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BLUES BROTHERS, SISTERS
On August 25, my life changed for the better. The catalyst for this change was the L.A. Weekly’s cover story by Erin Aubry [“Blue Like Me,” August 25–31]. I am forever indebted to Erin for her words and her insight into the soul of African-Americans. I liken reading Erin’s article to going to the traditional black Baptist church and hearing the man of God emphatically speaking to the broad issues and ills of a people, yet at the same time speaking also for the individual soul as well. Erin’s article did more for me in 30 minutes than any experience I have had to date, notwithstanding my acceptance of Christian doctrine. I have been sending copies to all my friends, and to others in my community. I want to take this opportunity to thank the L.A. Weekly and its editorial staff for continuing to be a true voice of the people — all people. I cannot think of too many other publications that would have the courage to print her article, let alone give it the cover.
Power to the people. The conscious ones, at least.
—Mark O. Thomas
Re: “Blue Like Me.” This is truly amazing. You would never see a cover story like this in any publication here in Seattle. I miss Erin Aubry and the Weekly’s in-yo-face features on racism.
—Yayoi Lena Winfrey
Not only was Ms. Aubry’s article extremely well-written, it touched on so many levels of personal and collective experience that it transcended both person and race. I have given the article to friends, patients and fellow physicians. You are very fortunate to have such a writer on your staff.
—Arnold Chanin, M.D.
Erin Aubry’s cover story on race and depression was undoubtedly one of the best-written, most provocative pieces to appear in the L.A. Weekly for many years. Clearly, however, the fact that the upper echelons of the American socioeconomic dung heap are mostly white is not the fault of all contemporary white Americans, and those blacks who do achieve success do not necessarily diminish in “blackness” — although they do inherit the neuroses of the well-to-do. This is where depression rears its ugly head, separating the emotional sickness from the social sickness. Here’s why we — black, white or “other” — become depressed: We’re selfish ingrates. In our mad scramble up Mount Success, we selfishly forget to reach down and pull others up with us (see Dosto yevsky’s Notes From Underground). Want to get over depression? Help feed homeless men at a shelter. Donate pre-worn or new clothes to a battered-women’s shelter. Plant a garden for a disabled family member or friend.
As for the social sickness, black is not the only “culture of the have-nots.” Recently off General Relief and food stamps while struggling to get a community-college education, this starving writer survives on cheap frozen burritos, tuna and anything else the 99¢ store has on sale two-for-a-dollar. So it goes. Whatever I can spare, I give to help others.
“Discovering freedom is not like discovering atomic bombs,” wrote Edith Hamilton in Roots of Freedom. “It cannot be discovered once for all. If people do not prize it, and work for it, it will depart. Eternal vigilance is its price.”
I’m not black, but I too have struggled with depression for most of my life. I wanted Ms. Aubry to know that I found her story moving, illuminating, courageous, challenging and artfully written. Thank you, Erin Aubry, for struggling, questioning, searching and being able to put your vulnerability on the printed page. Your story helps to bring the statistics on African-American depression to urgent life.
In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore says of depression that “Care of the soul doesn’t mean wallowing in the symptoms, but it does mean trying to learn from depression what qualities the soul needs . . . Depression has its own angel, a guiding spirit whose job it is to carry the soul away to its remote places where it finds unique insight and enjoys a special vision.”
I wish you well on your journey.
—Carol Ann Ward
Re: Christine Pelisek and Charles Rappleye’s “Fair Questions” [August 25–31]. It’s about time more people questioned the financial aspects of the Sunset Junction Fair organizer. As a former business owner on Sunset Boulevard, I always questioned the ability of Michael McKinley to take two very expensive trips a year and seemingly never having to work for a living. In 1997, when he began collecting admission fees netting approximately $300,000 in additional revenues, a group of Sunset Boulevard â business owners asked for an IRS audit of his nonprofit status. This issue was never resolved.
First of all, Michael McKinley does excellent work with youth from the neighborhood. Second, I’m not on the board of Sunset Junction. Third, I have not received one call or message from the Weekly since the last negative story you printed. I would also like to know when will the Weekly devote time to all the wonderful work that is going on in the neighborhood, or highlight the success stories of youths who are making a difference in their communities as a result of their involvement in our youth programs. When this becomes the focus of your stories, please call me at El Centro del Pueblo. We have plenty to highlight for you.
