Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Next Door Neighbor Is The Next Micheaux and Spielberg!!!

Greetings Fam,
I just wanted to let you all know about a future movie mogul and director extraordinaire...His Name??? Mr. Trevor Campbell a.k.a. the West Indian Micheaux a.k.a. the Jamaican Spielberg...I have known and lived across the street from Mr. Campbell for several years now and he never ceases to amaze and inspire with what he does with a video camera and a limited budget...Please check out the following videos and see if you don't agree that this young man has a phenomenal gift, an unique film vision and very bright and sizzling future...Please feel free to leave comments on this post and/or feel free to contact Mr. Campbell yourself and tell him what you think at that you heard it first fromW.E. A.L.L. B.E., Mr. Campbell is on his way to becoming a major player in the Hollywood/entertainment industry a.k.a. A TRUE SUPERSTAR...Stay Tuned...
R2C2H2 Tha Artivist
Hey Trevor hook a brother up in one of your future t.v. sitcoms and/or feature films...You know how we do!!!

Watch out
Norman Lear and Aaron Spelling, Trevor is going to conquer T.V. Land with his future hit The Coolers:

Spike Lee ain't the only Black Director that can do a great commercial:

Another reason why fatty and greasy foods can possibly kill you:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Call For Artists And Other Brotha's Keepa's Events


On July 19 6 pm we will be holding open auditions for a youth (ages
10-17)talent show at Precious Cargo. We're looking for singers,hip-hop
artists,actors, actresses, poets,visual artists and dancers (NO SHAKE JUNT

The actual show will be held on August 19th at Precious Cargo.
any questions please call Jmalo at (901)859-4051


On July 18 we will be taking another trip to the West Tn State Penn. in
Henning Tn. We will be leaving Hollywood C/C at 7am and will return at
2 pm.
any questions call Jmalo (901) 859-4051

For more info on upcoming events feel free to log onto our websites
Brothas Keepa

Sunday, July 16, 2006

21 Questions with R2C2H2: Author Bill Egan shines spotlight back on The Blackbird and Jazz Queen of Harlem after 79 years in obscurity...

Above: Author Bill Egan

Mr. Bill Egan is a good friend of mine whom I never met or spoken to in the flesh...I was actually made aware of Mr. Egan's existence, who lives in Australia, when I accidentally stumbled upon his website almost 6 years ago...I was thoroughly impressed with his website for its thorough and meticulous detail and information on some of the U.S.A.'s greatest Black performers of the early 20th Century...As a matter of fact Mr. Egan is one of the world's greatest experts on the incredible life and career of Florence Mills...He has just recently wrote and published the definitive and only biography on Florence Mills, an effort and labor of love which took him 10 years to complete...The name of the book is Florence Mills: Harlem: Jazz Queen...For about 4 years I have been keeping correspondence with Mr. Egan through e-mail and he has been very generous in answering the following 21 questions...

21 Questions for Bill about Florence Mills

1.) When was the first time you heard jazz??? Who was it by???
My most vivid early memory is seeing the movie The Strip, with Mickey Rooney as a jazz drummer, and featuring Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines and many others. In my web site I also describe (see how exposure to the AFN (American Forces Network) radio from Germany introduced me to an exciting type of music that supplanted my interest in conventional pop.

2.) Why should we remember Florence Mills?
That she was an extraordinarily talented performer who changed the nature of Black entertainment and thereby American popular culture, paving the way for generations of African American stars, is in itself reason enough. When you add to that her remarkable personal character, charitable nature and early outspokenness on racial equality she is a treasure that should not be lost.

3.) When was the first time you heard about Florence Mills?
Probably sometime in 1993, after retirement from work and listening to more Ellington music, especially earlier Twenties and Thirties. "Black Beauty" fascinated me and I was amazed that with my knowledge of people like Ethel Waters, Adelaide Hall, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Valaida Snow I had never heard of the person this lovely music was written for.

