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"I do not expect the white media to create a positive black-male image." -
Huey P. Newton
The NorthStar News & Analysis -
June 14, 2009
Michael Thomas wins a major literary award.
Photo credit: Ben Russell
Man Gone Down
Comes Up With A Major Literary Prize
Michael Thomas' first novel turned out to be a prize winner—a big prize winner.The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award gave first-place honors to Thomas for his novel
. Thomas received a $140,000 prize for his 2007 novel, which was published by Black Cat Imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc.
Man Gone Down
was published in the United Kingdom in 2009.
The IMPAC Literary Award is the world's richest literary prize, said Eibhlin Byrne, Lord Mayor of Dublin, who named Thomas the winner. The only other literary prize that pays more than the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is the Nobel Prize, but it is awarded for a body of work, not a single book. In 2008, the Nobel Prize winner for literature received $1.4 million.
A panel of five international judges selected
Man Gone Down
. The panel included Gabrielle Alioth, a Swiss award-winning writer; Rachel Billington, a British journalist and author of 19 novels; Vesna Goldsworthy, Serbian/British author; James Ryan, an Irish author of four novels; and Timothy Taylor, an award-winning Canadian novelist and journalist.
The judges selected
Man Gone Down
from a shortlist of eight novels from the U.S., France, India, Pakistan and Norway. Public libraries from around the world send nominations to IMPAC Dublin and the National Library Service of Barbados in the capital of Bridgetown nominated
Man Gone Down
. Librarians described the book
as a "well-written first novel, an exploration of identity, inter-racial relationships and societal values told through the eye of a black male."
The world's libraries submitted 145 titles nominated by 157 public libraries from 41 countries. The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is managed by Dublin City Libraries, on behalf of the Dublin City Council. The award is sponsored by IMPAC, an international management productivity company based in Florida, with its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. It was established there to underscore the Irish capital's stature as a literary center. The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award was first given out in 1996.
The novel's story, told through the eyes of an unnamed man, features a young black father of three in a biracial marriage trying to claim a piece of the American Dream he has bargained on since youth.
On the eve of the unnamed narrator's 35
birthday, he finds himself broke, estranged from his white Boston Brahmin wife and three children, living in the bedroom of a friend's six-year-old child. He has four days to come up with the money to keep his family afloat, four days to make sense of his life. He's been getting by working construction jobs though he's known on the streets "the professor" as he was expected to make something of his life. It is a story of the American Dream gone awry, about what it's like to feel preprogrammed to fail in life—and the urge to escape that sentence, according to a description of the novel.
IMPAC Dublin's judges said this about
Man Gone Down
: "The first-person narrator in
Man Gone Down
has not fallen, yet. But he stands at the precipice."
Thomas was born and raised in Boston. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Warren Wilson College. Thomas teaches at Hunter College, and he lives with his wife and three children in New York.
Black Cat Imprint of Grove/Atlantic was originally launched in 1961, but its line of books were canceled in 1984. Grove/Atlantic revived Black Cat Imprint in 2004.
Black Cat Imprint was known for publishing cutting-edge literature that included Frantz Fanon's
The Wretched of the Earth
; Hubert Selby's
Last Exit to Brooklyn
; Henry Miller's
Tropic of Cancer;
and William Burroughs'
. In 1954, Grove published future Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett's play
Waiting for Godot
after mainstream publishers refused to touch it. Grove/Atlantic, which has its headquarters in New York, is primarily known for publishing Beat author Jack Kerouac and Beat poet Allen Ginsburg.
Stephen T. Johns
White Supremacists Kill Two Black Men
In High-Profile Shootings Within The Last Three Months
Stephen T. Johns, a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Wednesday, June 10, opened the door to let a man inside. The man, later identified as James von Brunn, immediately shot and killed Johns, 40, with a rifle von Brunn carried at his side.
Two of Johns' fellow security guards exchanged gunfire with von Brunn, 88, critically wounding him. He, however, is expected to live.
Law enforcement officials later charged von Brunn, a well-known white supremacist, with murder in Johns' death.The F.B.I. also will determine whether agency should charge von Brunn with a hate crime.
