story
of internment, with
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner. Disney, 2014, 144 pages.
Blog: The Open Book (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books, CCSS, close reading, common core, English Language Learners, literacy, mathematics, Read Aloud, whole child, Add a tag
I’ll be the first to admit it: I didn’t pay much attention to math. I specialized in literacy and focused on reading, speaking, listening, writing, social studies, and science instruction. Math? My third graders went down the hall each day to the “math classroom.” My co-teacher and I collaborated over best teaching practices, family relationships, and classroom management, but I didn’t spend time delving into the third-grade mathematics standards.
It wasn’t until I entered into our first parent-teachers-student conferences in September that I realized I couldn’t afford to compartmentalize my students’ learning.
In those conferences, we had students who loved math and had excelled in math every year leading up, but were now struggling to advance. They seemed to have hit an invisible wall. What happened?
Two words: Word problems.
Some of our students who were English Language Learners, reluctant readers, or who struggled to read at grade level for other reasons all of a sudden “couldn’t do” math anymore because the vocabulary, text length, and sentence structure were increasing in complexity. Even though they knew what 9 x 5 was, they couldn’t read and decipher the sentence:
Rene enjoys wearing a new outfit every day. His father bought him nine pairs of shorts and five shirts. Rene doesn’t want to wear any outfit twice. How many different outfit combinations does he have?
Now several of my students weren’t only struggling to read in my literacy class, but also struggling to read in math class. This was disheartening and confusing for them because math was a subject they loved, excelled at, and didn’t feel “below their grade level” because of language abilities or background schema. Yet reading challenges were following them down the hall and across instruction periods.
Guess what: Reading teachers are ALSO math teachers.
Let me explain.
- A text is a text no matter the form. Those ELA standards about determining the central idea and unknown or multiple-meaning words apply to word problems along with poems, plays, and biographies. Word problems can be lengthy, involve two or more steps, and contain new and unknown vocabulary that require examining context clues to solve.
- Great English teachers improve students’ math scores. According to The Hechinger Report, researchers from Stanford and University of Virginia looked at 700,000 students in New York City in third through eighth grade over the course of eight school years. Results: Students of good English language arts teachers had higher than expected math scores in subsequent years.
- Starting in second-grade mathematics, students are reading, interpreting, and solving two-step and multi-step word problems. Even as early as kindergarten and first grade, students are encountering one-step word problems. Bottom line: If they can’t read, they will get left behind in math, too.
So, how can literacy teachers embrace math?
1. Nice to meet you, Math. I’m ELA. The Common Core website also falls victim to sequestering the ELA and math standards. Whether you teach both math and literacy or only one, compare the math standards to the ELA standards of your grade. Open two windows on your computer setting the Reading or Language standards of your grade side by side with the Operations & Algebraic Thinking standards for your grade. What do they have in common?
(Hint, hint: determining central idea of a text, interpreting unknown words or phrases, using context clues, and learning general academic and domain-specific words)
2. Share what read aloud or model text you are reading for the week or unit if you have a separate teacher for math instruction. In word problems, you or the math instructor can write a few of the problems about the characters. Reading In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage? Make Augusta the main character in the word problems.
This book has several money references because Augusta earned money from her teaching and from competitions she entered. Use some of the scenes in the book to review the values of currency. For example, Augusta earned a dollar every day from the principal of her school. How many different ways can you make $1.00 using combinations of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies?
3. Reward students with a math problem during the reading instruction block. (I’m telling you—students LOVE seeing you break out math during a literacy block). This gives students a break, uses a different part of their brains/thinking, and allows them to display their abilities in another subject (which is especially important if English makes a student feel doubtful or shy). Students can do this if they finish their required assignment early or you are transitioning between periods.
4. Allow students to create a word problem using the setting and characters of a book they are reading as an incentive, extension opportunity, or way to engage reluctant readers. Students can submit problems for you to review at the end of the day and the next day you can post one with the student author’s name. Students will have a chance to model (and observe) high quality writing and thinking, as well as delight in their peers’ recognition.
5. Word problems ARE story problems. Treat a word problem like any other fiction story. Have students identify the main character(s) and the problem. Give the word problem a setting. Encourage students to expand the math problem into a fiction story through writing or drawing.
6. Make a math bin in the classroom library. Whatever gets a student excited to read and pick up a book, right? Just as we will scour web deals and dig through yard sales for books on tiger sharks and poison dart frogs, don’t forget to hunt for math-themed books to add to your classroom library if math is your students’ passion.
7. Pick math-themed books to align with units students are covering in the grade level’s math standards. Great read alouds and leveled readers exist to help teach concepts around counting, money, time, geometry, and mixed operations, such as:
- 100 Day
- Counting Pumpkins
- Ice Cream Money
- Seven Cookies
- Shapes Where We Play
- Ten Oni Drummers
- Twenty-Two Cents
- What Time Is It?
8. Even books without explicit math themes can inspire math conversations.
- Florence was promised twenty-five cents a night to perform at the Empire Theater. If she performed every night for one week, how much money did she earn? How much money would she earn in two weeks?
- After her performance in the butchers’ shop, Florence earned $3.85. How many nickels would you need to make $3.85? How many pennies would you need to make $3.85?
- If Hoy was born in 1862 and died in 1961, how old was he when he passed away? If Hoy started playing in the major leagues in 1888 and retired from baseball in 1902, how many years did he play in the major leagues? How many years ago did Hoy last play baseball? If Hoy were alive today, how old would he be?
From Love Twelve Miles Long:
- Frederick’s mother walks twelve miles. How many yards does she walk? How many kilometers and meters does she walk?
If students can’t read, they will struggle to succeed in math (and science and social studies). These challenges will compound with each year affecting self-confidence and commitment. Bridging math and literacy for students is a powerful way for students to see that learning how to derive meaning from text has real world applications and that you are invested in their entire education.
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.Add a Comment
Blog: Ink Splot 26 (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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If you’re all shaken up Shake it Up! is over, then you might need to check out Zendaya’s NEW Disney show that’s all the rage: K.C. Undercover.
K. C. (played by Zendaya) is an undercover spy in a family of undercover spies who go on secret government missions. She is a 16-year-old math genius spy in training (who can rock incredibly dangerous looking 3-inch sneaker high heels)! Her brother Ernie is a socially awkward, but lovable computer expert. And the family receives a new addition of a 10-year-old robot sister Judy. We’re still learning whose side she’s on. It’s pretty hilarious. The stories have a nice mix of capturing the bad guy while balancing being a teenager. And I have to say I love all her outfits!
So for today’s mission, it’s your job to let us know:
Would You Rather . . .
- Go undercover to your school dance and arrest your date (who’s a bad guy spy!) OR go undercover into the football team locker room and arrest the sweaty but gorgeous star quarterback?
- Be a spy like K. C. and her family OR be a ghost like on The Haunted Hathaways?
- Live as a spy in Russia OR Brazil?
- Have a secret gadget to listen in on people’s conversations OR secret gadget to make things explode by pressing a button?
- Discover your parents are spies OR your parents are secretly rich and famous from being in a rock band in the 1990s?
- Be able to dance like Zendaya in Shake It Up OR do action karate moves like Zendaya in K. C. Undercover?
- Have a robot sister like Judy OR a real robot who obeys your every command?
- Be a good spy OR an evil spy? (bwa ha ha ha)
Should you choose to complete this mission, leave your answers in the Comments below. And let us know what you think of Zendaya’s new show K. C. Undercover!
-Ratha, STACKS Writer
Photo courtesy of Disney Channel
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Blog: The Chicago Blog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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An excerpt from Seeing Green: The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images
by Finis Dunaway
“The Crying Indian”
It may be the most famous tear in American history. Iron Eyes Cody, an actor in native garb, paddles a birch bark canoe on water that seems at first tranquil and pristine but becomes increasingly polluted along his journey. He pulls his boat from the water and walks toward a bustling freeway. As the lone Indian ponders the polluted landscape and stares at vehicles streaming by, a passenger hurls a paper bag out a car window. The bag bursts on the ground, scattering fast-food wrappers all over his beaded moccasins. In a stern voice, the narrator comments: “Some people have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t.” The camera zooms in closely on Iron Eyes Cody’s face to reveal a single tear falling, ever so slowly, down his cheek (fig. 5.1).