4.) How long did it take you to write the book?
Pretty much ten years all up, which included four trips to USA and Europe from Australia

5.) What has been the response to the book? Have you gotten any negative responses?
No negatives, lots of very good reviews. Click here to see a summary selection of reviews on the publisher's web site or more detail on my web site. It's classified as an academic book so doesn't get onto the shelves of the big stores with huge sales figures but sales are steady, especially to libraries and universities. People who know the history have been very generous in their feedback.

7.) What can the United States do to honor Florence Mills' legacy?
Well, the little state of Grenada honored her with a postage stamp so perhaps the US could do the same. Otherwise a statue or memorial somewhere in Harlem would be good, perhaps either near the Duke Ellington memorial or at the site near the Dunbar Apartments where Bill "Bojangles" Robinson wanted a memorial drinking fountain for her.

8.) Can you share with us some of the things you had to do and endure in order to write such an important book?
The biggest problem was being located in Australia, far away from most reference sources. I had to fund all the travel costs from my own pocket - very expensive but also enjoyable because of all the great people I got to meet. Also a big problem was that I was starting so long after Florence's death and so many of the key players had passed on but I was lucky enough to find a few who had known or performed with her - even those are gone now, alas.

9.) Why do you think that some of the best books about jazz and its creators are written outside of the United States?
The Europeans, especially the French (and more recently the Scandinavians) have always had a clearer grasp of the cultural importance of jazz than Americans - something to do with a prophet being without honor in his own country! Many of the cultural leaders of the Harlem Renaissance (e.g. Du Bois, White) believed that African Americans would earn respect and status in White eyes by achievements in the European classical canon, failing to appreciate the gems they had in their own Black tradition - blues, spirituals, jazz etc.

10.) Are you a musician? If so what instrument(s) and genre(s) of music do you play?
I'm a frustrated would-be musician; I dabbled in several instruments (piano, guitar) but don't have the ear. I used to be able to play some traditional Irish tunes on the tune whistle but even that's gone now.

Florence and her husband comedian and dancer U.S. 'Slow Kid' Thompson

11.) Do you plan to write more books? If so, on what and/or whom?
In the following order:
a) A history of a major Australian chess tournament - started many years ago but abandoned in favour of the Florence Mills book

b) A history of all the Black entertainers who came to Australasia between 1865 and 1941, which even includes Florence Mills' husband U. S. Thompson who spent two years here in the Thirties, and many other notables including the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

c) A history of all the Lew Leslie revues, including of course, Blackbirds of 19XX

12.) In your opinion is there anyone out there today that comes close in career, talent, appearance, etc., in resembling the amazing career and legacy of Florence Mills?
It's a bit like asking if we can identify a modern equivalent in the arts of Leonardo Da Vinci. Florence Mills was truly a Renaissance Woman of her era in the field of entertainment. There are many talented performers today but there's so much packaging and hype and so much specialisation that it's hard to see anyone with her versatility. Nevertheless, I'm sure she would have loved listening to someone like Audra McDonald.

13.) Why do you think that Josephine Baker is better remembered than Florence Mills?
She lived longer and was filmed and recorded. She was also a very good self-publicist while Florence shrank from publicity.

14.) If Florence Mills was a car she would be a...
Citroen Pallas - beautiful sleek lines, nothing flashy, full of style.

15.) By researching and writing on Florence Mills what has been one important thing that you learned about yourself?
That you can imagine things your friends think are crazy but if you stay focused you can make them come true.

16.) How do you think history would have been changed had Florence Mills lived longer?
Apart from electrical recording techniques capturing her voice, I think she would have moved into straight drama and perhaps movies, and made a big impact. At the time of her death there was an expectation that she would develop in new directions and that in doing so she could help establish a Black theatre. On her return from Europe one Black paper wrote:
"Miss Mills can do more than anyone else to satisfy the latent hunger for race drama . . . helping to establish a real Negro theater and a genuine race drama will win her a warmer place in the hearts of posterity and more pages in the strangest of all books - history."

