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Gregg Reese

Stories by Gregg

L.A. Writers Conference at Mount Saint Mary’s

Largely overshadowed by the presence of UCLA and USC, two pre-eminent institutions of higher learning in Los Angeles County, Mount Saint Mary’s University remains a unique presence as the only independent college for women locally. With dual campuses nestled near both the city’s major universities (the Brentwood campus houses its undergraduate program), the Catholic liberal arts school has recently launched a new co-educational masters of fine arts program in creative writing at its Doheny campus near University Park USC.

Loyola Marymount hosts look at Afrofuturism

Conference explores art, culture and the ‘Black esthetic’

Novelist Ishmael Reed once described his writing technique as “making something whole from scraps,” or more to the point, “the gumbo style,” meaning that his work was steeped in the European literary tradition, and also shaped by popular culture as produced by the commingling of influences in the new world.

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A Black History memoir: The legacy of Malcolm X

Fifty years ago this week, a crowd filed into Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on a Sunday afternoon. The Audubon was a multi-purpose building that hosted a variety of events, including festivals, movie screenings, and religious services. But today, however, it was being utilized for another, different type of event entirely. The crowd had gathered to attend a meeting of the newly formed Organization of African American Unity, with its keynote speaker one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in America: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, more commonly known as Malcolm X.

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Spike Lee shifts film focus to horror in “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus”

First off, let me start by admitting that I’ve never seen “Ganja and Hess,” the 1973 blaxploitation landmark from which Spike Lee’s newly released “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” is derived. That said, I’ll take as gospel all the press releases asserting that this remake sticks close to the original’s script (Lee includes writer-director Bill Gunn in the credits for this latest effort).

Pan African Film Festival promotes diversity in a year of industry conflict

Already underway, this year’s Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) which ends on Feb. 16, is all the more interesting in light of the barrage of criticism due to the scarcity of nominations for people of color at the Academy Awards.

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The spook left out in the cold

“…Sterling was not only employed by the C.I.A., but he worked as an operations officer—meaning he worked clandestinely. Thus, the factual details of the case, which would otherwise be unremarkable, (redacted) potentially, compromise the C.I.A.’s operations…”

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Melrose gallery offers up urban themed artifacts

Since the early 1980s, the shopping, entertainment, and dining Mecca along Melrose Avenue has been a go-to spot for hipsters and scene makers who frequent Los Angeles’ fashionable West Side. While it strives to project a trendy persona ranging from fancy to funky, the overall economic reality of this Hollywood adjacent enclave is decidedly upscale. Recently, a new arrival in the neighborhood has offered up an intriguing option for diversity in the area. Unofficially in business for several months, the Exact Science Gallery held its formal opening Jan. 24 to coincide with the upcoming Black History Month celebration.

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... and the winner isn’t:

Legitimate Complaint or Sour Grapes? The pros and cons of Oscar omission

“The movie industry is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher you get, the whiter it gets.” —Al Sharpton in a statement released on the afternoon after this year’s Oscar nominations.

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Race relations in France: a history of denial and uncertainty

"African Americans discover in Paris the terms by which they can define themselves. It's the freedom to work beyond the assumptions of what we can and can't do as African Americans. It's a different rhythm and pace. We can imagine ourselves in new ways in that space."

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Black documentarians offer networking opportunities

Also provide peek at works in progress

To say that narrative filmmaking dominates the local movie industry is a gross understatement. Depictions of make believe shape civilization and culture across the globe, a social manifestation that surpasses even the considerable monetary influence of the entertainment industry. Yet the medium of the documentary is well represented within the shadow of Hollywood, as manifested by the turnout for the annual holiday party for the Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers, better known as BADWest. The event was held Dec. 3 at the Writer’s Guild of America, West.

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In search of ‘The One’

George Clinton and the road to Afrofuturism and Astro-Blackness

Not merely escapist fantasy, science fiction does in fact make positive contributions to society, albeit in an indirect way. Generations of innovators have used these yarns as sources of inspiration, and as a portal to the future.

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Doctor Funkenstein explains it all

George Clinton chronicles his musical odyssey in a printed memoir

Once upon a time, there was a barbershop in a Black enclave in the wilds of deepest, darkest New Jersey, circa the 1950s. Like similar establishments, it was a hub of the cultural and social life of the neighborhood, and dispensed chemically straightened “processed” hair, and other, more conservative styles to a clientele of picturesque characters who often earned a living skirting the propriety of the legal system.

Darkening of the GOP: What does it mean?

Three Black Republicans win historic elections

The recent election results have flown in the face of conventional wisdom. After a disastrous presidential defeat in 2012, the Republican Party regrouped and gained control over the Senate while solidifying their sway over the House.

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Cold War memories from the turret of a Pershing tank

Next week marks the celebration of the Marine Corps birthday (Nov. 10) and Veteran’s Day (Nov. 13). In order to acknowledge both occasions at once, Our Weekly presents the story of a bona fide military pioneer who bridged the gap between World War II and the Cold War.

Hollywood humanizes the whistleblower in ‘Kill the Messenger’

Central to any compelling story is conflict. In the case of the recently released “Kill the Messenger,” the conflict is already well known: Investigative reporter from a mid-sized daily paper in San Jose stumbles upon a report of international intrigue involving government-sponsored narcotics smuggling into inner-city America. The movie unfolds as reporter Gary Webb (played by Jeremy Renner) vacillates between devoted family man (albeit with a past history of infidelity) and dogged, hard-nosed journalist captivated by the conspiracy unraveling before him.

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Ike Jones, film and entertainment pioneer dead at 84

Interracial marriage to movie star Inger Stevens kept secret for 10 years

He was a bonafide star of the UCLA Bruins football teams of the 1950s, and the first African American graduate of the UCLA film school. In his professional life, he worked as an actor and assistant director, and was the first Black producer of a major motion picture, but Ike Jones may be best remembered for his secret marriage to Blonde movie star Inger Stevens during the 1960s.

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The ‘New’ Hollywood?

Diversity and innovation play key role in Blacks increasing on-screen popularity

Recent advances for artists of color have some proclaiming a new era in “Tinsel Town” while others dismiss it as a false flag for social progress.

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Award-winning author J. California Cooper dies at 82

J. California Cooper, the author and playwright whose folksy, first-person narratives depicted Black women as they struggled through a world of hostility and indifference, died on Sept. 20 in Seattle, Wash. She was 82.

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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.

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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.

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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‘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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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.