Today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that made abortion legal in the United States.
I was born at a time when I didn't have to think much about women losing their lives from trying to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. But when I was in Ethiopia, shooting "Not Yet Rain", it became clear to me just how important is for abortion to be legal if we are going to be saving women's lives.
Please watch my short film at www.NotYetRain.org. The trailer is posted below:
Friday, January 8, 2010
On the night of my 39th birthday, I was in Tanzania getting ready for my flight back to New York and a wonderful thing happened.
I was at the United African Alliance Community Center, a community center that was founded by Pete O'Neal a former Black Panther Party member who has been living in exile for the past 40 years. Since it was my birthday, he pulled out a bottle of whiskey and we spent the evening with him reminiscing about his life in Kansas City, running the International Black Panther Party in Algiers, leaving the US, his marriage to his wonderful wife Charlotte and all of the hoop-la and craziness that lead to the creation of the man many know, love and respect today.
Many know of Pete O'Neal - there is a great documentary film on his life in Tanzania (called "A Panther in Africa" - go see it -its online), and many students have visited as part of their study abroad program. However, despite his highly entertaining and enlightening life journey, no one has publicly told his back story.
So, we decided to collaborate - initially a book that I want to turn into a screenplay. I'm in the middle of having a nine and a half hour interview with him transcribed and wanted to share some of it.
Here is the opening, where Pete introduces his name. Even the introduction is hilarious. Stay tuned for an update in March.
"My name is Pete O’Neal. Wait a minute my name is Felix Lindsay O’Neal Juniors specifically. My nickname is Pete. And the reason that is so, let me show you the brilliance of this.
This has to be the thinking of young black women in the 1940s. My mother was pregnant, and she said she had a friend that was pregnant. And they were gossiping young girls, nineteen years old: “I’m gonna have a baby,” “I’m wanna have a baby too!” “What are we gonna name them?” “Well let’s see. If they’re a boy, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. The first one that has the baby,” because they were pregnant around the same time, “we’ll name the boy ‘Pete.’ And then the second baby, we’ll call him ‘Repeat.’”
So can you imagine if you will? This poor child, this poor male, wherever on this earth he may be, laboring under the burden of the name. But if he was, can you imagine this? “Repeat Johnson.” That is a hell of a thing idn’t it? Yes I said, “Thank God you had me first.”"
I am soooo excited to get moving on this project!!!!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
This year I'm really excited to try out some new technology. I'm partnering with Urban Word NYC - the nonprofit I spend a lot of time with that gives free workshops in spoken word poetry and creative writing to NYC teens - to do an online broadcast of their 2010 slam season.
That's right - you can watch the slam from the comfort of your own computer and its totally free. The preliminary slam starts February 28th. Check the site for the rest of the schedule.
If you want to check out some of the most talented young social commentators (ie poets), please join our Facebook Fan Page at
and visit our site at