17.) Had Florence Mills lived in Europe instead of America like Josephine Baker would she be better remembered?
I think it's more to do with not being filmed or recorded. I also don't think Florence would ever have lived in Europe. Josephine rejected the US but Florence loved it despite its racial problems and loved living in Harlem.

18.) Where can we go to learn more about Florence Mills, you and also to purchase a copy of your book?
There's my Florence Mills web site, which I plan to upgrade very soon with lots more info that's not in the book. For purchasing the book, there are the obvious places like Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, but in Harlem the beautiful Hue-Man bookstore is excellent and in DC the Howard Uni Bookstore is very pleasant. Local bookstores will usually order a book on request (just mention ISBN: 0810850079). For those who find it expensive or can't afford to buy books, many libraries have it (I plan to list them on my web site soon) and local libraries will often acquire a book on readers request.

19.) Do you feel that you are a pioneer and trailblazer for writing the definitive and only book so far truly dedicated to the life and career of Florence Mills? Why or why not?
Yes, it has been an immense source of pleasure and satisfaction to me. Once I found out who Florence Mills was and learned about her, I had a burning desire that the world should know her story, especially her own people that she loved so much. I also felt she was an outstanding role model for young African Americans today.

20.) Was it hard for you as a White man from Australia to write a non-fiction book about a Black woman from the United States ? Why or why not?
Apart from the obvious difficulty of locality, it wasn't especially hard. Obviously anyone who writes from outside a particular culture has some disadvantages but possibly also some compensating benefits. It always pleases me as a Dubliner that so many academics, especially American, want to write about that quintessential Dubliner James Joyce. Apart from my lifelong interest in jazz (actually because of it!) I had read widely in Black culture and literature, Booker T. Washington,James Weldon Johnson, Ralph Ellison, James Wright, James Baldwin,Chester Himes, Angela Mayou, Claude McKay and many others but especially my favorite Langston Hughes. I felt an affinity for the people I read about, as well as the great jazz musicians who I admired and respected.

The biggest concern I had was that in coming to the USA I might find African Americans asking, "Who is this guy to think he can come and write about one of our icons," but in fact I found the opposite - huge support and encouragement. Had it come up, my response would have been that, though Florence Mills was first and foremost a proud member of her race, she was also a citizen of the world who belongs to us all.

21.) Do you have any more words of wisdom and food for thought for our readers?
One of my hopes has been that in telling Florence Mills' story I might be able to reach some younger African Americans for whom the ideals she cherished have not yet been fully achieved (legal equality, yes, but many problems persist in today's society), and help them to understand some of their own history a little better. As I said in the preface to the book:
"A revival of the memory of Florence Mills does more than present an inspiring
story. It provides a valuable role model today for younger African
Americans struggling to understand their history and define their sense of
identity. In an earlier era, many African Americans held an optimism that
reason and logic would in time prevail over the injustices of racial persecution
and discrimination. Today, in many communities the hopes fueled by
the victories of the civil rights struggle have turned sour. Anger and frustration
have replaced optimism. Many turn to confrontation and feel alienated
from the wider society. Florence Mills never wavered from her belief that persuasion and leading by example could overcome prejudice. Her life and its remarkable achievements are a shining testimony to this truth."

An Artivist on Location: Imani in Tanzania

Tha Artivist Known As Imani, Respect Her Fresh!!!
Darline Cheers, left, pauses with daughter Imani at the poster for "Hotel Rwanda" at Magic Johnson Theatres.
Photo Credit: Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post

Imani Cheers is an Art Homie and fellow Artivist of mine who I befriended during "my residency" at Wash U in St. Louis…She has achieved a lot artistically and personally in such a short period of time and I am very proud to call her my sister comrade…She's a photographer/ film maker and humanitarian currently on a relief mission in Tanzania...Check out her message and photos…Get inspired and lifted!!! -R2C2H2 Tha Minista of Information

