Atheist Questions Faith In The African American Community

Contradiction - A Question of FaithI had the opportunity to view an interesting film recently called Contradiction: A Question of Faith.  This documentary delves into the role religion has played (or not) in the African American community.  African-Americans are deeply religious and a church can be found on every corner in many black neighborhoods.

But according to the film’s director Jeremiah Camara, despite the heavy church attendance and the approximately $250 million weekly tithings, African-Americans have very little to show for being faithful.  Why are there still so many social and economic problems within the black community?  Isn’t God listening to their prayers?

“Religion flies through the airwaves, 24/7. Never is the dissenting voice heard. It’s time to hijack the mic,” said Camara.

Whether you are a devout Christian (or Muslim or Jew etc) or a staunch atheist, Camara is right that there isn’t much discussion in American media about being a non-believer.  According to the Pew Center, the rate of people not affiliated with any religious denomination is growing in America. In the last five years alone, the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has grown from 15 percent to 20 percent.  Many unaffiliated Americans are still religious or spiritual in the broadest sense of the word, but there is clearly a movement away from traditional religious institutions.

There should be more voices speaking for atheists, agnostics and other unaffiliated Americans besides Bill Maher.

Camara recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for his film.  The donations will support marketing the film and getting it on DVD.

If you support free and diverse speech, you might want to check out this film.

Introducing “Women Talking”

Women Talking

People have always asked me to put together an online portfolio that specifically showcases my best video work. The opportunity was presented to me to create an interactive journalism website doing just that. Most of these interviews were done for WGBH TV, the PBS affiliate in Boston, while the others were done on independent commission. I chose to focus on women interviewees not only because of their diverse backgrounds and opinions, but also because they are all women of color and their voices are generally either limited or not represented positively in mainstream media. My hope is to begin to change that conversation.

It took me two months to conceive and design the website.  I hope you like it.


5 Lessons I Learned From The MH370 Tragedy

A memorial cross for MH370

For the last two weeks the world has been closely watching the drama play out over the missing Malaysian Airline flight 370.  Out of this tragedy have come some hard lessons and truths we can learn about ourselves.

  1.  Lack of Modern Surveillance Technology – You mean to tell me that I can find my missing mobile phone with a GPS app, but apparently the world can’t find a Boeing 777 with 239 people onboard?  And why is it possible to disable the transponder on a plane?  Shouldn’t that be something that stays on all the time when the plane is travelling?  Despite advances in technology, global air traffic is still radar-based, the same technology used 70 years ago .  Once a plane is beyond 150 miles over water, radar control fades and the pilots depend on staying in contact with air traffic control using high frequency radios.  However, there are some new devices that are being tested for missing planes. Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was the onboard data system for Air France flight 447 when it crashed in 2009, as well as MH370.  Rescuers were able to gain some insight into what went wrong on those flights. Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ADS-B) is another data system being develop that will eventually replace radar systems.
  2. The world’s oceans are filthy – Initially it was believed the plane went down in the South China Sea when an oil slick spotted off the coast of Vietnam appeared.  However, it turned out to not be aviation fuel, but rather bunker oil.  There have also been subsequent findings of other “floating objects” that turned out to not be related to MH370.  This should alarm anyone who cares even casually about the environment that there is so much flotsam, jetsam, pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, detergents, oil, sewage, plastics, and other solid wastes in the world’s waters.  What is even worse here is that as soon as a “floating object” is determined to not be related to MH370, the media moves on from that story and not give further investigation and reporting on why the world’s oceans are so filthy.  But I guess they have more important issues to discuss… Speaking of which…
  3. Media personalities as conspiracy theory enablers – Because cable news needs to fill space for 24 hours and no one has a clue where this plane is, most of the media “reporting” for the last two weeks has been pure speculation.  Hours and hours of so-called aviation “experts” and news “reporters” throwing out any possible theory they can think of without any factual evidence, such as the fanatical pilots theory, the Iranian passengers theory, the Pakistan theory, the North Korea theory, the black hole theory, the shoot-down theory, and the plane disintegration theory, among many others.  On top of all this, TV cameras are being shoved into the faces of grieving families.  Out of respect for the victims’ families and journalistic integrity, I have to agree with Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson when he says simply that “… when we don’t know the answer, we should just say so — and then shut up. Endless content-free coverage deserves to be eaten by a black hole.”  But I guess TV ratings matters more here.
  4. Countries don’t have friends, just interests – You would think with all the spying most countries are doing on each other, somebody would have picked up on where a plane of this size would have last flown.  There is a lot of dishonesty, or rather strategic secrecy going on here.  Malaysian officials make an announcement on new information one day, only to backtrack on it the next day.  Are they incompetent, or do they know more than they want to let on to the rest of the world about this plane?  China, America, France and other countries share their limited satellite images that are four days old possibly because it takes a long time to decipher the findings, or they don’t want to reveal to their enemies their true technical capabilities.  It is pretty sad that in this time of need for international cooperation, countries still treat other countries as enemies and not supporters of humanity.
  5. The world is still a mysterious place – Regardless of when and if MH370 is ever found, it is quite fascinating that a plane with 239 people on it can vanish into thin air.  Just when you think you know everything, Mother Earth always has a way to throw a curve ball.

