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Obama’s War and God's other Eden

As we move out of August Summer into the Fall, look for the Antiwar Movement to launch their plans. Afghanistan is the new Iraq.

It's not like Obama pulled a surprise from his hat. He told us he was going to focus on Afghanistan. The more troops we place in harms way the more Americans will be killed and wounded. This will not go over well with the American public. We still have a distaste for wars in countries we know very little about. It's hard for people to understand what defending National Security means- when they can't find some of these nations on a map. How many Americans still wonder if Palin's Alaska is America?

Opposition to Obama is going to be difficult in some corners. Look for the Peace Movement to once again have problems attracting black marchers. Long gone are the days of Paul Robeson - and the international perspective activists once had. Many black people will support Obama and wave kente, and the Antiwar Movement will once again look white on television and the streets.

It's also going to be a challenge for many to create antiwar posters that are critical of Obama and avoid racial stereotypes. How large can we make Obama's ears? Must we bring back the Minstrel face?

We can only make a decision on Afghanistan if we determine what will be the wars of the future. One thing to note is that the war we are fighting is going to be ongoing and perhaps permanent.
I don't think one defeats ideas or religions - I think you try to place them in check and not necessarily checkmate.

The 21st Century will see our world divided by religion more than race. I've said this over and over...

Key to everything is going to be the relationship between church/mosque and state. Freedom to practice one's religion is one thing, the advocating of religion to govern society is something else.
The separation of church/mosque and state is critical if man is going to advance. The failure to bring religion up to date, or have it accept modernity and science is a major challenge.

The freedom of women around the world must not be held back by man's interpretation of scripture. We can't skip or dance around some of these issues and conflicts. We also have to understand and promote tolerance and cultural diversity.

Everyone is not the same, but everyone should be provided with equal opportunities. My concern is that our fear of the future has many of us clinging to the past. We can't let go because it might result in our loss of identity. Who are we when God leaves us to ourselves?

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Beating The Old Drum Again?

I just reviewed President Obama's speech to the Ghanaian Parliament. What he gave was almost an old campaign speech, in other words if it plays in America it might just play in Accra. Obama was in lecture mode. The Ghanaian Parliament reminded me of Howard University during freshman orientation week. The only thing different was the age of the listeners and the presence of kente cloth.

Obama can call for "Africa for the Africans" and it sounds like a nice drum beat or Nkrumah plays Motown, but let's be real and critical for a moment. Obama spoke about moving beyond colonialism but he never mentioned the word Neo-colonialism. Much of the exploitation of Africa and many of the conflicts are perpetuated by outside interests. Funny how Obama can talk about Africa being a partner without questioning the "partnership" the continent has with a nation like China. Should we talk about Sudan here?

Obama divided his speech into four areas of concern:

- Democracy
- Opportunity
- Health
- Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts

Brother President's speechwriters seem to often use an FDR framework. 4-4-4 might soon sound like Moses Malone talking about the NBA playoffs. By using the 4 point outline, Obama squeezed ideas into his speech that seem to borrow a Middle Passage strategy. Pack one's ideas tightly and maybe a few will survive.

I think too much attention is being given to elections and the word democracy right now, without discussing the historical process and the stages that are necessary to reach it. Instead of talking about partnerships with Africa - we need to be encouraging a "Renaissance" and maybe pulling out those old texts written by Kuanda. Humanism anyone? To what extent does Neo-colonialism keep Africa in almost a feudal state? Is it in the interests of some corporations to promote democracy in Africa? Why end wars and tribal conflicts if you can exploit natural resources without the restrictions of a strong state or national government? Criminals have "partners" too.

If we are going to talk once again about "Africa for the Africans" then the responsibility for Africa's future will rest with its intellectuals, not it's political leaders or businessmen. Where are the visionary thinkers of Africa? Are they in exile? How engaged are they in trying to solve the problems of Africa? Did the AIDS epidemic and other health problems destroy a generation ofAfrican leaders? Does anyone talk about a lost generation? Has Africa missed its historical moment? Let's be honest here if we are talking tough love.

I see Africa simply becoming the new military playground for the war on terrorism. The nations to watch will be those African countries with a Muslim population. The future of Africa might depend on what happens in Somalia, Sudan and Northern Nigeria. When I look to the future I only see more bombs falling, more refugees, more hunger and death in these regions.

We've already seen a number of American institutions not being able to make it into the future, it looks like we might have to add a few nations or maybe even a continent to the list. The sum of Africa's problems might demand that we declare bankruptcy and start all over again. This time maybe it will be Africa for the Africans. Right now we’re struggling to escape what is the equivalent of the Madoff era. Neo-colonialism ain't nothin but a Ponzi scheme.

[Article published in Ebony Jet}

Speaking on the Bob Edwards Show

Check here to hear the show, and my thoughts about The Fifth Inning.

