Thursday, March 22, 2007
From Bagdad to Baghdad
Well, the crew from World Have Your Say blew into Portland’s Bagdad Theater after a wild show from Harlem the day before. You can read about the outrage and frustration expressed by the African American community from Harlem and Ros Atkins reaction here. That program set the stage for a lively discussion in mostly white Portland.
It was quite exciting to realize that folks from all over the world were hearing what was being said in this historic brewpub and movie house here in Portland. I’ve been in the Bagdad Theater many times, so it was quite a comfortable place for me and I assume other Portlanders to vent and express. The lame movie What the Bleep Do We Know has scenes filmed in the Bagdad, so if you really want to see what it looks like inside you can check out that film but I don’t vouch for the content.
After an orientation by Ros Atkins and April Baer (OPB) of what to expect and how to behave and also a practice run of about 20 minutes, the BBC broadcast live for about two hours. The conversation began with the rightness or wrongness of the UN talking to Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Most thought it was a good idea citing USA’s War of Independence as an example of insurgents, and also expressing the feeling that it is better then doing nothing. Some felt the UN should never negotiate, while a female caller thought it was totally pointless. Hassan from Baghdad called in and pointed out that the Insurgents were not terrorists, and that a dialog should occur. I was just amazed that I was sitting in the Bagdad Theater hearing a man in Baghdad respond to the opinions in Portland Oregon. There were also several slams on president Bush and huge cheers went up in the theater when asked if he should be impeached. Ros responded that only six people in the Cleveland audience raised their hands in favor of impeachment when asked the same question. HELLO CLEVELAND!
The conversation turned to racism and gentrification due to the angry discussion that occurred in Harlem. Most agreed that it still is a very real problem. A few expressed the old “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” argument while others countered that if you’re part of the privileged class then that’s a racist, arrogant argument. NY Oil who co-hosted yesterday’s show called in and was quite elegant in explaining what its like to be a black man in America citing rampant fear of the police, to system that keeps black folks from escaping poverty. He also had an interesting comment in a response to a question on African American history from a Portlander, NY said he could name all the Greek Gods but knew nothing about Africa. There was a white attorney in the theater that added that black lawyers have to be twice as good as the white lawyers to just get the same opportunities. As we were ending this section of the show I made a cheesy remark tying up the two topics by saying something like “I’m not surprised at their reaction (in Harlem), but I’d like to make a comment that I’d rather spend billions of dollars day in Harlem than on the War in Iraq or Halliburton.” to which huge cheers and clapping could be heard. Many interesting things were said, too many in fact to list here. The show finished up with a discussion of water issues, as the 22nd of March is world water day and the sad concept of people fighting over water like we fight over oil was mentioned.
All and all I had a great time. The Bagdad Theater was a wonderful venue and strangely enough Ros Atkins looked just like I thought he would after hearing his voice on the radio. The whole BBC crew was very professional and friendly and the topics were very interesting. I think World Have Your Say in Portland was a big success. After the program, in a question answer section, I mentioned to Ros that I hoped that the BBC folks would get a chance to visit some of our brewpubs. That garnered big laughs and Ros said it had been such a hectic week that he might need to go after he got some rest.