Johns is the second black man murdered by white supremacists in high-profile shootings in three months.
In April, Richard Andrew Poplawski, 22, shot and killed Eric Kelly, 41, a black Pittsburgh police officer and two white police officers, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo lll, during a four-hour standoff that began when police intervened in a dispute Poplawski was having with his mother.
Kelly, a 14-year police department veteran came to aide his fellow officers. Poplawski, firing an AK47 assault rifle, allegedly shot and killed Kelly as he stepped from his car. Law enforcement officials charged Poplawski with three counts of aggravated homicide.
The Southern Poverty Law Center operates Hatewatch, which monitors hate crimes across the country.
Hatewatch said in a 2007 online profile that Poplawski's favorite expletive was "you fucking nigger." Also that year, Poplawski posted a message on Stormfront.org, the largest white supremacist forum in the world. The posting was a photograph of an eagle tattoo on his chest. The eagle is the symbol of the National Alliance, which for decades was America's leading neo-Nazi group, Hatewatch says.
Von Brunn's ties to the white supremacist movement are much stronger than Poplawski's. According to Hatewatch von Brunn ran the website holywesternempire.org, which the Southern Poverty Law Center listed in 2008 as a hate site. The law center is based in Montgomery, Ala.
Von Brunn also has a long history of associations with neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, according to Hatewatch. In the 1980s or the early 1990s, Noontide Press, a Holocaust denying Institute of Historical Review, employed von Brunn.
His most infamous act occurred in the 1981 when he walked into the Federal Reserve Building, home of the nation's central bank in Washington, wearing a raincoat that concealed several weapons. Von Brunn then attempted to kidnap Federal Reserve Board members to protest high-interest rates.
Police arrested Von Brunn, and he served six years in prison. He blamed his conviction on a "Negro jury," "Jew/Negro attorneys," and a "Jew judge." He posted his rants on holywesternempire.org.
Wells Fargo Employees Called Blacks “Niggers” and “Mud People”
As The Bank Steered African Americans To Subprime Loans, Lawsuit Alleges
For some black Baltimore residents, the pursuit of the American dream of home ownership turned into a nightmare for them and the City of Baltimore, according to a lawsuit filed June 1 against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Wells Fargo Financial Leasing Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. NorthStar News obtained a copy of the lawsuit.
Black mortgage applicants allegedly were steered to high-interest subprime mortgages and not provided information about loan alternatives by Wells Fargo’s black employees who contacted applicants with the help of black churches.
Black mortgage applicants were told that only subprime mortgages were available, according to the lawsuit. When black applicants became homeowners, they realized years later they could not afford the subprime mortgages. Wells Fargo then foreclosed on the properties. Even black applicants who qualified for prime-rate mortgages were given subprime mortgages, according to an affidavit by Tony Paschal, a former Wells Fargo mortgage loan officer.
“ I had access to Wells Fargo customers’ loan records and applicants’ files for my work in the sales and marketing division and regularly saw minority customers who had good credit scores and credit characteristics in subprime loans who should have qualified for prime or FHA loans,” Paschal said.
The reasons behind Wells Fargo employees promoting only subprime mortgages to blacks applicatnts were racism and greed.
Wells Fargo employees allegedly referred to black applicants as “niggers,” “mud people,” and “people who don’t pay their bills.” Wells Fargo also called mortgages assigned to blacks “ghetto loans.” Dave Zoldak, one of Wells Fargo’s managers, called blacks “niggers,” and said they lived in “hoods” and “slums.” Wells Fargo later promoted Zoldak, the lawsuit says.
The other reason was greed. Subprime loans charge higher interest rates than the prime rate on a traditional loan. The additional percentage points of interest often translates to tens of thousands of dollars of additional interest payments over the life of a longer term loan, according to the website Investopedia.
Paschal and Elizabeth Jacobson, another former Wells Fargo loan officer, said in affidavits that Wells Fargo gave bonuses to loan officers who referred borrowers to the subprime division who should have qualified for prime-rate loans.