This tear made its television debut in 1971 at the close of a public service advertisement for the antilitter organization Keep America Beautiful. Appearing in languid motion on television, the tear would also circulate in other visual forms, stilled on billboards and print media advertisements to become a frame stopped in time, forever fixing the image of Iron Eyes Cody as the Crying Indian. Garnering many advertising accolades, including two Clio Awards, and still ranked as one of the best commercials of all time, the Crying Indian spot enjoyed tremendous airtime during the 1970s, allowing it to gain, in advertising lingo, billions of “household impressions” and achieve one of the highest viewer recognition rates in television history. After being remade multiple times to support Keep America Beautiful, and after becoming indelibly etched into American public culture, the commercial has more recently been spoofed by various television shows, including The Simpsons (always a reliable index of popular culture resonance),King of the Hill, and Penn & Teller: Bullshit. These parodies—together with the widely publicized reports that Iron Eyes Cody was actually born Espera De Corti, an Italian-American who literally played Indian in both his life and onscreen—may make it difficult to view the commercial with the same degree of moral seriousness it sought to convey to spectators at the time. Yet to appreciate the commercial’s significance, to situate Cody’s tear within its historical moment, we need to consider why so many viewers believed that the spot represented an image of pure feeling captured by the camera. As the television scholar Robert Thompson explains: “The tear was such an iconic moment. . . . Once you saw it, it was unforgettable. It was like nothing else on television. As such, it stood out in all the clutter we saw in the early 70s.”
FIGURE 5.1. The Crying Indian. Advertising Council / Keep America Beautiful advertisement, 1971. Courtesy of Ad Council Archives, University of Illinois, record series 13/2/203.
As a moment of intense emotional expression, Iron Eyes Cody’s tear compressed and concatenated an array of historical myths, cultural narratives, and political debates about native peoples and progress, technology and modernity, the environment and the question of responsibility. It reached back into the past to critique the present; it celebrated the ecological virtue of the Indian and condemned visual signs of pollution, especially the heedless practices of the litterbug. It turned his crying into a moment of visual eloquence, one that drew upon countercultural currents but also deflected the radical ideas of environmental, indigenous, and other protest groups.
At one level, this visual eloquence came from the tear itself, which tapped into a legacy of romanticism rekindled by the counterculture. As the writer Tom Lutz explains in his history of crying, the Romantics enshrined the body as “the seal of truth,” the authentic bearer of sincere emotion. “To say that tears have a meaning greater than any words is to suggest that truth somehow resides in the body,” he argues. “For [Romantic authors], crying is superior to words as a form of communication because our bodies, uncorrupted by culture or society, are naturally truthful, and tears are the most essential form of speech for this idealized body.”
Rather than being an example of uncontrolled weeping, the single tear shed by Iron Eyes Cody also contributed to its visual power, a moment readily aestheticized and easily reproduced, a drop poised forever on his cheek, seemingly suspended in perpetuity. Cody himself grasped how emotions and aesthetics became intertwined in the commercial. “The final result was better than anybody expected,” he noted in his autobiography. “In fact, some people who had been working on the project were moved to tears just reviewing the edited version. It was apparent we had something of a 60-second work of art on our hands.” The aestheticizing of his tear yielded emotional eloquence; the tear seemed to express sincerity, an authentic record of feeling and experience. Art and reality merged to offer an emotional critique of the environmental crisis.
That the tear trickled down the leathered face of a Native American (or at least someone reputed to be indigenous) made its emotionality that much more poignant, its critique that much more palpable. By designing the commercial around the imagined experience of a native person, someone who appears to have journeyed out of the past to survey the current landscape, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) incorporated the counterculture’s embrace of Indianness as a marker of oppositional identity.
Yet KAB, composed of leading beverage and packaging corporations and staunchly opposed to many environmental initiatives, sought to interiorize the environmentalist critique of progress, to make individual viewers feel guilty and responsible for the degraded environment. Deflecting the question of responsibility away from corporations and placing it entirely in the realm of individual action, the commercial castigated spectators for their environmental sins but concealed the role of industry in polluting the landscape. A ghost from the past, someone who returns to haunt the contemporary American imagination, the Crying Indian evoked national guilt for the environmental crisis but also worked to erase the presence of actual Indians from the landscape. Even as Red Power became a potent organizing force, KAB conjured a spectral Indian to represent the native experience, a ghost whose melancholy presence mobilized guilt but masked ongoing colonialism, whose troubling visitation encouraged viewers to feel responsible but to forget history. Signifying resistance and secreting urgency, his single tear glossed over power to generate a false sense of personal blame. For all its implied sincerity, many environmentalists would come to see the tear as phony and politically problematic, the liquid conclusion to a sham campaign orchestrated by corporate America.
Before KAB appropriated Indianness by making Iron Eyes Cody into a popular environmental symbol, the group had promoted a similar message of individual responsibility through its previous antilitter campaigns. Founded in 1951 by the American Can Company and the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, a corporate roster that later included the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Company, KAB gained the support of the Advertising Council, the nation’s preeminent public service advertising organization. Best known for creating Smokey Bear and the slogan “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” for the US Forest Service, the Ad Council applied the same focus on individual responsibility to its KAB advertising.
The Ad Council’s campaigns for KAB framed litter as a visual crime against landscape beauty and an affront to citizenship values. David F. Beard, a KAB leader and the director of advertising for Reynolds Metals Company, described the litter problem in feverish tones and sought to infuse the issue with a sense of crisis. “During this summer and fall, all media will participate in an accelerated campaign to help to curb the massive defacement of the nation by thoughtless and careless people,” he wrote in 1961. “The bad habits of littering can be changed only by making all citizens aware of their responsibilities to keep our public places as clean as they do their own homes.” The KAB fact sheet distributed to media outlets heightened this rhetoric of urgency by describing litter as an infringement upon the rights of American citizens who “derive much pleasure and recreation from their beautiful outdoors. . . . Yet their enjoyment of the natural and man- made attractions of our grand landscape is everywhere marred by the litter which careless people leave in their wake.” “The mountain of refuse keeps growing,” draining public coffers for continual cleanup and even posing “a menace to life and health,” the Ad Council concluded.
And why had this litter crisis emerged? The Ad Council acknowledged that “more and more products” were now “wrapped and packaged in containers of paper, metal and other materials”—the very same disposable containers that were manufactured, marketed, and used by the very same companies that had founded and directed KAB. Yet rather than critique the proliferation of disposables, rather than question the corporate decisions that led to the widespread use of these materials, KAB and the Ad Council singled out “individual thoughtlessness” as “the outstanding factor in the litter nuisance.”
Each year Beard’s rhetoric became increasingly alarmist as he began to describe the antilitter effort as the moral equivalent of war. “THE LITTERBUGS ARE ON THE LOOSE,” he warned newspapers around the nation, “and we’re counting on you to take up arms against them. . . . Your newspaper is a big gun in the battle against thoughtless littering.” Each year the campaign adopted new visuals to illustrate the tag line: “Bit by bit . . . every litter bit hurts.” “This year we are taking a realistic approach to the litter problem, using before-and-after photographs to illustrate our campaign theme,” Beard reported in 1963. “We think you’ll agree that these ads pack a real wallop.” These images showed a white family or a group of white teenagers enjoying themselves in one photograph but leaving behind unsightly debris in the next. The pictures focused exclusively on places of leisure—beaches, parks, and lakes—to depict these recreational environments as spaces treasured by white middle-class Americans, the archetypal members of the national community. The fight against litter thus appeared as a patriotic effort to protect the beauty of public spaces and to reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, especially among the social group considered to exemplify the American way of life.
In 1964, though, Beard announced a shift in strategy. Rather than appealing to citizenship values in general, KAB would target parents in particular by deploying images of children to appeal to their emotions. “This year we are . . . reminding the adult that whenever he strews litter he is remiss in setting a good example for the kids—an appeal which should hit . . . with more emotional force than appealing primarily to his citizenship,” he wrote. The campaign against litter thus packaged itself as a form of emotional citizenship. Situating private feelings within public spaces, KAB urged fathers and mothers to see littering as a sign of poor parenting: “The good citizenship habits you want your children to have go overboard when they see you toss litter away.”
These new advertisements featured Susan Spotless, a young white girl who always wore a white dress—completely spotless, of course— together with white shoes, white socks, and a white headband. In the ads, Susan pointed her accusatory finger at pieces of trash heedlessly dropped by her parents (fig. 5.2). The goal of this campaign, Beard explained, was “to dramatize the message that ‘Keeping America Beautiful’ is a family affair’”—a concept that would later be applied not just to litter, but to the entire environmental crisis. Susan Spotless introduced a moral gaze into the discourse on litter, a gaze that used the wagging finger of a child to condemn individual adults for being bad parents, irresponsible citizens, and unpatriotic Americans. She played the part of a child who not only had a vested interest in the future but also appealed to private feelings to instruct her parents how to be better citizens. Launched in 1964, the same year that the Lyndon Johnson campaign broadcast the “Daisy Girl” ad, the Susan Spotless campaign also represented a young white girl as an emblem of futurity to promote citizenship ideals.