Racism, Colonialism and the Communist Vision

Viktor Koretsky, "Africa Fights, Africa Will Win" 1968

Viktor Koretsky, “Africa Fights, Africa Will Win” 1968

For many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live with us, and work with us.  They were the only political group which was prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political rights and stake in society.  Because of this, there are many Africans who, today, tend to equate freedom with communism.

–  Nelson Mandela

Over the last few months the relationship between the United States and Russia has grown tense.  Between the ongoing NSA/Ed Snowden saga, strongly enforced anti-gay and anti civil liberties laws by President Vladimir Putin, and concerns about terrorism at the Sochi Winter Olympics, one would get the impression that the Cold War didn’t really end in 1991.

Of course we all know the tension between the two countries goes back to the original start of the Cold War in 1947.  At that same time the Non-Aligned Movement in the colonial world and the American civil rights movement were both in their infancy.  The Soviet Union was looking for a way to communicate the message that the racial struggles of people of color worldwide were connected with the evils of capitalism and imperialism.  This would become one of the most enduring propaganda projects in Soviet history.

Ukrainian graphic designer Viktor Koretsky (1909–1998) created passionate political posters during this era that communicated the idea that communism and multiracial cooperation can work together against the global threat of greed and aggression.

Take for instance the poster above.  It signifies a black man “breaking” the chain, denoting the colonial struggles in Africa, as well as battling against Jim Crow in the United States.  Also, the man is looking towards his left, symbolizing a new direction towards communism.

Here are some of Koretsky’s most memorable posters, which also use symbols of breaking away from a struggle.

Viktor Koretsky, "You will not strangle the freedom of the Arab peoples" 1958

Viktor Koretsky, “You will not strangle the freedom of the Arab peoples” 1958

The struggle Koretsky is referring to here is the 1956 Suez Crisis, when Egypt decided to nationalize the Suez Canal and started building stronger ties with the Soviet Union and China.  The poster shows an Arab man trying to keep the hands of Britain and America from joining together (and taking back control of the Suez Canal).  The handcuffs symbolizing both American dollars and British pounds and the man looking sternly at the American hand.  This was a nod to Nasserism and Pan-Arabism.

Viktor Koretsky, "A Solid Peace for the World" 1965

Viktor Koretsky, “A Solid Peace for the World” 1965

This poster symbolizes a multiracial coalition looking right, or looking towards the West.  The Soviets wanted to stressed that all men were equal and to fight the “struggle” against capitalism together.  (The Soviets were way ahead of “United Colors” of Benetton!)

Viktor Koretsky and Evgeny Abezgus , "Equality" 1963

Viktor Koretsky and Evgeny Abezgus , “Equality” 1963

This is another symbol of racial equality and mutual respect in fighting against capitalism together.

Viktor Koretsky, "American Policy (Domestic/Foreign)" 1970

Viktor Koretsky, “American Policy (Domestic/Foreign)” 1970

Aggression and race rears its ugly head in this poster, demonstrating the communist vision of both domestic and foreign policy in the United States.  On the left a black man is beaten by the police during a civil rights protest.  On the right,  American soldiers looking over a dead body presumably during the Vietnam War.

Viktor Koretsky, "Justice American Style" 1970s

Viktor Koretsky, “Justice American Style” 1960

Here is another symbol of racial struggle, this time a black man about to be lynched with a rope resembling an American dollar sign.  The man is looking to his left (communism) for help.  It also imposes a larger conversation about how racism has supported capitalism during slavery.

Victor Koretsky, Untitled, c. 1960s.

Victor Koretsky, Untitled, c. 1960s.

A terrifying image of racism through the eyes of a young black person, who sees a Klansman and tears streaming down the face.

Viktor Koretsky, "Twins in Spirit and Blood" c.1960s

Viktor Koretsky, “Twins in Spirit and Blood” c.1960s

Koretsky equates American racism (Klansman) with the nuclear arms race (atom bomb).

Viktor Koretsky, "Freedom In America" c.1960

Viktor Koretsky, “Freedom In America” c.1970

A group of African-Americans chained in front of police with the backdrop of the New York City skyline and the home of Wall Street.  It is also symbolizes the hostile relationship between blacks and the police.  NYC’s Stop and Frisk policy comes to mind here.