Okay some of you are new to this list and others have been on since the beginning. Today marks 4 weeks that I've been in Tanzania and I have another 4 weeks to go. I'm loving the culture and the people I've met have been incredible. I especially love the Peace Corps volunteers I've met (shout out to Adam living it up in the DR!) and the Fulbrighters. They have such a different perspective on the country living in the villages versus living in the city like me. We bond over red wine and Indian food regularly! Plus I met this South African couple this past weekend (Sarah and Urlick) who I'm convinced we were separated at birth, Sarah and I...two kindred spirits! God has truly blessed me to be in this amazing opportunity and although its rough at times dealing with the craziness of working for the Foreign Service, I wouldn't change the experience for anything in the WORLD. This is a life changing summer and I'm embracing every second that I get the opportunity to met people and talk with them. As most of you know I can TALK so it's just lovely when people respond so positively and I get to share my experiences!

Enjoy...these are pictures from some of the wonderful kids I met on Sunday in Zanzibar. The beauty of these children just moved me...they are so innocent and not corrupted by the pressures of materialistic wealth. They don't need soccer balls to play with...they use ANYTHING, including cardboard boxes! So resourceful! These kids truly inspired me, especially Naimaa. She is 9 years old, doesn't speak a word of english but we had this amazing connection. She followed me around for a while and in my broken kiswahili we tried to communicate. She loved looking at the digital image on the back of my camera after I took a picture. She has the most incredible smile I had ever seen. Her eyes just lit up her entire face. Now I don't know GW Bush and his Malaria Initiative plan sounds good on paper...but I do know that Naimaa's village now will be sprayed with insecticide that will kill mosquitoes that carry malaria. If that means her mother, sisters, brothers, friends, other family members or she won't get malaria, then "Go GW! Thank you for finally using your power for good and not evil!" So my assessment of the weekend's activities...Naimaa's village will hopefully be healthier this year and for me, that's all that matters. I have 3 stories with captions on the USAID/Tanzania website. Check out ...They don't believe in giving photo credits here for whatever reason so my stuff are the first three stories on the site...let me know what you think...more to come...



The other pictures are of dancers from the PMI (President's Malaria Initiative) campaign launch!
*Important Note : All the following pictures are the copyrighted property of Ms. Imani Cheers...Please contact her at if you are interested in her gorgeous pictures!!! Thanks!!!*

I remember way back when, but do yall remember what it means to be a kid???

World Cup Fever!!!

Lean With It...

Rock With It!!!

The Beautiful and Enigmatic Naimaa

Hey DJ...
That's the joint, that's the jam right there!!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Hero For All Times

I wrote this essay about my grandfather in 2001 for an online contest...I re-edited this essay for a little more clarity, but I hope the true spirit and intent in which I wrote this paper about my honorable and beautiful grandfather a.k.a. Soldier Boy Grip comes through none the less...

My true hero is my grandfather, Arthur Taylor, Sr.
... About two years ago my grandfather received several medals, not including the Purple Heart which he should have also gotten, that he earned while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II...It was presented to him by the young U.S. congressman (and current U.S. Senate hopeful), the generous and kind Harold Ford, Jr....This crowning achievement was the result of my mother's hardwork and dilligence in obtaining the documents necessary in securing these military honors. That day was surely one of the happiest in my grandfather's long, steady and storied life.MORE

The Real School of Rock

Rock Solid: Dave Simon’s Rock School Shapes the Minds of Tomorrow
A Limelight Exclusive By Byron Lee
THE ICON: St. Louis-bred singer/songwriter Chuck Berry laid the blueprint for rock music with clever lyrics, driving rhythms, and impressive guitar playing.

Dave Simon has an outgoing nature, a youthful exuberance, and a wide smile that seems to appear every five seconds. He highly values expression of all kinds and offers calm and analytical defenses at a moment's notice.

It is this kind of attitude that Simon hopes to foster in his students at Dave Simon's Rock School. Located at 1305 Baur in Olivette, the school offers lessons in various styles of rock and mentorship in order to expedite the learning process. Furthermore, the school puts on showcases that allow his students to get the experience of playing before a live audience during their high school years (A few days after our interview was conducted, the school planned to have a performance at Blueberry Hill spotlighting music from the 70's.).

