December 5, 2014


Z. Hall 

Tendons, muscles, cartilage and bone
On these I depend to get me home

Poet: Z. Hall
Image with permission by: Patrick Campbell
Patrick Campbell on Facebook

November 28, 2014

Where Art Thou, Obama?

Where Art Thou, Obama?
Z. Hall

Where Art Thou, Obama? [Title]

Obama, Obama, where art thou, Obama?
Americans slain in the street
Unarmed, naked to the world
Rights assassinated
Blood pools curdle in the sun
Stains on Main Streets
Here, there
In every state
Mothers bend over in pain
Fathers fight tears of helplessness
Families torn asunder by systemic intolerance
Communities brutalized by the rule of law
Laws long-since divested of their humanity
Justice lies in state
Our children call from the grave
Obama, Obama, where art thou, Obama?

Poem: Z. Hall
Image: BBC News

October 17, 2014

October 7, 2014

In Defense of Raven Symoné

Typically, I avoid keeping abreast of what wealthy, famous people are doing and going though. ‘Call me unfeeling, but I just don't care much about their problems because most of them can be fixed with the resources they have. The rest of us are not so fortunate.

But the social media uproar about Raven Symoné's comments underscores an important cultural race practice in America--naming. So I took the bait and watched Raven's interview with Oprah because I wanted to know what she said that has led to the large amount of push-back.
Oh my gawd, from the posts I've read you'd have thought that ol' gurl said that she ain't black and doesn't want to be associated with those people or some such talk like that. Dang, she didn't say anything even close to that!

Maybe people would be less up-in-arms if Raven had not said "I am not African American, I am American," but instead had said "I am not African American, I am human," which is what I believe she is actually trying to communicate. But who knows, maybe people would not get that either.

Something that a friend posted on Facebook this morning is poignant and succinctly sums up the peculiar practice of racial badge wearing required of non-Europeans in America: ""I've been traveling a bit lately to other countries. When people hear me and/or my family speak, they say "You are AMERICAN!" ...not "African-American." That label is used ONLY IN AMERICA. *ijs*"" ~Bert Durant (emphasis his)

Raven is clear about rejecting other language that also labels her as alternative to a default or norm. She doesn't want to be labeled "gay" either.

In her interview with Oprah, Raven is saying that America fails at being the colorblind society that it should be and that in her personal life she is resisting the system of unequal treatment designed to oppress people of color—labeling being a key factor in perpetuating such oppression.

Shouldn't resistance to "othering" language that sets us apart by our skin, culture, or sexual preference be considered revolutionary?

May 20, 2014

'Let the Fire Burn'--Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

Watch The Philosophy of MOVE on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

"Let the Fire Burn" had one of the shortest runs of any of the Independent Lens documentaries that I have watched on Kansas City's local PBS station, KCPT. 

The film sheds light on the May 13, 1985 destruction of 61 homes (let me say that again--61 homes) that resulted in the tragic deaths of 11 people, including five children! It was discovered that authorities decided to “…let the fire burn” after Philadelphia police dropped military-grade explosives onto the MOVE-occupied rowhouse in that neighborhood.   

Coverage of the hearings following the massacre are equally tragic and telling of the pure, unadulterated racial hatred that fostered the killings--bone chilling, even for those for whom this film is a mirror up to their own, though perhaps private, animosities.  

I called the station to find out why the film was aired only a couple of times in its first month of showing, and why the film could not be accessed on KCPT's website even though the link to the film says "view full episode."  

Well, that was yesterday. Today, the link has been removed altogether. 

Yesterday, the head of KCPT's online content (I don't recall her exact title) told me that the film did not load because "they probably didn't have rights to either the film or parts of the film."   


Who is "they" and how could KCPT possibly air the film in the first place if the proper rights had not been secured by "those people" before airing it?   

If you were unable to catch "Let the Fire Burn" while it was on *public television*, it is now accessible behind the gate of Netflix. SMDH   

But, never fear, you can still watch the Jayson Blair story on KCPT. In that film, racial stereotypes (both white and black) are maintained and perpetuated.   