And don't forget I'll be on live on WPFW (DC Pacifica station) on Monday May 25th at 7pm to discuss my work with host Abdul Ali and take phone calls. 

You can listen online here:

Speaking on NPR: How My Mother's Love Teaches Me

Weekend Edition Sunday, May 10, 2009 · In celebration of Mother's Day, writer and poet E. Ethelbert Miller reflects on the importance of mothers who have shaped our lives. Miller is director of the African-American Resources Center at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

To listen, click here.

5th Inning Named Best Memoir of Spring

The Fifth InningBook Review Editor Grace Cavalieri has named The Fifth Inning as the best memoir of Spring 2009! To see who else made the list you can go to the The Monserrat Review. And to buy your own copy? Just click on the image!

'5th Inning' in 'of note'

In March, poet and literary activist, E. Ethelbert Miller will release his second memoir, The 5th Inning. In an exclusive essay for of note, Miller reflects on the family photo that inspired the cover art for the book. “Years before Michelle and Barack, we were the Millers,” he recalls of that ‘family-next-door’ moment.  

But as he unwraps the story behind the photograph – the story of a family and of years passed, he crafts a narrative about the fragments, the spaces, the isolation within our lives. “This is what we do as writers,” he says, “We write about the smiles we can no longer wear and the suffering that we do.”


I’m looking at the book cover of my second memoir, The 5th Inning. The cover features the artwork of my friend Andy Shallal, the owner of Busboys and Poets in Washington D.C. Andy was able to create a collage from a photo taken by Dan Moldea. He took the picture back in 2005 on the day my son Nyere-Gibran graduated from Gonzaga High School. It’s a remarkable photo in that it captures my entire family laughing and in a moment of complete joy. I have no memory of what we were laughing at, other than Dan perhaps saying just relax and disguise yourself for history. We are all standing in the backyard of our house on Underwood Street. In the picture with me are my daughter, mother, sister, son, and wife. What the picture doesn’t capture is what took place in front of the house before Dan arrived. 


It’s my son’s graduation and he is happy. My wife has fixed up the entire house, ordered chairs and tables for the backyard, cooked food and made arrangements for about 50 people or more. Standing in front of the house waiting for people to arrive, my son and I soon realized very few people were coming. I could feel the disappointment in his voice overshadowed by the jokes we  passed back and forth. We both knew that this special day was another day in our lives–that connected us more than blood or flesh. If I was a blues singer I would have presented my son with a guitar and congratulated him for graduating into my world.

Dan Moldea was the person who drove both of my children home from George Washington University Hospital shortly after they were born. That was in 1982 and 1987. I think this is what made him so interested in taking this picture. In many ways he is the architect putting this African American family together. He is framing us, and this is why we are all smiling. We have been framed. Years before Michelle and Barack, we were the Millers.

My mother, Enid Miller creates the center of the photograph. My father died back in February 1987.The women in the picture out number the men, four to two. This is the score as the game goes into the fifth inning. The women are in charge, defining things, shaping the world in their own image. The four women in the picture are all very strong women. They are fiercely independent. I have argued with all of them, perhaps too much so. I think they are smiling in the picture because they are winning. But what have I lost?


When you look at the cover of The 5th Inning the house we live in is gone. The images have been reduced to fragments. Broken?  We are all isolated and distant from one another. My mother now residing in a nursing home in Yonkers. My son is a head above everyone – and maybe he will escape his “blues” inheritance. This is why I requested the color of the book to be blue. Many games called after the fifth inning end because of rain and darkness.

Above the heads of my family one will find the faces of  baseball all-stars: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Carl Yastrzemski . They represent a pantheon of baseball Gods. They are men who played the game with a considerable degree of grace. Each one has a magical moment in baseball lore. They blessed our nation and in many ways gave us dreams. How often did I run around the South Bronx with my cap flying off like Mays? I always wanted to throw like Clemente. Which brings me back to my literary career and my search for the glorious season. There comes a point in our lives when we know we’re pitching just as hard but the ball isn’t getting to the plate as fast. That’s where things are right now for me.


The 5th Inning is the book I’ve written without the Dunbar mask. The baseball is metaphor only if you understand the game. Baseball embraces silence and space. The loneliness of the player after making an error. The walking in of a run with the bases loaded. The foul-tip that’s dropped…

At the bottom of the cover, Andy Shallal has a baseball figure caught sliding. The face is etched out. You don’t have to see a face. One knows it’s Jackie Robinson stealing home. This is a moment of ancestral memory. It’s the type of play that’s simply daring and unapologetic. I want to write that way. Jackie never had it made. He created his own path. This is what we do as writers. We write about the smiles we can no longer wear and the suffering that we do.

– E. Ethelbert Miller


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