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Gregg Reese

Stories by Gregg

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Merchants of Fear:

Exploring the militarization of the police

“In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.” —Poet & Literary Critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Jazz titan Gerald Wilson dead at 96

Gerald Wilson, the prolific Jazz arranger, bandleader, composer, educator, and trumpeter, died at his family home in Los Angeles on Sept. 8. Perhaps the ultimate testament to his musical versatility was his ability to transition from the swing era of the 1930s to the eclectic trends of the 21st century. His passing was announced by his son, noted guitarist Anthony Wilson, who listed the cause of death as pneumonia. He was 96.

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Music, mysticism, and the Mississippi:

Talented misfit comes to ‘Memphis’ in search of artistic fulfillment

Memphis, Tenn. occupies a unique place in the folklore and musical legacy of America, as demonstrated by the cultural traditions of its two foremost landmarks: Beale Street and Graceland. Its pre- eminent status as an incubator for Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Rockabilly and Soul was a determining factor for independent director Tim Sutton to base his second film, the eponymously titled “Memphis,” in that fabled city.

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Hollywood has new filmmakers

Reel Black Men Short Film Showcase explores new directions in subject matter

A colleague recently bemoaned the fact that Black films suffer from a limited outlay of subject matter. Once you get past the repetitive yarns of “gangsta” stories and urban melodramas, the “chick flicks” and redundant romances, and so forth, there is very little to choose from.

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Panic in the streets: Black cops weigh in on Ferguson

African American law enforcement professionals converge in the midst of Midwest civil unrest

It is perhaps just one of the oxymorons of modern society that Black men, among the most marginalized within the American justice/legal system, find gainful employment within the law enforcement entity that is so often at odds with the African American presence here in the United States.

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Legendary drummer Idris Muhammad dead at 74

New Orleans native contributed to generations of musicians

Although he did not boast the marquee status of contemporaries such as Art Blakey and Elvin Jones, none of them eclipsed the influence of Idris Muhammad’s “bottom-up style” of drumming, and his ability to adapt across a variety of musical styles that spanned some five decades. The legendary bandleader, composer, and percussionist died July 29 at the age of 74 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The cause of death was not immediately revealed, but family members acknowledged he had previously been undergoing dialysis. He was buried immediately according to the dictates of his Islamic faith.

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The Dorner fallout: Policing the cops

The aftermath of a grotesque tragedy can often give an inkling of a bigger problem

As further investigations are revealing, that very well may be the case in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Christopher Dorner affair.

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Rock and Soul legend Bobby Womack dead at 70

Controversy and scandal marked life of talented entertainer

While he never enjoyed the accolades or chart-topping success of some of his peers, arguably none of them could match the artistic versatility of Bobby Womack. The consummate singer, songwriter, and guitarist died Friday at age 70. The cause of death was not immediately revealed.

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Jazz innovator Horace Silver dies at 85

Horace Silver, the innovative bandleader, composer and pianist who brought a grounded earthiness to the “hard bop” genre of Jazz in the 1950s, has died of natural causes at his New Rochelle, N.Y. home. He was 85.

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Los Angeles Film Festival celebrates the city as a mecca for inspiration, variety

Marks its 20th anniversary

At this point in its history, the film industry is becoming increasingly decentralized as productions move to more (economically) hospitable locales. The Los Angeles Film Festival, now in its 20th year, seeks to celebrate the charms of this, the birthplace of moving pictures. Towards this goal, they have initiated a special section within the festival to highlight 11 movies inspired by the “City of Angeles.” Under the banner L.A. Muse, this “festival within a festival” is meant to promote the idea of L.A. as a continuing source of inspiration for filmmakers on an international level, and is curated by Los Angeles Film Festival Director Stephanie Allain (now in her third year shepherding the fest), and internationally renowned critic Elvis Mitchell.

Three dissimilar candidates in the race for California Insurance Commissioner

The California Insurance Commissioner and the agency he/she is charged with overseeing, the California Department of Insurance, are comparatively less glamorous than other components within the state’s bureaucracy, but none-the-less cast a formidable shadow as it ministers over the hundreds of insurance companies, and scores of consumers they serve.

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Tanaka points to experience as key to revamping Sheriff’s Department

The most visible of all the candidates running for the office of Los Angeles County Sheriff is, of course, the former undersheriff, Paul K. Tanaka. A 30 plus year veteran in the law enforcement community, his steady rise within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department culminated in his appointment as undersheriff, or second-in-command, to Sheriff Lee Baca in 2011. A certified public accountant, Tanaka’s connection with Baca was so close that he reportedly did his boss’ taxes for a number of years. During his two year stint as undersheriff, Tanaka endured a barrage of controversies stemming from abuse and corruption within the county jail system, and allegations that he solicited political contributions from employees within the Sheriff’s Department in association with his position as Mayor of Gardena, a post he has held since 2005.