Simon first got the idea of forming a Rock School during the 80's, when he took a course in jazz at Webster University. "I was amazed that a style of music that came from late night jam sessions could be taught in a classroom. I thought that it would be good to do that for rock. If you look at the music of Elton John, Billy Joel, and The Beatles, you realize that there are some interesting things going on."
REACHING THE FUTURE: Dave Simon (right) helps a student with their vocal delivery. To Simon, his Rock School represents more than just an opportunity to learn rock music. Says Simon, "I want kids to participate in an activity outside of academics and athletics, to have something that is their own, something that is not being pushed on them."

After returning to St. Louis after living in New York and San Francisco in the 90's, Simon opened up the Rock School. He is happy with the school's success and the effect that it has had on its students. Simon believes that the school is important to students because of the stage of their life that they are in. "Teenagers have a need to feel independent, but in every aspect of their lives, someone is telling them what to do. I want kids to participate in an activity outside of academics and athletics, to have something that is their own, something that is not being pushed on them."

ROCK STAR IN TRAINING: Above is a guitar student honing his craft. Dave Simon's Rock School offers lessons in various styles of rock, mentorship in order to expedite the learning process, and the opportunity to perform in front of an audience of hundreds during the school's showcases.

A BALANCED DIET: Although he is thrilled that his
students take an interest in classic rock bands, such
as Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, Dave Simon makes sure
that his students are exposed to latter day material,
as well.

In addition to learning the music, Simon feels that students can acquire other tools that will help them in other facets of life. "Even if a kid has independence, they may not have the skills to be disciplined or to know how to assert themselves. The school gets them used to dealing with the personality clashes that come with working with different kinds of people. Some adults haven't figured that out."

Afro - HAVE WE MOVED ON?: Even though he reveres the expression found in rap music, Dave Simon is dismayed that more black students do not take an interest in Rock-n-Roll music. "Black people created Rock-n-Roll," notes Simon, "Everyone knows that."

If there is one area that he feels that the school can improve upon, it is in the enrollment of black students. Simon seems to know the source of this deficiency. "Rap culture has taken over, and black kids are all about the latest trends in the culture of music. I ask some black kids, 'What do you think about Prince?', and they tell me 'Prince is old.' Black kids don't seem to like the music that their parents or grandparents listened to. If anything, white students tend to focus on the past. They love the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. These are great bands, but there is other stuff out there."
THE TOTAL PACKAGE: Possessing good looks, a solid voice, sensual dance moves, and a mainstream look, Elvis Presley was able to put Rock-n-Roll on the map in a way that many of his black counterparts were not allowed to.

In acknowledging that rap has replaced rock in many ways, Simon expresses great reverence for the genre. "Rap is the evolution of rock music. Rap music is about the expression. Rap music is where you are finding a lot of the cutting edge music." He fondly remembers seeing Run-DMC in concert during their "Walk This Way" hey day, and deeply reveres the music of hip-hop's golden era. "I liked the fact that Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions put it all out there [regarding their political beliefs]." Far from condemning today's crop of rap stars, he is instead happy that the music has come so far. "I feel blessed to be alive to have seen it come from Grandmaster Flash and Whodini to where it is now. Today, we have rap entrepreneurs."
AN ANOMALY: Spiked by the success of the song "Cult of Personality", "Vivid," the 1988 debut album by black rock group Living Colour, became recognized as a landmark hard rock release. Unfortunately, the success of the group did not lead to increased black representation in rock music.

THE FOREFATHERS: Washington, D.C. punk rock group Bad Brains is thought by many to be one of the pioneers of hardcore rock. Many of the groups that became popular during the rap/rock craze of the late 90's/early 2000's cited the collective as a major influence.