—Sandra L. Figueroa-Villa
In his article “Problems on Parade” [September 1–7], Douglas Sadownick alleges the death of Frontiers newsmagazine publisher Bob Craig “opened up the way” for the magazine to run a story critical of Christopher Street West, the group that organizes the gay parade and on whose board Craig served. This statement is insulting to Bob Craig’s memory, incorrect and ironic since it was Frontiers, not Sadownick, who broke the story in the first place. Why didn’t Frontiers, the L.A. Weekly or any other local publication run a story sooner? I can only speak for Frontiers, and our reasons were traditionally journalistic ones: lack of sources willing to go on the record and no paper trail to prove allegations. The recent board resignations finally gave us — and, in turn, other newspapers — a way to begin writing about CSW’s problems. Craig’s goal as a board member (and even after he had resigned from CSW) was to make sure that every year the gay community had a parade of which it could be proud. But that never stopped him from criticizing CSW’s actions. To suggest the story was somehow hushed up because of Craig’s past presence on CSW’s board seriously misrepresents his beliefs as both a magazine publisher and as a community leader.
Editor-in-chief, Frontiers newsmagazine
I am the freelance journalist who broke the story about CSW’s shortcomings in Frontiers newsmagazine. I therefore feel qualified to make some observations about the recent article on CSW that appeared in your paper, in which Douglas Sadownick demonstrated appalling disregard for journalistic integrity. If his objective as a journalist was to be fair and accurate, he failed.
In hours of discussions over the past three months with West Hollywood officials, not one of them has told me the city desires to take control of the parade and festival. Rather, while wisely leaving that door ajar in the event such intervention becomes necessary, each has expressed reticence about the idea, Jeff Prange included. Prange’s quote was stripped by Sadownick of its context, and therefore, its meaning. Not fair, not accurate.
Financial records three and four years old were held up as proof of fiscal malfeasance and irresponsibility. While it is fair to watch such things, Sadownick failed to mention that no current board member (all current members came to the board within the past year and a half) has come under suspicion of misusing the organization’s funds. Sadownick spent paragraph after paragraph raising suspicions of financial impropriety, giving no solid evidence and, worst of all, no chance at rebuttal by those implicated. Not one current board member was quoted on current fiscal affairs. Talk about smear! Not fair, not accurate.
In an assertion that the death of Bob Craig opened the way for Frontiers to criticize CSW, and that my article pinned the blame for CSW’s problems on John Capodonno, Sadownick damages his own reputation, not Frontiers’ or mine. Editorial policy at Frontiers is not determined by the publisher, but by the editors. Never have I been pulled from a story too hot to handle. As for Capodonno, I did not blame him in the article for any institutional problems. Rather, by his own statements he showed himself to be unqualified for a leadership role anywhere in the gay community. Sadownick, after promising to call me for background and perspective before writing this article, did not. His claims that editorial policy changed with Craig’s passing and of Capodonno being made a scapegoat are mere supposition, conjecture. Yet they are stated as fact. Not fair, not accurate.
Finally, Sadownick’s choice of sources (former board members and consultants who all have personal agendas that include personal profit and/or power grabs), not to mention his description of the festival, show his own bias. Sadownick ignored a journalistic rule: Provide necessary balance in sourcing. Go to both sides and give balanced coverage to the views. Be fair. His article was long on accusation and innuendo, and short on explanation and defense. Not fair, not accurate.
BONDING WITH THE MAN
Re: John Seeley’s “Convention Casualties” [September 1–7]. I will be forever grateful for the many media representatives who filed first-person reports from the streets of Los Angeles during the week of the DNC. However, it is unbelievable that any media folks would shrug off police brutality. The press is accountable to the public, not to themselves. The sickening and misguided bravado of certain reporters puts us all in danger. How many acts of LAPD misconduct were not recorded because a press person had been incapacitated by baton blows, rubber bullets and/or gas, or had their camera smashed or stolen? How many acts of malice were committed against the public by the police because the press spotlight was temporarily turned off? Who dares say that the press are fair game?
Some of the people quoted in your article sounded like they rather enjoyed their sweaty “bonding” exercise with the police. Report the names of the news organizations who will not allow their employees to sue the LAPD. Thousands of men, women and children were included, against their will, in a massive and presumably pre-planned LAPD weapons-testing exercise in front of Staples Center on the evening of August 14, 2000. Isn’t that news?
Early in last week’s cover story, “The Moralist,” I state that director Neil LaBute rewrote John C. Richards and James Flamberg’s dialogue for Nurse Betty “from beginning to end.” He did no such thing, as I point out elsewhere — although less prominently — in the article. (Manohla Dargis)