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.



Don Snabulus said...

That sounds like it was an excellent event. I wish I would have been in town that day. Good comment too, Swiney. I am always proud of your ability to tie things together like that.

ladybug said...

NY is right, the American system of education is not only Euro-centric, it's Anglo-Centric.

I learned so much about Africa as an aside in my upper division French classes. It helped that one of my teachers was born and grew up in the Belgian Congo (now called Zaire). We learned all the countries, a very abbreviated history (esp. of the colonial & post-colonial period, which speaks volumes about the mostly arbitrary land division) and a little culture and alot of geography.

Think about this, Africa is so large you can fit 3 USA's in it!

ladybug said...

PS, the comment about "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps" is really more ignorant that racist in my opinion.

In the world of the rich folk, they can't even imagine someone NOT having even bootstraps.

They assume every one has some basic skillset of economic/professional knowledge. I think just a drive-thru "Incestacada" will disabuse anyone of that notion! With the huge dis-investment of public education in the last 30 years (Thanks Reagan!), it any gonna get any better folks!

The Moody Minstrel said...

Interesting experience...and admirable.

Yes, racism is still a very real problem, and it definitely needs to be addressed more than it has been...and without the self-righteous indifference (ignorance, whatever).

However, at risk of offending people, it's also true that racism can only be tackled if it's addressed on both sides of the fence. I mean, it's easy to tell me that I should treat a black person the same as a white person or yellow person or red person or purple person or whatever, and I would totally agree in principle. However, being that almost half of my contact with black people thus far in my life has consisted of my running for my life from black gangs in Portland that wanted to "roll" me on account of my being white (or my even being robbed by one on one occasion),'s hard for me to be confident when I'm told I'm the one that has to make the effort to change.

If you want to get, you should give as well.

Swinebread said...

snab thanks, I just wanted to make a quick comment rather than debate anybody… but what I said is true for me…

ladybug Well I think that the Anglo-centric education actually breeds that "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps" myth as if we all start from the same position.

moody I totally agree that racism needs to be worked from both (all?) sides. I have been discriminated against by black folks in my time as well and threatened with violence once for that matter. So I know where you’re coming from. My only point was that I could understand why the folks in Harlem were angry, and I wasn’t surprised. Ros was very shocked, so part of my statement was a reference to his utter astonishment at the whole thing (he was actually there being confronted by the crowed). Plus the crowed in Harlem didn’t understand the format. They thought they would be able to make speeches and got upset when Ros pulled the mic away. As he said in the Bagdad to us… “this is world have your say not world have your speech”

Seymour said...

Distrusting other groups or individuals based on race or color or religon or sexual orientation or wealth or handedness or weight or gender or political views or whatever, its pretty much a given.

The real advance is in the acknowlegement that there is a problem. The dialogue generated is like nothing else this or any other species has ever seen. Ever. We've come so far in the last one hundred years, let's see where we are in the next one hundred years.

As individuals we see change in a very fine scale. What is happening historically is sometimes masked to us, but I personally think we are on the right track here. Demand results, but expect delays.

Dean Wormer said...

Racism is something that just drives me nuts.

I've know too many knuckleheads that looked exactly like me. And I'm suppose to single out others because they don't? Knuckle-headness seems to be racially neutral.

Employment discrimination is something I literally can't understand. For most of my adult life I've been a boss/ supervisor. It's hard enough to find to find motivated employees that show up to work as scheduled without having to throw in extraneous crap like skin color, gender or sexual orientation. Where are these people finding these "perfect" employees that look exactly like them AND do a terrific job?

Anyhoo - thanks for reporting, Swine.

Swinebread said...

Seymour demand results, but expect delays. Sounds wise... Hmmm

dean beside simply being a caring human being, racism (and other forms of bigotry) cuts down on productivity

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