Simon's feelings are the polar opposition of the vehement reaction many rock fans have to rap music, in which many fans of the golden age of rock seem to go out of their way to bash the rap genre. Simons believes that this hostility is rooted in ignorance and fear, in that many outsiders cannot relate to the image put forth by today's rap stars. "In the 60's and 70's, white people had a feeling that they knew the desires of black america. There was nothing threatening about The Commodores. White people don't know what drives [Georgia-bred rap superstar] T.I. White america does not know how to relate to the guy standing in front of the nice car, surrounded by women. Likewise, many black people do not know how to relate to the image of a white kid with long hair banging their head."

LITTLE BIG MAN: Though his influence has been forgotten by many, Little Richard's catchy songwriting, powerful voice, and flamboyant performance style influenced many of rock's most famous acts.

What makes the lack of black representation in rock music so sad is that the pioneers of Rock-n-Roll were black. In fact, some people think that one of those pioneers, St. Louis's Chuck Berry, is the rightful owner of the moniker "King of Rock-n-Roll." When asked if he agrees, Simon divides rock music into two components: the music and the imagery. "Chuck Berry revolutionized Rock-n-Roll. He had a country inflection in how he sang, and his lyrics really inspired Bob Dylan and John Lennon to be more poetic and clever with their lyrics. He influenced The Beatles, who were responsible for the new wave of sounds in rock music. You could also make a strong case for Little Richard. He paved the way for the flamboyant style of Mick Jagger with how he performed. He also brought in an androgynous side to the music."
NOT A BOYS CLUB: Girls are very active at Dave Simon's Rock School, at times putting on sets that outshine those of their male counterparts.

Simon feels, though, that another performer took the image part of rock and brought it to another plateau."Elvis Presley was good looking, he could dance, he could sing, and he was a movie star. A part of that was the fact that he was a white man in the 1950s. I can't think of any black person who could have had the opportunity to be a movie star in the 1950s. The musician in me wants to give the title to Chuck Berry, but, in looking at the big picture, I give Elvis the title."While there are not many black rock stars on the landscape, Simon remains optimistic. "Black people created Rock-n-Roll. Everyone knows that. Whenever a black band comes onto the scene, like [punk rock legends] Bad Brains or [late 80's landmark group] Living Colour, the results are always amazing."More information on Dave Simon's Rock School can be found at

Your "Birth Time" May Determine Your Success In Life...

Birthday Calendar

It tells you how many hours and how many seconds you have been alive on this earth and when you were probably conceived. How cool is that?

This is cool. After you've finished reading the info, click again, and see what the moon looked like the night you were born. This is neat. Who says our time clocks aren't ticking....

July 29,2006 1pm-4pm @ MO's Memphis Originals,"Tha Artivist Presents...Words, Beats and Pics!"

What:Tha Artivist Presents…
When: Saturday July 29,2006 from 1pm-4pm
Where: MO's Memphis Originals on 3521 Walker (off of Highland near the University of Memphis campus) Memphis,Tn 38111
Admission: $5 at the door (this is a family friendly event!!!)

About Event:
Please join R2C2H2 Tha Artivist and Friends for the first Words, Beats and Pics! celebration!!! This event will showcase regional as well as local talent in poetry/spoken word, song/music and the visual arts.

Featured and Honorable guests are:
1.) St. Louis' Own Sisters Nineties Literary Group, to see samples of their work check out the following links:

2.)Civil Rights Movement pioneer and veteran Bernice Sims:

3.) Brotha's Keepa

There will also be more surprise guests as well as a chance for audience members to participate in a talent contest for a prizeA silent auction of original art and prints by great contemporary artists such as New Orleans' own Oscar Donahue , R2C2H2 Tha Artivist and many others too numerous to name here will also be held in addition to the event...Proceeds from art auction will go to projects benefiting artists and our society.

Please feel free to contact Ronald Herd II and Mr. Albert Grant through e-mail ( or by phone (901-299-4355) if you have any questions or comments.

Friend or Foe??? Only Rev. Jesse and De Lawd Kno' Fo' Sho'...

Pastor Accused Of Raping Member Of Congregation

And Yall Thought Only Blonde Haired Blue Eyed White Women Were Screwing Our Kids And Their Education...