Jacobson said she made $700,000 one year. She was one of the most-successful subprime loan officers in the country, producing approximately $50 million in subprime loans per year between 2003 and 2007. As a reward, Wells Fargo flew her and other subprime-loan officers to luxury resorts. Jacobson and other mortgage loan officers morbidly joked “of riding a stage coach to hell” because of the subprime loans. The stage coach is Wells Fargo’s corporate symbol.
The Baltimore mayor’s office and city council are suing Wells Fargo Bank and Wells Fargo Financial Leasing, charging the companies with steering blacks into high-interest subprime mortgages that resulted in unnecessary foreclosures, according to court documents.
City officials charged that since 2000 Wells Fargo has violated the federal Fair Housing Act by targeting African Americans and residents of African-American neighborhoods with predatory lending practices. The lawsuit also alleges that Wells Fargo’s unlawful conduct resulted in unnecessary foreclosures in African-American neighborhoods “that have caused it tens of millions of dollars in direct empirically quantifiable harm.”
The lawsuit alleges that 107 of the properties sold by Wells Fargo between 2005 and 2008 currently are vacant as a result of foreclosures. In Baltimore, 69% of the foreclosed homes are located in predominately African-American neighborhoods compared with only 16% in predominately white neighborhoods.
The vacancies have led directly to squatting, loitering, crime, rat infestation, burst pipes, and a corresponding increase in the need for costly municipal responses in the form of other municipal services and police and fire response; and to neighborhood deterioration, which reduces the property tax revenue for the city, the lawsuit says. Wells Fargo Bank, one of the nation’s largest banks, is headquartered in San Francisco.
Bank officials deny any role in Baltimore’s high-foreclosure rate. “The lawsuit absolutely lacks merit,” said a Wells Fargo spokesperson. “Wells Fargo’s lending practices did not cause foreclosures or any of the many broad problems the city claims are impacting its housing market.”
A court hearing is scheduled for June 29, and Wells Fargo is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed, but Baltimore’s attorneys filed an amended complaint with the court, showing a pattern of race discrimination in lending. Reland & Dane PLLC, a Washington law firm, is representing the city of Baltimore.
“The evidence contained in the declarations is direct and powerful. First, it goes to the heart of Baltimore’s claims of reverse redlining and demonstrates in detail how Wells Fargo used discretion in pricing and financial incentives to encourage its employees to target African Americans neighborhoods in Baltimore for deceptive, high-priced loans that resulted in unnecessary foreclosures,” the lawsuit says.
According to the filing, Wells Fargo Bank employed African-American churches in a strategy to market high-interest subprime mortgages to Baltimore’s black residents that led to huge numbers of foreclosures and the destruction of city’s African-American neighborhoods.
“One way was by directly sending marketing messages to zip codes with predominately African-American populations,” the lawsuit alleges. “It even tailored subprime marketing materials on the basis of race.”
Wells Fargo combined this strategy by working with Baltimore’s black churches. “Subprime loan officers did not market or target white churches for subprime loans,” the court documents allege. “When it came to marketing, any reference to ‘church’ or ‘churches’ was understood as code for African-American or black churches. ”
Mike Tyson Remarries
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson married recently for the third time in a private ceremony. Tyson, 42, married Lakiha Spencer, 32, June 9 at the La Bella Wedding Chapel in the Las Vegas Hilton hotel and casino. Tyson was previously married to Robin Givens in 1988 and Monica Turner in 1997.
The ex-champ and his bride were reported to be very happy and very much in love. Tyson last boxed competitively in 2005.
Mayor Nagin Quarantined In China
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, his wife and one of the mayor’s guards were quarantined in China after a passenger on a flight from New Jersey showed symptoms of the swine flu. Chinese officials confined the Nagins and their guard to their hotel rooms, beginning June 7.
During that time, they had their temperatures taken every three or four hours. They also watched a lot of Chinese television, the mayor said.
The Nagins and their security guard were allowed to leave their hotel rooms June 10. Mayor Nagin then caught a flight to Australia, where he delivered several speeches.
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