Throughout the 1960s and beyond, the Ad Council and KAB continued to present children as emotional symbols of the antilitter agenda. An ad from the late 1960s depicted a chalkboard with children’s antilitter sentiments scrawled across it: “Litter is not pretty. Litter is not healthy. Litter is not clean. Litter is not American.” What all these campaigns assumed was a sense of shared American values and a faith that the United States was fundamentally a good society. The ads did not attempt to mobilize resistant images or question dominant narratives of nationalism. KAB did not in any way attempt to appeal to the social movements and gathering spirit of protest that marked the 1960s.
With this background history in mind, the Crying Indian campaign appears far stranger, a surprising turn for the antilitter movement. KAB suddenly moved from its rather bland admonishments about litter to encompass a broader view of pollution and the environmental crisis. Within a few years it had shifted from Susan Spotless to the Crying Indian. Rather than signaling its commitment to environmentalism, though, this new representational strategy indicated KAB’s fear of the environmental movement.
FIGURE 5.2. “Daddy, you forgot . . . every litter bit hurts!” Advertising Council / Keep America Beautiful advertisement, 1964. Courtesy of Ad Council Archives, University of Illinois, record series 13/2/207.
The soft drink and packaging industries—composed of the same companies that led KAB —viewed the rise of environmentalism with considerable trepidation. Three weeks before the first Earth Day, the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) distributed a detailed memo to its members, warning that “any bottling company” could be targeted by demonstrators hoping to create an “attention-getting scene.” The memo explained that in March, as part of a “‘dress rehearsal’” for Earth Day, University of Michigan students had protested at a soft drink plant by dumping a huge pile of nonreturnable bottles and cans on company grounds. Similar stunts, the memo cautioned, might be replicated across the nation on Earth Day.
And, indeed, many environmental demonstrations staged during the week surrounding Earth Day focused on the issue of throwaway containers. All these protests held industry—not consumers—responsible for the proliferation of disposable items that wasted natural resources and created a solid waste crisis. In Atlanta, for example, the week culminated with an “Ecolog y Trek”—featuring a pickup truck full of bottles and cans—to the Coca-Cola company headquarters. FBI surveillance agents, posted at fifty locations around the United States to monitor the potential presence of radicals at Earth Day events, noted that in most cases the bottling plants were ready for the demonstrators. Indeed, the plant managers heeded the memo’s advice: they not only had speeches prepared and “trash receptacles set up” for the bottles and cans hauled by participants, but also offered free soft drinks to the demonstrators. At these protests, environmental activists raised serious questions about consumer culture and the ecological effects of disposable packaging. In response, industry leaders in Atlanta and elsewhere announced, in effect: “Let them drink Coke.”
The NSDA memo combined snideness with grudging respect to emphasize the significance of environmentalism and to warn about its potential impact on their industry: If legions of consumers imbibed the environmentalist message, would their sales and profi ts diminish? “Those who are protesting, although many may be only semi- informed, have a legitimate concern for the environment they will inherit,” the memo commented. “From a business point of view, the protestors . . . represent the growing numbers of today’s and tomorrow’s soft drink consumers. An industry whose product sales are based on enjoyment of life must be concerned about ecological problems.” Placed on the defensive by Earth Day, the industry recognized that it needed to formulate a more proactive public relations effort.
KAB and the Ad Council would devise the symbolic solution that soft drink and packaging industries craved: the image of the Crying Indian. The conceptual brilliance of the ad stemmed from its ability to incorporate elements of the countercultural and environmentalist critique of progress into its overall vision in order to offer the public a resistant narrative that simultaneously deflected attention from industry practices. When Iron Eyes Cody paddled his birch bark canoe out of the recesses of the imagined past, when his tear registered shock at the polluted present, he tapped into a broader current of protest and, as the ad’s designers knew quite well, entered a cultural milieu already populated by other Ecological Indians.
In 1967 Life magazine ran a cover story titled “Rediscovery of the Red-man,” which emphasized how certain notions of Indianness were becoming central to countercultural identity. Native Americans, the article claimed, were currently “being discovered again—by the hippies. . . . Viewing the dispossessed Indian as America’s original dropout, and convinced that he has deeper spiritual values than the rest of society, hippies have taken to wearing his costume and horning in on his customs.” Even as the article revealed how the counterculture trivialized native culture by extracting symbols of imagined Indianness, it also indicated how the image of the Indian could be deployed as part of an oppositional identity to question dominant values.
While Life stressed the material and pharmaceutical accoutrements the counterculture ascribed to Indianness— from beads and headbands to marijuana and LSD—other media sources noted how many counter-cultural rebels found ecological meaning in native practices. In 1969, as part of a special issue devoted to the environmental crisis,Look magazine profiled the poet Gary Snyder, whose work enjoyed a large following among the counterculture. Photographed in the nude as he held his smiling young child above his head and sat along a riverbank, Snyder looked like the archetypal natural man, someone who had found freedom in nature, far away from the constraints and corruptions of modern culture. In a brief statement to the magazine he evoked frontier mythology to contrast the failures of the cowboy with the virtues of the Indian. “We’ve got to leave the cowboys behind,” Snyder said. “We’ve got to become natives of this land, join the Indians and recapture America.”
Although the image of the Ecological Indian grew out of longstanding traditions in American culture, it circulated with particular intensity during the late 1960s and early 1970s. A 1969 poster distributed by activists in Berkeley, California, who wanted to protect “People’s Park” as a communal garden, features a picture of Geronimo, the legendary Apache resistance fighter, armed with a rifle. The accompanying text contrasts the Indians’ reverence for the land with the greed of white men who turned the space into a parking lot. Likewise, a few weeks before Earth Day, the New York Times Magazine reported on Ecology Action, a Berkeley-based group. The author was particularly struck by one image that appeared in the group’s office. “After getting past the sign at the door, the visitor is confronted with a large poster of a noble, if somewhat apprehensive, Indian. The first Americans have become the culture heroes of the ecology movement.” Native Americans had become symbolically important to the movement, because, one of Ecology Action’s leaders explained, “‘the Indians lived in harmony with this country and they had a reverence for the things they depended on.’”
Hollywood soon followed suit. The 1970 revisionist Western Little Big Man, one of the most popular films of the era, portrayed Great Plains Indians living in harmony with their environment, respecting the majestic herds of bison that filled the landscape. While Indians killed the animals only for subsistence, whites indiscriminately slaughtered the creatures for profit, leaving their carcasses behind to amass, in one memorable scene, enormous columns of skins for the market. One film critic noted that “the ominous theme is the invincible brutality of the white man, the end of ‘natural’ life in America.”18
In creating the image of the Crying Indian, KAB practiced a sly form of propaganda. Since the corporations behind the campaign never publicized their involvement, audiences assumed that KAB was a disinterested party. KAB documents, though, reveal the level of duplicity in the campaign. Disingenuous in joining the ecology bandwagon, KAB excelled in the art of deception. It promoted an ideology without seeming ideological; it sought to counter the claims of a political movement without itself seeming political. The Crying Indian, with its creative appropriation of countercultural resistance, provided the guilt-inducing tear KAB needed to propagandize without seeming propagandistic.
Soon after the first Earth Day, Marsteller agreed to serve as the volunteer ad agency for a campaign whose explicit purpose was to broaden the KAB message beyond litter to encompass pollution and the environmental crisis. Acutely aware of the stakes of the ideological struggle, Marsteller’s vice president explained to the Ad Council how he hoped the campaign would battle the ideas of environmentalists—ideas, he feared, that were becoming too widely accepted by the American public. “The problem . . . was the attitude and the thinking of individual Americans,” he claimed. “They considered everyone else but themselves as polluters. Also, they never correlated pollution with litter. . . . The ‘mind-set’ of the public had to be overcome. The objective of the advertising, therefore, would be to show that polluters are people—no matter where they are, in industry or on a picnic.” While this comment may have exaggerated the extent to which the American public held industry and industry alone responsible for environmental problems (witness the popularity of the Pogo quotation), it revealed the anxiety felt by corporate leaders who saw the environmentalist insurgency as a possible threat to their control over the means of production.19
As outlined by the Marsteller vice president, the new KAB advertising campaign would seek to accomplish the following ideological objectives: It would conflate litter with pollution, making the problems seem indistinguishable from one another; it would interiorize the sense of blame and responsibility, making viewers feel guilty for their own individual actions; it would generalize and universalize with abandon, making all people appear equally complicit in causing pollution and the environmental crisis. While the campaign would still sometimes rely on images of young white children, images that conveyed futurity to condemn the current crisis, the Crying Indian offered instead an image of the past returning to the haunt the present.
Before becoming the Crying Indian, Iron Eyes Cody had performed in numerous Hollywood films, all in roles that embodied the stereotypical, albeit contradictory, characteristics attributed to cinematic Indians. Depending on the part, he could be solemn and stoic or crazed and bloodthirsty; most of all, though, in all these films he appeared locked in the past, a visual relic of the time before Indians, according to frontier myth, had vanished from the continent.