Repeating specific stories influences public perception in a specific direction. Limiting access limits knowledge and understanding.   

Though I enjoy much of the programing on public television, and KCPT in particular, I will not bite my tongue regarding their participation in the perpetuation of racial stereotypes and pubic ignorance to appease particular audiences.  

There, I said it. 

May 1, 2014

Works of Art

Works of Art
Z. Hall

Amalgams of disparate fragments
drawn together
at times
gentle as Spring's rain on a daisy petal
violently like lava spewed from St. Helen
often, randomly
fusing with entities
expressions fleeting and concrete
memories forgotten.

We are
of art.

Self-Portrait as Orpheus and Eurydice

Linda Rodriguez
Linda Rodriguez is the author of three novels and two books of poetry. Her first novel, "Every Last Secret," won the Malice Domestic Competition. Her second novel, "Every Broken Trust," was a Las Comadres National Latino Book Club selection. Linda's latest novel, "Every Hidden Fear," will be published by St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne Books on May 5, 2014. Linda is president of the Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, the genre of her novels.

Heart's Migration (2010 Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence) and Skin Hunger are Linda's books of poetry. She is a recipient of the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award and the Midwest Voices and Visions Award. 

Self-Portrait as Orpheus and Eurydice
Linda Rodriguez

Image provided by Linda Rodriguez

Knowing his music was empty without her,
he had to dive into those dark waters
from which none returned except as flotsam,
crustacean-nibbled and bloated with the gases of decay.
How long he hesitated, songless but safe,
on the bank. She watched him decide
through the eternal minutes of her dreading
that he could decide
to abandon the notes shimmering in the air
around his head, ignore that nimbus of power
from beauty, and walk mute
through an ordinary life. She waited in fear
until he threw himself into the waves and sank
without struggle.

Almost out, he could feel her behind him
like an insistent melody pushing through his fingers
to reach the strings. He was so full of the moment,
his greatest song, bringing her back.
Such power—who knew what he could do?
He wanted to see the wonder in her eyes,
needed the perfect last note,
pure and silvery and light as bone,
the end of sound.

Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

April 13, 2014


Z. Hall

Water falls in drops
turning on bulbs
in Spring

Rollin’ off rooftops
give drink to thirsty shrubs
they sing

Plunging down spouts
the tulip tiger cub
rises from Winter’s grave as king

Image credit: Unknown

April 10, 2014

Time and Space in Our Digitized World

"You have exceeded your character limit by 3 characters."

"Maximum word count is 150."

"Your character limit is 125 including spaces."

We live in an era of expanded reach and compressed thought. Our ideas and communication can go out to hundreds, millions. But, often, the allowable space to express them is reduced to a degree that, for example, letter writing and face-to-face communication does not impose. Does this have implications for the quality of our interactions? If so, how so?

Lately, I have noticed that my son has established what I call a toleration ceiling for the amount of time that can be spent talking about a given topic. His new modus operandi stands out against his innate sociability. It occurred to me that the push to compress our ideas for social media purposes is having an affect on the patience that is missing in face-to-face conversations nowadays. I shared this with my son and he, of course, chalked up my observation to me being, in his estimation, ol' school when it comes to technology. Shaking my head. When's the last time you saw that phrase written out completely? Laughing out loud!

Needless to say, I was excited to hear a story on 'Here & Now' about the affect that online reading has on our reading comprehension. The story covers the possible outcomes of skimming and scanning information online on the deep reading of challenging texts. The story is about the consumption of information. But it occurs to me that the socially mediated expectation of compressed thought is affecting face-to-face and other forms of non-digital communication in a similar way that skimming and scanning is affecting reading comprehension.

People are less patient with the expression of nuanced thought because we spend a great deal of time in digitized spaces that impose spacial limitations on idea development. In face-to-face conversation, the unspoken expectation is that we skim and scan our thoughts and share them in a condensed format. The tolerance ceiling for nuances is low.