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‘Hip Hop Family Tree’ intertwines two uniquely American art forms

By Ed Piskor

The fact that this writer is not a habitual listener of Rap is, simultaneously, a negative and positive in reviewing the subject. Obviously not being a fan means not being intimately familiar with all that contributed to the development of the music. Conversely, this unfamiliarity might well bring an impartial, (hopefully) unbiased view to the genre.

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Radical novelist Sam Greenlee dies at 83

Novelist, poet, and activist Sam Greenlee died in his native Chicago this past May 19, at the age of 83. The cause of death was not immediately revealed, but unofficial sources said that he had been in ill health over the past few years. He is best known for his political satire “The Spook Who Sat by the Door” (1969), in which a Black CIA agent uses his clandestine training to organize a guerrilla insurgency of gang members in Chicago’s South Side.

Boko Haram and the thrust of radical Islam

“In Nigeria, the extremist group Boko Haram conducted a suicide car-bombing in late August against the UN building in Abuja, marking Boko Haram’s first known lethal operation against Westerners.”

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Emancipation through Education: the mantra of George McKenna

Of all the candidates vying for the vacant school board seat of now deceased Marguerite P. LaMotte this coming June 3, possibly none have the name recognition of George McKenna. During his 50-year career in education he worked as a teacher at the high school and college level before making his mark as a secondary school administrator.

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Farewell to the King

“… In conduct designed to target, befriend, seduce, and then entice, cajole, borrow from, cheat, and/or receive as gifts transfers of wealth from wealthy older men whom she targets for such purpose.”

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Hard out there for a Sistah

The plight of African American actresses to survive in Hollywood

I think the bottom of the totem pole is African American women, or women of color. I think they get the least opportunities in Hollywood. -Denzel Washington

‘Nixland—My Wild Ride in the Inner City Check Cashing Industry’

Local entrepreneur tells his side of the rise of alternative financing

"…I’m charming, I’m dashing, I’m rental car bashing I’m phony paper passing at Nix Check Cashing.” -from “High Plains Drifter,” by the Beastie Boys, 1989.

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Rev. Al Sharpton an FBI informant?

Allegations resurface on the eve of the Civil Rights Summit

Al Sharpton has never been a stranger to controversy. Bursting on the scene as a street-level provocateur during the racially charged 1980s in his native New York City, he became a polarizing figure as he led protest marches in response to the Bernhard Goetz shootings, the Howard Beach beatings, and the murder of Yusef Hawkins. The Hawkins episode thrust the self-appointed activist the role of martyr when a Bensonhurst resident stabbed the easily recognizable Sharpton in the chest, as the overweight media figure (known for his flamboyant jogging suits and gaudy jewelry) was about to lead a demonstration through that ethnic enclave in Brooklyn.

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Something from Nothing

Dayo Olopade uncovers Africa’s gift for doing more with less at the Zócalo Public Square

Ah, the contradictions that arise from Africa. Alternatively seen as a vast treasure chest of untapped resources, and as a bastion of grinding poverty full of refugees with distended stomachs begging for alms from the civilized world, its media image is a two-sided coin of polar opposites, and never the two shall meet.

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Obama aims to bypass Congress with ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative

Plan reaches out to nonprofit foundations to implement his agenda

OW Contributor President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, and his recently announced “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, might be considered his response to the prolonged inflexibility of Congress during the course of his administration. Designed specifically to target young males of color, it aims to help them economically and educationally, two areas in which assistance is undoubtedly needed. In order to do this, Obama wants to sidestep the legislative arm that thus far has rendered his previous efforts ineffective by tapping an overlooked resource: huge charitable organizations known as foundations.

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White Folks Sing the Blues?

Black leaders converge with Neo Nazi’s for a ‘National Conversation on Race’

Beverly Hills is perhaps better known as a shopping Mecca for those seeking the ultimate in glitz and glamour, but this week it was slated for a discussion on race, that problem that still irks America in this, the second decade of a new millennium. The actual venue selected, H.O.M.E. (House of Music & Entertainment), a site normally utilized for dinner/Jazz concerts, is just a few blocks from the epicenter of Rodeo Drive, with much of the same opulence associated with that more famous address.

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Astro Blackness covers self-identity and determination at Loyola

Two-day event will cover the whole spectrum of expression within the genre of Afrofuturism

So much of Black Identity has been shaped and molded in the cauldron of European tradition. To be sure, a great deal of the energies expended in the last half of the 20th century have been devoted towards a more balanced ethnic representation (hopefully) to make for a healthier psyche for future generations. But by and large, the prevailing Afro-American image is still projected through a lens reflecting the ulterior motives and morals of an outsider culture.

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KING AND THE FBI

The Price of Conviction

Authors Note: Last week we investigated the Soviet Union’s KGB (intelligence agency) which attempted to discredit or assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King in hopes of starting a race war during the Cold War (1949-1989). This week we investigate the FBI’s attempt to commit similar acts of sabotage.