The Crying Indian ad took the dominant mythology as prologue; it assumed that audiences would know the plotlines of progress and disappearance and would imagine its prehistoric protagonist suddenly entering the contemporary moment of 1971. In the spot, the time- traveling Indian paddles his canoe out of the pristine past. His long black braids and feather, his buckskin jacket and beaded moccasins— all signal his pastness, his inability to engage with modernity. He is an anachronism who does not belong in the picture.
The spectral Indian becomes an emblem of protest, a phantomlike figure whose untainted ways allow him to embody native ecological wisdom and to critique the destructive forces of progress. He confronts viewers with his mournful stare, challenging them to atone for their environmental sins. Although he has glimpsed various signs of pollution, it is the final careless act—the one passenger who flings trash at his feet—that leads him to cry. At the moment the tear appears, the narrator, in a baritone voice, intones: “People start pollution. People can stop it.” The Crying Indian does not speak. The voice-over sternly confi rms his tearful judgment and articulates what the silent Indian cannot say: Industry and public policy are not to blame, because individual people cause pollution. The resistant narrative becomes incorporated into KAB’s propaganda effort. His tear tries to alter the public’s “mind-set,” to deflect attention away from KAB’s corporate sponsors by making individual Americans feel culpable for the environmental crisis.
Iron Eyes Cody became a spectral Indian at the same moment that actual Indians occupied Alcatraz Island—located, ironically enough, in San Francisco Bay, the same body of water in which the Crying Indian was paddling his canoe. As the ad was being filmed, native activists on nearby Alcatraz were presenting themselves not as past-tense Indians but as coeval citizens laying claim to the abandoned island. For almost two years—from late 1969 through mid-1971, a period that overlapped with both the filming and release of the Crying Indian commercial— they demanded that the US government cede control of the island. The Alcatraz activists, composed mostly of urban Indian college students, called themselves the “Indians of All Tribes” to express a vision of pan- Indian unity—an idea also expressed by the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the struggle for Red Power. On Alcatraz they hoped to create several centers, including an ecological center that would promote “an Indian view of nature—that man should live with the land and not simply on it.”
While the Crying Indian was a ghost in the media machine, the Alcatraz activists sought to challenge the legacies of colonialism and contest contemporary injustices—to address, in other words, the realities of native lives erased by the anachronistic Indians who typically populated Hollywood film. “The Alcatraz news stories are somewhat shocking to non-Indians,” the Indian author and activist Vine Deloria Jr. explained a few months after the occupation began. “It is difficult for most Americans to comprehend that there still exists a living community of nearly one million Indians in this country. For many people, Indians have become a species of movie actor periodically dispatched to the Happy Hunting Grounds by John Wayne on the ‘Late, Late Show.’” The Indians on Alcatraz, Deloria believed, could advance native issues and also potentially teach the United States how to establish a more sustainable relationship with the land. “Non-Indian society has created a monstrosity of a culture where . . . the sun can never break through the smog,” he wrote. “It just seems to a lot of Indians that this continent was a lot better off when we were running it.” While the Crying Indian and Deloria both upheld the notion of native ecological wisdom, they did so in diametrically opposed ways. Iron Eyes Cody’s tear, ineffectual and irrelevant to contemporary Indian lives, evoked only the idea of Indianness, a static symbol for polluting moderns to emulate. In contrast, the burgeoning Red Power movement demonstrated that native peoples would not be consigned to the past, and would not act merely as screens on which whites could project their guilt and desire.
A few weeks after the Crying Indian debuted on TV, the Indians of All Tribes were removed from Alcatraz. Iron Eyes Cody, meanwhile, repeatedly staked out a political position quite different from that of AIM, whose activists protested and picketed one of his films for its stereotypical and demeaning depictions of native characters. Still playing Indian in real life, Cody chastised the group for its radicalism. “The American Indian Movement (AIM) has some good people in it, and I know them,” he later wrote in his autobiography. “But, while the disruptions it has instigated helped put the Indians on the world map, its values and direction must change. AIM must work at encouraging Indians to work within the system if we’ve to really improve our lives. If that sounds ‘Uncle Tom,’ so be it. I’m a realist, damn it! The buffalo are never coming back.” Iron Eyes Cody, the prehistoric ghost, the past-tense ecological Indian, disingenuously condemned AIM for failing to engage with modernity and longing for a pristine past when buffalo roamed the continent.
Even as AIM sought to organize and empower Indian peoples to improve present conditions, the Crying Indian appears completely powerless, unable to challenge white domination. In the commercial, all he can do is lament the land his people lost.
To read more about Seeing Green, click here.Add a Comment
Blog: The Open Book (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation, The Diversity Gap, Uncategorized, diversity gap, diversity in Hollywood, gender equality, infographic, Add a tag
Last year, we released an infographic and study on the diversity gap in the Academy Awards. The study looked at racial and gender diversity over 85 years of Oscars, through 2012. Here’s the updated study, which includes the 2013, 2014, and 2015 winners:
- Only one woman of color (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Actress
- Only seven men of color (8%) have ever won the Academy Award for Best Actor
- Only one woman (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director
That’s because in the last three years, no person of color has won in the Best Leading Actor or Best Leading Actress category. Including last night’s win for Alejandro González Iñárritu, three people of color have won in the Best Director category, all male. 2014 saw a step forward with three Oscar wins for Twelve Years a Slave, but just a year later all 20 acting nominations once again went to white actors. No women were nominated in the directing, writing, or cinematography categories in 2015 either.
It’s no surprise that there’s no change among the winners when there’s no change among the voters. According to a recent LA Times article, the racial makeup of the Academy has barely budged in the last few years, even with a commitment to diversify from the Academy’s first black woman president.
We often get so caught up in the glamour of the Oscars that it’s hard to remember that the winners are not necessarily the best movies but rather the movies that resonate most with the (mostly male, white, and older) Academy voters. Roxane Gay reminds us of this:
It is frustrating, particularly in looking at the Best Picture nominees, to see what kind of story is resonating with Academy voters. With the exception of Selma, these are movies about white men coming of age, coping with old age, coping with genius, coping with a strong mind but frail body, coping with the burdens of patriotism and duty, and on and on.
These stories deserve to be told but they are not the only stories that deserve to be told. This is what we continually lose sight of. And in Selma, which is an outstanding movie, we see, yet again, the kind of story Academy voters are comfortable with when it comes to people of color–always about the history, about the struggle. Where is the Birdman for an aging Asian actress? Where is Girlhood, ambitiously chronicled over a number of years? Where is the twee movie shot in highly saturated color about a woman working as a hotel concierge? These stories exist and if they don’t they have the potential to exist, if there were more opportunities available.
This echoes a comment from Gina Prince-Blythewood, writer/director of the 2014 film Beyond the Lights:
The numbers do not surprise me because very few Academy Award level films with non-white leads are being greenlit. Until this changes, the abysmal numbers will not change.
So, what would it take to see these stories told and awarded?
There’s no easy answer, but one thing is certain: things won’t change on their own. Sitting back and waiting for the Academy to catch up to our country’s demographics is not an option. And while we may not each have the power to greenlight what gets produced, we do have the power to affect the box office and support great diverse movies with our time, money, and word of mouth. Together we have the power to prove that there’s a market for all different kinds of stories.Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: Emilyreads (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: nonfiction, perhaps I need to calm down, political, young adult, adult, award bait, Cybils, graphic novel, haiku, historical, liked it, Add a tag
A story of wartime
bravery, tainted by
The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks. Broadway Books, 2014, 272 pages.
There is a dinosaur on the loose! It’s huge and ferocious . . . and blue? Uh, ok. What do you think this creature is saying? Leave your captions in the Comments!Add a Comment
Blog: Wands and Worlds (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: awards, fantasy, science fiction, Add a tag
The 2014 Nebula Award nominees have been announced, and with it the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Nebula and Andre Norton awards are given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Two of the Andre Norton nominees were also Cybils Awards finalists: Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan, and Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, by A.S. King. As a Cybils judge, I read both books and they're both excellent, although very different, books. I've also read Love Is the Drug, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and loved that one as well.
Here's the full list of Andre Norton Award nominees:
- Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
- Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
- Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
- Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
- Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
- Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
- The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)
Blog: The Chicago Blog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Awards, Biology, Books for the News, Commentary, Education, History and Philosophy of Science, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Add a tag
Now in their 39th year, the PROSE Awards honor “the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories,” as determined by a jury of peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals.
As is the usual case with this kind of acknowledgement, we are honored and delighted to share several University of Chicago Press books that were singled-out in their respective categories as winners or runners-up for the 2015 PROSE Awards.
Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile
By Megan R. Luke
Art History, Honorable Mention
House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again
By Atif Mian and Amir Sufi
Economics, Honorable Mention
American School Reform: What Works, What Fails, and Why
By Joseph P. McDonald
Winner, Education Practice
The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools
By Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski
Winner, Education Theory
Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters
By Martin J. S. Rudwick
Honorable Mention, History of STM
The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition
By Pier Paolo Pasolini
Edited and translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Honorable Mention, Literature
How Should We Live?: A Practical Approach to Everyday Morality
By John Kekes
Honorable Mention, Philosophy
Congrats to all of the winners, honorable mentions, and nominees!
To read more about the PROSE Awards, click here.Add a Comment
Blog: Emilyreads (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: award bait, Cybils, fiction, graphic novel, great jacket, liked it, political, young adult, Add a tag
A turtle for our time:
tale writ anew.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Lieuw. First Second, 2014, 176 pages. Add a Comment
Brec Bassinger is Bella!
A lot of you are fans of Nickelodeon’s newest live-action comedy series, Bella and the Bulldogs. Bella Dawson (played by Brec Bassinger) is a confident, caring, and talented teenager who suddenly finds herself fulfilling a lifelong dream — as quarterback of the school’s football team. We interviewed the actress Brec Bassinger to find out more about her life on the new show.
Do you have anything in common with Bella?
Brec: What I relate most about Bella is that she follows her dream that is a little bit less normal, and, you know, becoming an actress is a little bit less normal. That’s what I relate to most.
What do you think is the biggest takeaway for the viewers of the show?
Brec: I would say the main thing is that you can follow your dreams no matter what. People will tell you, “No,” but you just need to work that much harder to prove that you can do it.
How’s it being with all the boys?
Brec: It’s fun. We’re all, like, best friends on and off the set. I grew up with two older brothers, so I’m used to it. You know how older brothers are. [Laughter]
Did you ever play football as a child?
Brec: I would throw the football around, but I never actually played football. They sent me and Coy, who plays Troy on the show, to a football camp. It was so different but it was a lot of fun, and I can throw a pretty mean spiral now. Yeah. [Laughter]
Are you good at any other sports?
Brec: I played volleyball, basketball, and track. My main thing was competitive cheerleading though, like Bella.
Have you ever been discouraged from doing something because you’re a girl?
Brec: Not really. Growing up with two older brothers, I always kind of felt like one of the guys. So being a girl never held me down.
Are you also a girly girl?
Brec: I am. I’m super into fashion. I love shopping, and I love drawing different sketches. I go online and try to figure out a new, unique outfit that would be cool.
I understand you’re a straight-A student.
Brec: Yeah, I’m very weird about my grades. That is 100% me. Actually my parents are the ones like, “You don’t have to be in all AP classes. It’s ok.” If I don’t have a 95 or above I am so hard on myself. I’m crazy. I know.
How do you find time to devote to your studies?
Brec: I am homeschooled. I was in normal school until five weeks into my freshman year. So I got to go to homecoming and everything and get the high school experience for five weeks. And then I quit and moved to homeschooling. I miss school terribly. Just being around kids your own age, being in that kind of atmosphere I very much miss. But homeschooling is great because I can go at my own pace, and I actually am going to graduate a year early. I’m 15. I’m going to graduate when I’m 16, so that’s exciting.
What are some of your areas of excellence in school?
Brec: It would definitely be math. Math is my number one thing. I just get it. I like math because there’s always a correct answer. I like the dryness of it. I can prove I’m right. [Laughter]
Do you like to read?
Brec: I actually listen to books a lot more than I read. Audiobooks. My favorite part of reading is it can expand your vocabulary, and that may sound school-y, but I like having descriptive words.
Brec: Yes. Right now I have two dogs, a snake, and that’s it. In the past, I’ve had crazy pets. I’ve had a pot-bellied pig, a lamb, a naked mole rat, a hedgehog, and lizards. We do it all. They’re back in Texas unfortunately. I miss them so much.
Is Brec short for something?
Brec: Nope, just Brec. Some of my friends have come up with stuff. So when people ask me, they’ll be like, “Yeah, it’s short for Breccalini,” and I’m like, “Yeah, ok.”
What is your most embarrassing moment?
Brec: This was super-embarrassing to me. I was jump-roping in a scene and the jump rope flew behind me and it knocked down a shelf. Not only did I break the shelf, I broke, like, three things on the shelf. I was so embarrassed. Everyone just started laughing.
Interview by Marie MorrealeAdd a Comment
Blog: The Open Book (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Uncategorized, African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American, aspiring authors, author advice, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, multicultural books, writing contests, Diversity 102, Awards, Book Lists by Topic, Dear Readers, Diversity, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Lee & Low Likes, New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Race, Tu Books, Native American, Race issues, Teens/YA, Add a tag
Getting your book published is difficult, and unfortunately it tends to be much harder when you’re a Person of Color. While there are more diverse books being published, there’s still a lot of work to do!
Fortunately there are awards and grants out there help writers of color achieve their publication dreams.
We’ve created a list of awards and grants to help you get started!
New Voices Award – Established in 2000, is for the unpublished author of color for a picture book manuscript.
New Visions Award – Modeled after LEE & LOW’s New Voices Award, this award is for Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Mystery middle grade or YA novels.
SCBWI Emerging Voices Grant – This award is given to two unpublished writers or illustrators from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit completed work for children.
The Angela Johnson Scholarship from Vermont College of Fine Arts – This scholarship is for new students of color of an ethnic minority for VCFA’s MFA program.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Scholarship from Hamline College – “Annual award given to a new or current student in the program who shows exceptional promise as a writer of color.”
We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest - This short story contest was inspired by Walter Dean Myers’ quote, “Once I began to read, I began to exist.”
The Scholastic Asian Book Award – This award is for Asian writers writing books set in Asia aimed at children 6-18 years of age.
Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund – This fund enables writers of color to attend the Clarion writing workshops where writer Octavia Butler got her start.
SLF Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds Grants – These grants are new works and works in progress. The Diverse Writers Grant focuses on writers from underrepresented and underprivileged backgrounds, and the Diverse Worlds Grant is for stories that best present a diverse world, regardless of the author’s background.
Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award – This one time grant is awarded to an emerging writer of color of crime fiction.
NYFA Artists’ Fellowships – These fellowships are for residents of New York State and/or Indian Nations located in New York State.
Golden Baobab Prizes for Literature – These annual awards recognize emerging African writers and illustrators.
The Sillerman First Prize for African Poets – This prize is for unpublished African poets.
What other awards and grants do you recommend for authors of color?Add a Comment
Blog: Ink Splot 26 (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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The Post Where I Ask Everyone Weird Quiz Questions
- What would you do if NO ONE (not even your family) would talk to you?
- Is your room messy, neat, or in between?
- What types of books do you read?
- Are you bored a lot? (I know I am.)
- Do you like school?
- If you could change your name, what would it be? (No last names!)
- Sparta or Athens???
- LEAST favorite color?
- Lucky number?
- Are you scared of Friday the 13th or the number 13? (I’m not referring to the movie, which I have not seen.)
- Are you a people person, shy, or just socially awkward?
- Is your glass half-full, half-empty, or completely empty because you drank it all?
- Any weird habits?
- You are on a deserted island. You can bring one thing with you, and it can be anything, even something you don’t currently have. What will you bring?
- Have your feet ever taken you places while your mind wandered off?
- Was there a time when you were so scared you couldn’t do anything except curl up in a ball and cry?(No details necessary . . . but just so you know I have to say “yesh” to this!!)
- Are you wondering what the whole point of this is?
- Pickles . . . or SAUERKRAUT??? (I know they taste the same; think of it as a challenge!)
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE Comment if you enjoyed this, or if you want to add more questions! ~CycloneAdd a Comment
Blog: The Chicago Blog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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“Nostalgia, or the Stories a Gang Tells about Itself”
At the West Side Juvenile Detention Center, inmates hardly ever look you in the eyes. They almost never notice your face. Walk into a cell block at recreation time, for example, when young gang members are playing spades or sitting in the TV room watching a movie, and their attention quickly shifts to your shoes. They watch you walk to figure out why you came. I imagine what goes through their heads: Navy blue leather boots, reinforced steel toe, at least a size twelve. Must be a guard. That’s an easy one. Then the glass door swings open again. Expensive brown wingtips, creased khakis cover the tongue. A Northwestern law student come to talk about legal rights. Yep.
Benjamin Gregory wears old shoes, the kind a young affiliate wouldn’t be caught dead in. Still, the cheap patent leather shines, and, after sitting in the Detention Center’s waiting room for nearly an hour and a half, the squeak of his wingtips is a relief. It’s a muggy day, late in the spring of 2008. “I’ve been coming here for five years now,” he says. Mr. Gregory is a Bible-study instructor. “It’s a shame, but you can just tell which ones have their mothers and fathers, or someone who cares about them at home. Most of these kids don’t. Their pants gotta sag below their waist, even in prison garbs. All they talk about is selling drugs and gym shoes.”