I am glad that Maryanne Wolf wrote about online skimming and reading comprehension. The interview by Robin Young contributes to thinking in a more nuanced way about the broader issues of thought expression, comprehension, and expectations in a digitized world.


April 9, 2014

We Chill

We Chill
Z. Hall

We mighty chill. He
Always thrills. Me

Rise early. He
All worldly. Me

Nimbly in. He
Heart wins. We

Jazz June. We
Love soon.


Listen to Gwendolyn Brooks read We Real Cool.

Image credit: Peaceful Lovers by Monica Stewart

April 8, 2014

Object of Affection

Object of Affection
Z. Hall

Rugged in handsomeness
sleek and sturdy of build

Though far from ugly
did not stop my eye

Up close
smooth moves
practical in application

in style we differ
joined purpose in the game

Unlikely pair
visions shared
attraction beyond skin deep
together and apart
we art

Your embrace-ability
I need
I do

You’ve grown on me
with you I create without end
my favorite pen

April 7, 2014

Biblical Proportion Haters

Biblical Proportion Haters
 Z. Hall

Don't hide your light under a basket

Oh how I love the Lord!

Put it on a stand and let it shine for all
He’s good all the time!

Let your good deeds shine out for all to see
Bear witness to His greatness!

Matthew 5:15 and16
they quote thee, praise be

‘Til your rays become an irritant
unique and brighter than theirs, you see

destroy your love from others
you too, in the process

"They think they know everything!"

Those five little words
the grace of their God they unmake

March 17, 2014

How to Know When a Skirt is Not a Skirt

The recent bangarang over Omar Epps wearing a skirt on 'The View' resulted in heated debate about whether a man should wear legless lower-garments. Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) faced similar criticism for donning a Kente wrap at a South African conference. Pharrell Williams was thrown shade for sporting a kilt-like garment in a GQ photo shoot. The debate is particularly interesting as it seems to be concerned with American men Black American men specifically. White men, on the other hand, get a complete pass as metrosexuals; free to explore fashion and exhibit refined tastes without injury to their masculinity or suspicion about their sexuality.

Yasiin Bey, Getty Images
Pharrell Williams, GQ Magazine
No small amount of weight is placed on the shoulders of Black men who color outside the fashion lines. Critics hold them responsible for bringing down the Black race, oppressing a group of people who are in much need of uplifting. Frankly, that's quite a bit of power to endow upon individuals who are simply responding the question in their head: "What will I wear today?" Further, misplacement of this responsibility on the part of critics assumes that the Black population at large is void of its own values, mores, and ability to make decisions based on those factors. 

Legless Garment ≠ Drag

Historically, wearing pants is a recent development in men's clothing. Up until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, men, in many parts of the world, wore legless garments. That's right, playas, Spartans, according to your definition of style, wore dresses! As did many of the most might men known in military history.

Today, men continue to wear traditional garments in public settings in many parts of the world. African countries are the most often cited locations for this practice by Black Americans, but they are by no means alone in this. Omar Epps credits the Maasai with his fashion choice, but his outfit seems Roman inspired to me. You be the judge!

A skirt or dress in America fashion does not share the shame history, cultural concept, or signification as legless garments from different parts of the world. And when foreign styles are imported into America by Black men (often through sampling, no different than music) they should not be dropped into a melting pot in an attempt to morph them into something distinctly American. To do so is a mark of ethnocentrism and cultural blindness. 

A man dressed in a legless garment is not always a man in drag. Knowing the difference requires that one denounce stylistic laziness and, instead, acquire knowledge about clothing outside their limited universe.

Emasculation of Black Men or Just Another Realm of Restricted Freedom?

While researching this piece, several theories surfaced. They are used to explain what's behind the "skirt gang," an emotionally charged phrase defining Black American men in what are thought to be female clothes. The thinking is that the Illuminati are intent on demeaning Black life and culture by hinging the wealth and stardom of Black entertainers on how well they perpetuate the gay agenda, contributing to the emasculation of the Black male. Critics of the "skirt gang" attribute this foggy plan to the Devil.