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Overt dissent expressed in ‘Party Music’

Black Panthers used music to spread their message

Politics have arguably been a part of the music of the African Diaspora every since the first slave ship off loaded its cargo in the New World. The Africans fashioned musical idioms as a salve for their wretched existence in their new homeland.

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Toys of the Diaspora

They’re more than just playthings

The Christmas holiday stands as a prime example of an event that has strayed drastically from its original intent. The celebration of the birth of a spiritual figure that came forth to atone for the folly of mankind has devolved into an organ for blanket consumerism, especially here in the United States.

Watts Prophet founding member Richard A. Dedeaux succumbs

He was 73

Richard Dedeaux, a founding member of the spoken word/poetry performance art group The Watts Prophets, and a major influence on the Hip Hop/ Rap movement, died on Dec. 3, after a lengthy bout with cancer. He was 73.

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Wanda Coleman dead at 67

Champion of the down trodden and the under class.

“I have never been able to afford the time or money to complete my formal education; yet I have persisted. It has been a very arduous road to hoe with few joys and few rewards, loads of suspicions, rumors, misunderstandings and disappointments—and over 5,000 rejection slips. Yet, I persist.”

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Veteran’s Day 2013

Saga of the Black P.O.W.: the Flip side of military service

Once let the Black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States. —Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, 1863.

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Veteran’s Day 2013

Saga of the Black P.O.W.: the Flip side of military service

Once let the Black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States. —Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, 1863.

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Urban lit is academic

“Pimping Fictions” gives a scholarly overview

The recognition and exploitation of an untapped market for Black literary tastes among the working class by White publishers Bentley Morriss and Ralph Weinstock was a curious by-product of the Black Consciousness Movement of the 1960s.

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Understanding Black folks or stereotyping in 10 steps (or less)

In our post-racial landscape, advancements are undeniable, but the old stereotypes live on.

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Smart technology invades the home

No longer relegated to the realm of science fiction, the automated home is now within the reach of the everyday consumer

It might be said that the smart home is just the latest incarnation in a progression that began with the introduction of electricity into households in the early 1920s, and the rise of home appliances around the same time.

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The demonization of Blacks

A slightly different American experience

The now month-old verdict for George Zimmerma in the case of the murder of Trayvon Martin mushroomed from a manslaughter proceeding into a forum about racial conflict and the public perception of Black males.

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Out of this world: invading a literary genre

Authors discuss science fiction’s growing appeal

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Afrofuturism defined

Science fiction has spawned any number of spinoffs, among them alternative history or reality where a world is conceived in the aftermath of dramatic changes in actual history.

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Black science fiction writers of note

From Butler to Whitehead

Despite the conviction of some Hollywood gatekeepers that Black folks don’t see themselves in the future (which prompted the husband-and-wife creative team of Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander to launch “Concrete Park” on the Dark Horse comic label), Black speculative fiction has a significant history containing some intriguing chestnuts.

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Race in the U.S.: fear of the dark

America in the wake of the verdict

A few days ago, a middle-class Black couple was in Arte De Mexico, an upscale design and furniture store out in the Valley, when they struck up a conversation with another shopper, a sociable White woman. During the course of their exchange, they discovered they each had teenage sons roughly the same age.

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Life of Oscar Grant viewed

Fruitvale Station in selected theaters now

At some point in the future, “Fruitvale Station” might be seen as the breakout flick of a long illustrious career for writer/director Ryan Coogler, who is just 27 years old with this, his first feature film.

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Easy Rawlins re-emerges during the ’60s summer of love in ‘Little Green’

Walter Mosley’s reluctant detective is on the case in South L.A.

One of the intriguing aspects of contemporary literature is the author who chooses to place distance between himself or herself, and the locale they describe. Attica Locke, who writes about the South and her native Texas from her perch here in Los Angeles, is one example.

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Those who wouldn’t go

They resisted the Vietnam-era draft and now recount the consequences of their decision

One spring day, some 40 years after the turmoil of the Vietnam Era had died down, Ayuko Babu found himself in Venice Beach, examining a memorial dedicated to veterans of the Iraqi-Afghan War then under way.

Those who wouldnt go

One spring day, some 40 years after the turmoil of the Vietnam Era had died...

Congresswoman Harman speaks at town hall

Following her tenure as a multiple-term representative from California's 36th Congressional District, Jane Harman has...

Looking back at the unrest of 1992

Civil unrest has not been a major factor in Los Angeles recently, although it is...

Angela Davis still taking her message to the masses

Of all the provocative images that emerged from the counterculture era of the 1960s and...

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Spreading the culture of fear

Boston bombings intensify the spirit of global discontent

Spreading the culture of fear

Regardless of political ideology or level of sophistication, the terrorist apparatus has succeeded in spawning...

What went wrong?

Autopsy: an examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death or...

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Dirty money

"This money is so dirty it had to be laundered five times—and it still stinks."...

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