Though I generally disagree with Mr. Gregory’s assessment of today’s young people—“hip hoppers,” as he calls them, not knowing I’m young enough to be counted in that group—his observations are, if not quite accurate, at least astute. The relationship between jail clothes and gym shoes is direct, with gang renegades—young gang affiliates that seasoned members claim don’t have the wherewithal to be in the gang—at the center. Until recently, Mr. Gregory couldn’t tell you what a gang renegade was; I educated him on the topic when he overheard inmates tossing the term around for sport. According to gang leaders, I tell him, renegades are to blame for gang underperformance. They are the chief instigators of “senseless” violence, say the leaders, and thus deserve any form of harm that befalls them, be it death, debility, or incarceration.
Ironically, Mr. Gregory’s generalized depiction of drug- and shoe-obsessed young inmates (shared by many prison guards, teachers, and even some scholars) can be compared to the way that gang members view renegades. Just as community leaders criticize the actions and affiliations of longtime Eastwoodians, older generations of gang members level critiques at young renegades. In what follows, I complicate the assumptions many have made about renegades by examining subjective versions of the Divine Knights’ contested—and contestable—history. Investigating the gang’s fraught past will help make clear the problems facing them at present. In the midst of unprecedented rates of incarceration, the anxieties that gang members harbor about the future of their organization are projected on to the youngest generation of gang members—and their gym shoes.
More precisely, in Eastwood gym shoes are emblems that embody historical consciousness. For gang members currently forty to sixty years old, the emergence of gym shoes signaled the end of an era in which affiliates pursued grassroots initiatives and involved themselves in local protest movements. Meanwhile, for the cohort of gang members who came of age in the “pre-renegade” era—those twenty-five to forty years old—gym shoes recall a time of rampant heroin trafficking, when battalions of young soldiers secured territories within a centralized leadership structure. As the younger of the two generations remembers it, this was the moment when loyalty began to translate into exorbitant profits. That these two elder generations of the Divine Knights hanker for a centralized and ordered system of governance places an enormous amount of pressure on the current generation, those gang members who are fifteen to twenty-five years old. We’ll see that just like the game of shoe charades that inmates play in jail, a renegade’s footwear can reveal his place in the world.
In the Divine Knights’ organization, wearing the latest pair of sneakers is considered the first status marker in the life and career of a gang member. For new members, having a fashionable pair of shoes signals one’s position as a legitimate affiliate. Later, in your teens and twenties, success is measured by whether a person can afford a nice car or your own apartment. Because most of the teenagers referred to as “renegades” have yet to progress to that stage, however, a fashionable pair of gym shoes is the pinnacle of possession.
Even though gang leaders claim that nowadays fashion trends of young gang members are too beholden to mainstream dictates anddon’t represent Divine Knights culture, gym shoes remain the badge of prestige most coveted by renegades. Exclusivity—whether or not the shoes can be easily purchased in ubiquitous commercial outlets like Foot Locker or only in signature boutiques—goes a long way in determining a shoe’s worth, as does pattern complexity: the more colors and textures that are woven onto the canvas of the shoe, the more valued that shoe becomes.
Over a two-year period during which I listened to gang members in informal settings and in facilitated focus groups with Divine Knights affiliates, I was able to sketch an outline of attributes concerning the five most popular gym shoes worn by young gang members in Eastwood. In some cases, the most popular brands and fashion trends evoke a past that has ceased to exist. Behold, the renegades’ “ Top 5” (in ascending order of significance):
“ Tims,” or Timberland boots ($180), are not technically a gym shoe. But in Chicago, the term is used as a catchall for various types of men’s footwear. The construction boot of choice to tackle Chicago’s harsh winters, Tims serve a functional purpose in addition to being appreciated aesthetically. The tan “butter-soft” suede atop a thick rubber sole with dark brown leather ankle supports are staples of any shoe collection (and are typically the first pair of boots a renegade purchases). If in addition to the tan suede variety a person has Tims in other colors, he or she is thought to be an adept hustler in any climate.
“Recs,” or Creative Recreations ($150), are a relatively new brand of sneaker popular with young renegades because they are available in an array of bright colors. Multiple textures—metallics, suedes, rubbers, and plastics—are combined on the synthetic leather canvas of each shoe. Recs also have a distinctive Velcro strap that runs across the toe. Considered the trendy of-the-moment shoe, Recs are held in high esteem by young renegades because they can only be found in a select few of Chicago’s signature boutiques.
As the Timberland boot is to winter, the Air Force One, commonly referred to as “Air Forces” or “Ones” ($90), is to the other three seasons. This shoe is a staple of the renegade’s collection. If a young gang member has only one pair of gym shoes, they will likely be Ones. Although they come in a variety of color combinations, most affiliates begin with either white or black, with the expectation that their collection will grow in colorfulness. Moderately priced and available in a vast number of different styles, these might be the most popular gym shoes in the Divine Knights society.
Signature shoes ($165). Young renegades are also likely to purchase the signature shoe of their favorite basketball player. For some, that’s LeBron James; for others, Kobe Bryant or, perhaps, Chicago-local Derrick Rose. As a gang member, one’s affinity for a particular player can override the aesthetic judgment of his or her friends. Still, purchasing a signature shoe entails several calculations, including when the shoe was released, which company manufactures them, and the popularity of the player in question at the moment. Given the danger that one’s signature shoe may prove undeserving of the time and effort invested in its purchase, no current player’s footwear can surpass the model by which the success of his shoe will no doubt be measured: Michael Jordan’s.
“Jordans” ($230) are the signature shoe. A pair of Jordans is valuable to the young renegade for a number of reasons, chief among them that Michael Jordan, considered the greatest basketball player of all time, made his name playing for the Chicago Bulls. Thus, a particular geographic pride is associated with his apparel. Second, the risks involved with purchasing this particular signature shoe are greatly reduced because Jordan’s legacy is cemented in history. Third, since the first shoe one buys are not usually Jordans (because they are so expensive), there is a sense of achievement connected with finally being able to afford a pair.
Pre–renegade era Divine Knights can recall down to the year—sometimes even the day—that they purchased the same model of shoes currently being worn by young renegades. That older gang members hypocritically hassle renegades for the same consumer fetishes theythemselves once held dear bolsters the point that gym shoes have accrued additional symbolic value. At once, they point to the past and the future, similar to Eastwood’s greystones. Recall that greystones reference the past, specifically an era of Great Migration during which blacks traveled from the South to the Midwest in search of manufacturing jobs. At the same time, greystones are the primary form of capital for governmental investment. Just as city planners project future tax revenues based on empty and abandoned domiciles, a young renegade speculates on his future by buying a pair of Jordans.
For the Divine Knights, this form of speculation has, historically, required a young affiliate to position himself as a noteworthy member, thereby attracting the attention of a gang leader. Ideally, that leader will take a young Knight under his wing, bestow that affiliate with responsibilities, and reward his hard work with a share of the organization’s profits. In such a climate, adorning oneself with the most fashionable pair of shoes is a precondition for a person to prove himself worthy of the gang’s investment. A symbol of speculative capital, gym shoes—like greystones—are endowed with a double quality: They express highly charged notions of social mobility for one generation; and for another, older generation, they evoke a sense of nostalgia.
To fully understand the way in which the renegade’s gym shoes trigger an idealized notion of the past, it’s productive to dwell for a moment on the idea of nostalgia itself. From the initial use of the term—in 1688, when Johannes Hofer, a Swiss doctor, coined the term in his medical dissertation—nostalgia has been used to connect forms of social injury to the physical reality of the body. Hofer combined two Greek roots to form the term for this newfound malady: nostos (return home) and algia (longing). It describes “a longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed.” Among the first to become debilitated by and diagnosed with this disease were Swiss soldiers who had been hired to fight in the French Revolution. Upon returning home, these soldiers were struck with “nausea, loss of appetite, pathological changes in the lungs, brain inflammation, cardiac arrests, high fever, and a propensity for suicide.” One of nostalgia’s most persistent symptoms was an ability to see ghosts.
To cure nostalgia, doctors prescribed anything from a trip to the Swiss Alps to having leeches implanted and then pulled from the skin, to sizable doses of opium. Nothing seemed to work. The struggles of ensuing generations only confirmed the difficulty, if not impossibility, of a cure. By the end of the eighteenth century, the meaning of nostalgia had shifted from a curable, individual sickness to what, literature scholar Svetlana Boym once called an incurable “historical emotion.” The burdens of nostalgia—the pressing weight of its historical emotion—are still very much with us. Interrupting the present with incessant flashes of the past, nostalgia retroactively reformulates cause and effect, and thus our linear notions of history.