No attempt is made here to unravel this notion or to dismiss it, whole cloth, as a crazy conspiracy theory. What is argued here is that if there is sincerity concerning the moral aptitude of the African diaspora in America, it must be coupled with knowledge of and an respect for men's clothing and apparel of other cultures. 

Morally, critics need to be careful that they are not promoting a dictatorial stance that perpetuates irrational oppression and robs men of their freedom to make choices for themselves. They must be careful to not diminish Black culture by prohibiting the importation of African culture by Black American males. They must be careful not to suppress the freedoms of the Black male by attempting to employ the types of "moral decency" and "proper role" strategies that have crippled women for too many centuries. They must be careful to not be participants in that foggy impoverishing force intent on emasculating the Black American male.

March 10, 2014

[Book Review] Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image

Is the study of visual culture a legitimate field of interdisciplinary inquiry or a trendy movement? It is a question sharply debated by educators, curators, researchers, and others today. Among other things, opponents of visual culture are concerned that there is a blatant disregard for the essential differences between works of visual art, “fine art,” and other types of cultural artifacts. Some take the position that visual art is the sole province of art history and that visual culture studies wrongly includes every kind of visual artifact in their purview—including fine art. Proponents argue that visual culture is a valid research and curricular area, which takes the visual image as a focal point in the cultural context of meaning-making. The debate is complex; with many nuances, but essentially, it boils down to aesthetics verses utility.
The Crying Boy,' painted by Bruno Amadio,
was popular in Turkey during the 1970 and '80s.
Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image ("Visual Culture") situates itself squarely within this debate. By drawing upon theoretical insights from such fields as communication, global studies, history, Islamic studies, sociology, and art history, the text unfolds as a model of how visual culture may serve as an entry point among the disciplines that treat visuality. The thirteen essays address four topics — “moving” images, Islamic iconographies, satirical contestations, and authenticity and reality in trans-national broadcasting — wherein researchers explore the constructed nature and fluidity of Islamic and secular ideologies in public visual culture after the colonial period.

"Visual Culture" contributes to filling a gap in knowledge and understanding concerning how images are articulated locally, statewide, and regionally, as well as imported and re-articulated in the modern Middle East. This work moves the study of Islamic art forward from the twentieth to the twenty-first century by engaging the role of visual culture through the framework of formations of secular and Islamist registers in public culture.
Poor Christians and Muslims united in suffering during Lebanese Civil War.
Rich Christians and Muslims are united in ignoring them, Handhala observes.
Unpublished drawing, Naji al-Ali, 1978.

The aestheticization and politicization of suffering in the Turkish Islamic imagination as portrayed in the widely circulated and re-imagined image of the ‘Crying Boy’; the mural of Muhammad’s ascension on the exterior wall of a five-story building in Tehran; the iconography of Arab secularism in the powerful imagery of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali: each invites methodological investigation to understand the roles of visual metaphors, icons, and other devices that construct meaning.

There is widespread use of imagery in the modern Middle East and there is a need to explore the role of imagery in that context. "Visual Culture" explicates how imagery functions rhetorically in speaking to individuals within those societies, for architects of social conventions, and about Middle East societies to the rest of the world. Communication scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, art history and Islamic art scholars, as well as educators and researchers interested in the modern Middle East will find this work useful to their research, teaching, and their students.

Gruber, C., & Haugbolle, S. (Eds.). (2013).Visual culture in the modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the image. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana Univ. Press

March 3, 2014

The Oscar for 'Best Picture' Goes to ...!

I am compelled to wonder if Solomon Northrup had not written 'Twelve Years a Slave' whether there would have been a different Oscar-winning slave narrative last night, whether director Steve McQueen would have cast Lupita Nyong’o in a romantic comedy instead, whether confirmation of the beauty that is dark skin would be circulating at viral-pitch and celebrated by the mainstream fashion industry in the person of some other actor. I wonder.

'Best Picture' acceptance speech

Thank you, Solomon Northrop, for sitting down and recording your experience for the world to consider at a time when it needs it most.