Ex-teacher admits sex with 6 students

SAGINAW, Michigan (AP) -- A former middle school band teacher admitted she had sexual contact with six male students and entered a guilty plea one day before her trial was scheduled to start.

Laura L. Findlay, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday in Saginaw County Circuit Court to 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 16.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, she faces at least seven years in prison at sentencing August 17, though the judge could sentence her to up to life in prison.

Defense lawyer James F. Piazza said his client might withdraw her plea if the sentence exceeds seven years.

Prosecutors say Findlay had sexual contact with male students from Ricker Middle School in Buena Vista Township over five months in 2004-2005. She had taught at the school for seven years.

Assistant prosecutor James T. Borchard said the students and their parents agreed with the plea deal.

Pay What You Owe...

Slavery reparations gaining momentum

By ERIN TEXEIRA, AP National WriterSun Jul 9, 10:13 PM ET


Katrina Browne poses for a photograph Friday, June 30, 2006, outside her office in Cambridge, Mass. Browne's ancestors were the biggest slave traders in U.S. history, and she has been working for the past seven years on a documentary film about their trade. She expects to complete the project, titled 'Traces of the Trade: A Story of the Deep North,' within the next six months. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Advocates who say black Americans should be compensated for slavery and its Jim Crow aftermath are quietly chalking up victories and gaining momentum.

Fueled by the work of scholars and lawyers, their campaign has morphed in recent years from a fringe-group rallying cry into sophisticated, mainstream movement. Most recently, a pair of churches apologized for their part in the slave trade, and one is studying ways to repay black church members.

The overall issue is hardly settled, even among black Americans: Some say that focusing on slavery shouldn't be a top priority or that it doesn't make sense to compensate people generations after a historical wrong.

Yet reparations efforts have led a number of cities and states to approve measures that force businesses to publicize their historical ties to slavery. Several reparations court cases are in progress, and international human rights officials are increasingly spotlighting the issue.

"This matter is growing in significance rather than declining," said Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor and a leading reparations activist. "It has more vigor and vitality in the 21st century than it's had in the history of the reparations movement."

The most recent victories for reparations advocates came in June, when the Moravian Church and the Episcopal Church both apologized for owning slaves and promised to battle current racism. The Episcopalians also launched a national, yearslong probe into church slavery links and into whether the church should compensate black members. A white church member, Katrina Browne, also screened a documentary focusing on white culpability at the denomination's national assembly.

The Episcopalians debated slavery and reparations for years before reaching an agreement, said Jayne Oasin, social justice officer for the denomination, who will oversee its work on the issue.

Historically, slavery was an uncomfortable topic for the church. Some Episcopal bishops owned slaves — and the Bible was used to justify the practice, Oasin said.

"Why not (take these steps) 100 years ago?" she said. "Let's talk about the complicity of the Episcopal Church as one of the institutions of this country who, of course, benefited from slavery."

Also in June, a North Carolina commission urged the state government to repay the descendants of victims of a violent 1898 campaign by white supremacists to strip blacks of power in Wilmington, N.C. As many as 60 blacks died, and thousands were driven from the city.

The commission also recommended state-funded programs to support local black businesses and home ownership.

The report came weeks after the Organization of American States requested information from the U.S. government about a 1921 race riot in Tulsa, Okla., in which 1,200 homes were burned and as many as 300 blacks killed. An OAS official said the group might pursue the issue as a violation of international human rights.

The modern reparations movement revived an idea that's been around since emancipation, when black leaders argued that newly freed slaves deserved compensation.

About six years ago, the issue started gaining momentum again. Randall Robinson's "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks," was a best seller; reparations became a central issue at the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa; and California legislators passed the nation's first law forcing insurance companies that do business with the state to disclose their slavery ties. Illinois passed a similar insurance law in 2003, and the next year Iowa legislators began requesting — but not forcing — the same disclosures.

Several cities — including Chicago, Detroit and Oakland — have laws requiring that all businesses make such disclosures.

Reparations opponents insist that no living American should have to pay for a practice that ended more than 140 years ago. Plus, programs such as affirmative action and welfare already have compensated for past injustices, said John H. McWhorter, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute.