“I love this walking stick,” Mr. Otis says to me. “And it’s not just ’cause I’m an old man, either.” He taps the stick on his stoop, adding, “I’ve had it since I was your age.”
Of all the Divine Knights symbols, the cane is Mr. Otis’s favorite. This is ironic, given that young gang members increasingly need canes as a consequence of the very violence Mr. Otis laments. Still, this seasoned gang veteran doesn’t associate his cane with injury but with pride and a masterful breadth of knowledge about his organization. When he was young, Mr. Otis tells me, canes, a symbol of gang unity, were hand-drawn on the custom-made shirts the Knights wore. Nowadays, Mr. Otis’s generation often contrasts the stability of the cane and its understated sophistication against the extravagance of sneakers. Why, I ask on a dusky October evening, is the cane his most cherished emblem? Mr. Otis clenches his hand into a fist, then releases one digit at a time, enumerating each of the gang’s symbols.
“Well, the top hat represents our ability to make things happen, like magicians do,” he says, wiggling his pinkie. Next comes the ring finger. “ The dice represents our hustle. You know what they say: Every day as a Divine Knight is a gamble. The playboy rabbit,” he continues, “represents that we’re swift in thought, silent in movement, and sm-o-o-th in deliverance. Of course, the champagne glass represents celebration.” Mr. Otis pauses briefly. “You can probably tell that all of these symbols have the young boys thinking that gang life is about trying to be pimps and players. But the cane”—signified by the pointer finger—“the cane represents consciousness. The knowledge that you must rely on the wisdom from your elders. The cane represents that we have to support one another—and support the community—to survive.”
We can’t see much on nights like this, but that doesn’t stop us from sitting on the stoop and watching the corner. The lights on Mr. Otis’s street either don’t work or are never on. In fact, were it not for the lamppost at the street’s end that serves as a mount for a police camera, the streetlights wouldn’t serve any purpose at all. Residents dismissively refer to the camera as the “blue light.” The device, which rests in a white box topped with a neon blue half-sphere, lights up every few seconds. Stationed to surveil the neighborhood, the blue light fulfills another unintended purpose: in the absence of working streetlights, the intermittent flash nearly illuminates the entire street. It is a vague luminescence, but just enough to make clear the molded boards of the vacant houses across the street. You can also distinguish the occasional trash bag blowing in the wind, like urban tumbleweed.
And you can spot the T-shirts—all of the young Eastwoodians in white tees—but that’s about all the blue light at the end of the street can brighten for Mr. Otis and me. From where we sit, you can’t identify the owners of those shirts; their faces aren’t perceptible, not even their limbs—just clusters of white tees floating in the distance, ghost-like. Mr. Otis, a veteran both of Eastwood stoops and Eastwood’s oldest gang, sees the ghosts as fleeting images of the “good ol’ gang,” as he calls it—a gang about to sink into oblivion.
Mr. Otis watches the street intently, as if he’s being paid for the task. And in a sense, he is: central to Mr. Otis’s work at the House of Worship’s homeless shelter is the supervision of his neighborhood. His street credentials, however, are far more valuable than anything he can see from his stoop. Mr. Otis was one of the first members to join the nascent gang in the 1950s. This was during the second Great Migration, when African Americans moved from the South to Chicago, settling in European immigrant neighborhoods. Back then, black youths traveled in packs for camaraderie, and to more safely navigate streets whose residents resented their presence. Because they were known to fight their white peers over access to recreational spaces, the image of black gangs as groups of delinquents emerged.
Mr. Otis became a leader of the Divine Knights in the 1960s, around the age of twenty-six. For the next forty years, he was—and remains—prominent both in the gang and in the community. Nowadays, he speaks about his youth with a mix of fondness and disdain. The two great narratives of his life, community decline and gang devolution, are also interwoven. “ Things were different when we were on the block,” he says. “We did things for the community. We picked up trash, even had a motto: ‘Where there is glass, there will be grass.’ And white folks couldn’t believe it. The media, they were shocked. Channel Five and Seven came around here, put us on the TV screen for picking up bottles.”
In these lively recollections, Mr. Otis connects the Divine Knights’ community-service initiatives to the political struggles of the civil rights movement. As a youngster, Mr. Otis was part of a gang whose stated goal was to end criminal activity. Around this time, in the mid-1960s, a radical new thesis articulated by criminologists and the prison-reform movement gained momentum. These researchers argued that people turned to crime because social institutions had largely failed them. Major street gangs became recipients of private grants and public funds (most notably from President Johnson’s War on Poverty) earmarked for community organization, the development of social welfare programs, and profit-making commercial enterprises. The Divine Knights ofthe 1960s opened community centers, reform schools, and a number of small businesses and management programs. Such were the possibilities when Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relocated his family to a home near Eastwood.
In local newspaper articles, King explained that his decision to live on the West Side was political as well as purposeful. “I don’t want to be a missionary in Chicago, but an actual resident in a slum section so that we can deal firsthand with the problems,” King said. “We want to be in a section that typifies all the problems that we’re seeking to solve in Chicago.”
King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), geared up for a broad attack on racism in the North. Their first northern push focused on housing discrimination; and they referred to it as “the open-housing campaign” because the SCLC wanted to integrate Chicago’s predominately white neighborhoods. As the SCLC gathered community support for their cause in May 1966, they developed relationships with Chicago’s street gangs. On Memorial Day, a riot broke out after a white man killed a black man with a baseball bat. Chaos ensued, resulting in the destruction of many local businesses. Gang members were rumored to be among the looters. Some civil rights leaders, in turn, feared that a spate of recent riots might jeopardize their campaign of nonviolence. When, during a rally at Soldier Field, a gang affiliate overheard a member of the SCLC state his reluctance to involve “gang fighters,” Chicago gang members (including many Knights) took this as a sign of disrespect and threatened to abandon King. A Chicago gang member was quoted as saying:
I brought it back to [a gang leader named] Pep and said if the dude feel this way and he’s supposed to be King’s number one man, then we don’t know how King feels and I believe we’re frontin’ ourselves off. Pep say there wasn’t no reason for us to stay there so we rapped with the other groups and when we gave our signal, all the [gang members] stood up and just split. When we left, the place was half empty and that left the King naked.
Days after the Soldier Field incident, in an effort to mend fences,King set up a meeting in his apartment and reassured gang membersthat he “needed the troops.” The Divine Knights were among the Chicago gangs to subsequently reaffirm their allegiance to King. After meeting with various gangs, top SCLC representatives were confident thatgangs could not only be persuaded to refrain from rioting, but might alsobe convinced to help calm trouble that might arise on their respective turfs. Moreover, “the sheer numbers of youths loyal to these organizations made them useful to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s objective of amassing an army of nonviolent protesters—even if including them came with the additional challenge of keeping them nonviolent.”
In June 1966, the Divine Knights were persuaded to participate in the two marches that Dr. King led into all-white neighborhoods during the Chicago Freedom Movement’s open-housing campaign. Inspired by the movement’s demand that the Chicago City Council increase garbage collection, street cleaning, and building-inspection services in urban areas, the Knights organized their own platform for political action. They scheduled a press conference with local media outlets to unveil their agenda on April 4, 1968. But just before the reporters arrived, King was assassinated. Less than twenty-four hours later, East-wood erupted in riots. The fires and looting following King’s murder destroyed many of the establishments along Murphy Road, Eastwood’s major commercial district at the time.
Many store owners left the neighborhood when insurance companies canceled their policies or prohibitively increased premiums, making it difficult to rebuild businesses in their previous location. This cycle of disinvestment, which peaked after King’s murder but had been steadily increasing since 1950, affected all of Eastwood’s retailers. By 1970, 75 percent of the businesses that had buoyed the community just two decades earlier were shuttered. There has not been a significant migration of jobs, or people, into Eastwood since World War II.
In the decades after the massive fires and looting, Mr. Otis and other gang elders maintain that the Divine Knights saw their power decline because they could do little to stop the other factions of the Knights from rioting. Neighborhood residents not affiliated with the gang were likewise dismayed. Here was evidence, with King’s murder, that the injustices allegedly being fought by the Divine Knights were, in fact, intractable. From Mr. Otis’s perspective, the disillusionment that accompanied King’s death, and the riots that followed—not to mention other assassinations, such as that of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton—all but ensured a downward spiral. The noble promise of the civil rights era was shattered, its decline as awful as its rise was glorious.
For Mr. Otis, the modern-day Divine Knights are as much about their forgotten history of activism as anything else. So on nights such as these—sitting on his stoop, watching the latest generation of gang members—he feels it his duty to share a finely honed civil rights legacy narrative with a novice researcher. “ Take notes on that,” he says. “Writethat down. We, the Divine Knights, got government money to build a community center for the kids. We were just trying to show ’em all: gangs don’t have to be bad, you know. Now these guys don’t have no history. They’re ‘Anonymous,’ ” Mr. Otis says sarcastically, referring to the name of one of many factions in this new renegade landscape, the Anonymous Knights.