'Actress in a Supporting Role' acceptance speech

How do we know that our story will not inspire readers, artists, movie-goers—humanity—more than a century beyond our existence?

Make a record.


March 2, 2014

[DVD Review] The Butler

I am trying to work up my courage to watch ‘Twelve Years a Slave.’ I plan to watch 'Roots' one day too.

Eugene Allen - Image:
Last night, I nervously put 'The Butler' into the DVD player. Watching, I experienced those anticipated moments of sadness, pain, and anger. Nevertheless, overall, I feel that Lee Daniels captured a number of larger-than-life emotions, which laugh at words that attempt to express them. In the film, the black family, which as matter of institutionalized racial-hatred routine, endured and continues to endure a multiplicity of tragedies, is portrayed as dignified, complicated, intelligently funny, loving, and resourceful—not unlike my and other black families that I know.

It may be correct to direct some of the credit for the film’s authentic depiction of the black family toward Will Haygood the author of the book “The Butler: A Witness to History.” I am putting it on my summer reading list in order to investigate further. And, certainly, we are grateful to Eugene Allen, the butler, for a life lived with steadfastness and, indeed, courage—quite as it was. 

The successful approach toward depicting authenticity in this film is evidence of the need for a people to tell their story. Daniels does not share the legacy of American slavery or Jim Crow, but blacks everywhere have experience with unequal treatment and racism with which they can relate to the nuances of a particular experience.  

A Balanced View of the Oscars

We live in a visual culture—one that relies on and celebrates film. Films that we love and ones we love to hate. Each year, we look forward to seeing which films will be recognized by the Academy.

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Today, on 'Sunday Morning,'  David Edelstein provided the most balanced view of the Oscars that I have heard anyone state.

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Yes, he gives us his predictions. He even suggests what losers should do if they want to steal the spotlight from the victors. Hilarious!

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Edelstein cautions: "To those of you placing large bets based on which movies you like, play cards with me. Please! There's a world of hidden Oscar campaigning that determines these things. Nominees go to parties, weddings, brises ... they're a game, a sport—and if you watch in the right spirit, they're Olympian in their power to make you cheer . . . and gasp in horror."

The Oscars as sport; I can live with that!

February 23, 2014

The Power of Allegiance

'Oppression' by xx diex diex die

"Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways; and one can grow weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal." ~James Baldwin

Allegiances have permitted the 1% to develop and maintain their power and dominance. Failure to build allegiances and inability to overcome the structure of allegiances built around them maintains the status quo of the masses.

February 22, 2014

$19 Billion for Whatsapp?!

Perhaps the Facebook purchase of Whatsapp makes sense under this scenario:
  • Facebook intends to own every online platform the world uses to communicate with its friends
  • Whatsapp is used in many countries around the world because, unlike in the US, texting is very expensive
  • Whatsapp has provided no financial information indicating that it is a profitable company
  • Whatsapps current users pay 99-cents for a year of unlimited texting and sending recorded messages, the app is free to download
  • yet, Facebook pays $19 billion for Whatsapp
  • Whatsapp has only 55 employees making the purchase price "insanely high."
  • Facebook agrees that Whatsapp will remain an independent entity and brand
  • Facebook is a publicly owned company and by law is required to maximize profits
  • Facebook, in order to maximize profits and not monetize the independent Whatsapp entity, reinvents Whatsapp, weakens it, or shuts it down and directs users to use Facebook's existing or redesigned platform
    • Making Whatsapp an irrelevant entity!
Threat to monopoly averted!

February 17, 2014

What's a Customer to Do?!

The new business model of corporations selling products and services then refusing post-purchase phone calls is time-consuming and ineffective for customers. As consumers, we should calculate this cost into the purchase price of the product or service.

The new business model is a nursery for the sale of inferior products and services to consumers who are being conditioned to expect inefficient or no post-purchase customer service. Under this new and troubling model, buyers are directed to online communities of other purchasers to get answers or solutions. Bullshit!

We didn't buy the product or service from each other!

What, as consumers, are we to do?!

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