"The reparations movement is based on a fallacy that cripples the thinking on race — the fallacy that what ails black America is a cash problem," said McWhorter, who is black. "Giving people money will not solve the problems that we have."

Even so, support is reaching beyond African-Americans and the South.

Katrina Browne, the white Episcopalian filmmaker, is finishing a documentary about her ancestors, the DeWolfs of Bristol, R.I., the biggest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She screened it for Episcopal Church officials at the June convention.

"Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North," details how the economies of the Northeast and the nation as a whole depended on slaves.

"A lot of white people think they know everything there is to know about slavery — we all agree it was wrong and that's enough," Browne said. "But this was the foundation of our country, not some Southern anomaly. We all inherit responsibility."

She says neither whites nor blacks will heal from slavery until formal hearings expose the full history of slavery and its effects — an effort similar to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid collapsed.

To learn more about Katrina Browne’s film or assist with its production, visit, call Ebb Pod Productions at 617-349-001 or e-mail

It's Gettin' Even Harder Out There For A Pimp...

Senator seeks tax on pimps, prostitutes

Grassley: 'It's a no-brainer to have the IRS go after sex traffickers'

By Jonathan Schienberg

Wednesday, June 28, 2006; Posted: 4:28 p.m. EDT (20:28 GMT)
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says the tax code should be used to fight sex trafficking.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is hoping to stamp out the sex trade by taxing pimps and prostitutes, then jailing them when they don't pay.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning approved a bill sponsored by committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, authorizing at least $2 million toward the establishment of an office in the IRS criminal investigation unit to prosecute unlawful sex workers for violations of tax laws.

The bill's approval gives the IRS harsh new criminal penalties for use against those in the underground criminal economy. According to Grassley's office, the majority of the victims of sex trafficking -- those who are often smuggled in from other counties and virtually imprisoned in a house set up for prostitution -- are girls ages 13 to 17.

'A no-brainer'

"It's a no-brainer to have the IRS go after sex traffickers," Grassley said. "Prosecuting tax code violations can get these guys off the street and yank from their grasp the girls and women they exploit. This crime is right under our noses in the United States, and it's especially horrible when under-age girls are being held prisoner. The thugs who run the trafficking rings are exploiting society's poorest girls and women for personal gain."

Asked Tuesday about whether taxing sex workers would somehow lend legitimacy to them, a spokesman for Grassley said that the goal of the legislation would not be to legitimize the individuals but rather to find "yet another alternative to track the money flowing in this industry to get at potential criminals."

The bill also calls for more jail time for sex workers. According to Grassley's office, in the past, the IRS has been saddled with having to prove how much income a sexual worker earned in order to show that he or she has not been paying enough income tax. Grassley's proposal will help overcome those obstacles. For example, if a trafficker has failed to file W-2s for five women (employees), the maximum penalty would be 10 years in prison per failure to file, a total of 50 years.

Grassley used the example of gangster Al Capone, who was eventually jailed on tax evasion charges. The bill, according to a spokesman for Grassley, will use the federal tax code to shut down illegal sex workers who are hard to get by way of other federal criminal laws and are not targeted by state law enforcement.

"For the first time ever, the tax code would help put behind bars the criminals who are making money in the underground economy by selling sexual access to girls and women," the spokesman said in an e-mail statement.

Strip clubs a target?

Carol Leigh, a representative of BAYSWAN, a San Francisco Bay area sex worker advocacy network, criticized the legislation as being shortsighted.

"Forced labor, kidnapping should be targeted, but this legislation broadly targets the sex trade in general, and could target your local strip club," Leigh said. "Those of us who work in the industry understand that this does nothing to improve conditions in our industry.

"We want laws enforced against those who abuse us, against those who are violent, and enforcement of labor regulations. That is the only truly effective way to protect the welfare of the women who work in the industry."

The sex trafficking bill proposed by Grassley was part of a scheduled Senate Finance Committee good government tax bill.