Out in front of Mr. Otis’s stoop, ten or so gang members face each other like an offense about to break huddle. And then they do just that. The quarterback—Kemo Nostrand, the gang leader—approaches, retrieves a cell phone from his car, and then rejoins the loiterers. I ask Mr. Otis about Kemo and his crew: “Are they as disreputable as the younger gang members?”
“Look at ’em,” Mr. Otis says. “ They’re all outside, ain’t they? Drinking, smoking, wasting their lives away. They’re all outside.”
Nostalgia for the politically oriented gang is a desire for a different present as much as it is a yearning for the past. In Mr. Otis’s lamentations about the contemporary state of the gang, structural changes in the American social order are reduced to poor decision making. Mr. Otis and gang members of his generation fail to acknowledge that the gang’s latter-day embrace of the drug economy was not a simple matter of choice. The riots also marked the end of financial assistance for street organizations wanting to engage in community programming. When drug dealing emerged as a viable economic alternative for urban youth in the late 1970s, politicians had more than enough ammunition to argue that the Knights would always be criminal, as opposed to a political organization. The fact that both the local and federal government feared gangs like the Divine Knights for their revolutionary potential is airbrushed out of the romantic histories that Mr. Otis tells, where he invokes civilized marches in criticism of the gang’s present-day criminal involvement. In his version, for example, there is no mention of the gang members who, even during the civil rights heyday, were not at all civic-minded.
Whether or not this glorious perception of a political gang persists (or if it ever existed in the way Mr. Otis imagines), it is deployed nevertheless. Like the shiny new surveillance technology responsible fortransforming a person’s visage into a ghostly specter at night, the rosy civil rights lens through which Mr. Otis views the gang helps fashion the image that haunts him. Nostalgia, this historical emotion, reorders his memory.
The interview unfolds in a West Side Chicago barbershop, long since closed. Red Walker, the short, stocky, tattoo-covered leader of the Roving Knights—a splinter group of the Divine Knights—reminisces about what it has been like growing up in a gang. Walker has been a member of the Roving Knights for twenty years (since he was nine). Now, as a captain of the gang set, Red feels that the organization’s biggest problem is a lack of leadership. Comparing the gang of old to the one he now commands, he says, wistfully, “When I was growing up, we had chiefs. We had honor. There were rules that Knights had to follow, a code that gang members were expected to respect.”
A few of the Roving Knights’ strictures, according to Red: If members of the gang were shooting dice and somebody’s mom walked down the street, the Knights would move out of respect. When young kids were coming home from school, the Knights would temporarily suspend the sale of drugs. “We would take a break for a couple of hours,” Red says. “Everybody understood that. And plus, when I was coming up in the gang, you had to go to school. You could face sanctions if you didn’t. And nobody was exempt. Not even me.”
Red’s mother, he says, was a “hype”—the favored West Side term for drug addict. His father wasn’t present, and he didn’t have siblings. Red did, however, have a “soldier” assigned to him, whose responsibilities included taking him to school in the morning and greeting him when he got out. “Made sure I did my homework and everything,” Red says. “ These kids don’t have that. There’s no structure now. They govern themselves, so we call them renegades.”
It’s likely I will meet a lot of renegades on the streets of Eastwood, Red warns. Most are proudly independent, boisterous of their self-centered goals. Red says, “ They’ll even tell you, ‘Yeah, I’m just out for self. I’m trying to get my paper. Fuck the gang, the gang is dead.’ They’ ll tell you, straight up. But, you know what? They’re the ones that’s killing it, them renegades. I even had one in my crew.” Plopping down in the barber’s chair beside me, Red indicates that the story he’s about to tell is somewhat confidential, but he’s going to tell me anyway because he likes me—I’m a “studious motherfucker,” he jokes.
“You know how niggers be in here selling everything, right?” Red says. (He is referring to the daily transactions involving bootleg cable, DVDs, CDs, and candy.) “Well, back in the day, a long, long, long time ago, niggers used to sell something the police didn’t like us selling. We used to sell”—here Red searches for the right euphemism, settling on “muffins.” “Yeah, we had a bakery in this motherfucker. And cops, they hate muffins. So they would come up in here, try to be friendly, they’d snoop around, get they free haircut, and try to catch someone eating muffins or selling muffins, or whatever. But they could never catch nobody with muffin-breath around here. Never.”
One day, though, the police apprehended one of the “little shorties” working for Red, and the young man happened to have a muffin in his pocket. “Now, this wasn’t even an entire muffin. It was like a piece of a muffin—a crumb,” Red says. “Shorty wouldn’t have got in a whole lot of trouble for a crumb, you know? But this nigger sung. The nigger was singing so much, the cops didn’t have to turn on the radio. They let him out on the next block. He told about the whole bakery: the cooks, the clients. He told on everybody. And I had to do a little time behind that. That’s why in my new shop,” Red continues, glaring again at the recorder, “WE. DO. NOT. SELL. MUFFINS. ANY. MORE.”
Red pauses, seemingly satisfied by his disavowal of any current illegal muffin activity, then adds, “But, real talk: That’s how you know a renegade. No loyalty. They’ll sell you down the river for a bag of weed and a pair of Jordans.”
To read more about Renegade Dreams, click here.Add a Comment
I know I always get WAY too excited whenever this post comes around, but hey–it’s been a long winter and I’ve had a lot of free time, so I’m running out of books to read. I need your recommendations now more than ever!
Last month, we asked you what books you were reading and loving. I’ve put the results in a word cloud so we can see which titles reign supreme. Check it out:
Well, now! Harry Potter is experiencing a bit of a comeback! It looks like Dork Diaries is moving up in popularity, too! Let’s keep this going. What other books are you reading this winter? What books do you think everyone else absolutely, totally, MUST read, like, RIGHT AWAY? Share your picks in the Comments below!
I’m off to re-read Harry Potter now. See you around.
En-Szu, STACKS WriterAdd a Comment
I was taking a break from studying when I realized I hadn’t been here in ages. Aaaaages. So I logged on, had a look at all the old posts, and noticed my shipping challenges. Everyone had such great responses and seemed to enjoy them, I thought why not post another? So, here it goes. . .
This week’s couple is:
Professor McGonagall &Vernon Dursley!!!
Leave a Comment saying why you think they could or could NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS be a good couple!
Good luck!!!!Add a Comment
Blog: Emilyreads (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: apropro of nothing, Churchy LaFemme, Add a tag
Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.
Also, stop looking at my forehead.
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Blog: The Open Book (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Diversity 102, Guest Blogger Post, Immigration, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, monica brown, Add a tag
Monica Brown is the author of several award-winning children’s books, including the Marisol McDonald series, and is a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University. Brown recently spoke to KNAU Public Radio about the power of dehumanizing language after a politician used the word “deportable” to refer to an immigrant. She has allowed us to reprint her comments below, and you can hear her radio segment here:
Deportable. The prefix de signifies removal, separation, reduction or reversal, as in deforestation or demerit. De reverses a verb’s action, as in defuse ordecompose. De is not often used with a noun, but it was last week. That’s when Republican Representative Steve King referred to one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests as “a deportable.” He tweeted it.
When I heard this description of 21 year old Ana Zamora, a hardworking college student and DREAMer, it felt like a blow to the chest. When President Obama enacted his 2012 executive order on immigration, Ana Zamora wrote him a thank you letter. She said, “I am finally a person in the United States…”
Not according to Representative King. To him, she is a deportable.
I am a bilingual Latina whose mixed ethnic heritage lets me embrace the multiplicity, complexity and beauty of the Americas, North and South. It pains me to see the way Latino bodies are often marked with the mantle of illegality, and to witness the way immigrant children of the Americas are made objects to reject, a class of “deportables” if we were to use King’s terminology. I suggest we don’t.
In migrating to the United States, Ms. Zamora’s parents brought with them their dedication to family, hard work, and dreams of a better future for their children. Ms. Zamora is the embodiment of those dreams. Chicana sage Gloria Anzaldua once described the U.S.-Mexico border as a “1,950 mile-long open wound.” It is a place of conflict, confrontation and pain. The term “a deportable” rubs salt in that wound by devaluing and dehumanizing a young woman who represents the very best of our country.
As a professor of English and children’s author, I know words matter. Within my community, an immigrant without documents might be described as “sin papeles.”Without papers. It is a legal status they lack, not who and what they are.
Thankfully, many have come to understand that, in the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “no human being is illegal.” Today I’d like to state, unequivocally, that no human is a deportable, either.Add a Comment
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