BETCHA 20 BUCKS
Or should I say, a Jackson?
We were ready to finally see a woman grace our currency, and not only that, a woman of color.
I could name lots of incredible American singers in that category that I would like to see looking up at me from my wallet, but really, it should go to an American hero, someone who risked everything to help make this country great, by living up to its preamble.
We don’t always get it right here in the USA, sometimes terribly wrong. But our history has shown that even if it takes a while, we usually make it right. Slavery is about as wrong as you can get it, and many of our Founding Fathers were slave owners, products of their time. Proving you don’t have to be perfect individuals to form a more perfect Union.
I suspect they had their eyes on the future and knew exactly what they were doing when they meticulously crafted a Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and other guiding documents which became not coincidentally the tools for later dismantling slavery.
So why am I going on about slavery? That’s really old news. Well, yes, and no. From the end of the Civil War to today, a century and a half, the release of all those kidnapped, tortured African “immigrants” into the American Way, with no reason to not, eventually
at least, be treated the same as every other immigrant, has tortured our conscience and dictated much of our darkest history. This enduring national shame is self inflicted, by the part of our population who refuses to accept our founding principle that all men are created equal. If you think this is old news, ask any African American you know if they feel free and equal, today. Go ahead.
TIME WOUNDS ALL HEELS
I keep expecting time to make the situation better, as it usually does, but there are those among the oligarchy who are invested in diminishing our educational system and now, with Betsy DeVos and her boss, it will only go much faster downhill. We are in some ways becoming a more ignorant nation, less informed about our history and more susceptible to demagogues who label history and facts as fake, promoting as gospel their own distorted or even made up alternatives. This path is not hopeful.
Back to slavery. What got me thinking about all this was a screening SAG gave last week of an episode of the WGN America series “Underground,” a dramatization of the system of safe houses and paths out of slave territories called the Underground Railroad, that freed an estimated 100,000 slaves from the late 1700s to the Civil War.
The episode they showed was titled “Minty” for the nickname of Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad leader and the face of that redesigned $20 bill. She was 24 when she made her escape, but rather than relishing her own precious freedom, she risked it over and over, returning to enemy territory to lead others to freedom. There was a price on her head so it was always dangerous to speak, as she is shown in “Minty,” to a small group of mostly white abolitionists. But it was necessary. We think of political fundraising as a modern phenomenon, but freeing slaves required a bankroll and Tubman spent 80 percent of her time doing that.
I’m preachin’ here, but: watch it you should. Aisha Hinds gives a jaw-dropping, historic, transfixing performance. The script was written a week and a half before shooting, Hinds had it for only a week, and they shot it in three days. All involved felt she channeled Tubman. Nearly the entire episode is her speaking, sort of theatre meets TED talk, an immensely moving, creative, inspiring 45-minute one-woman show that my words can’t possibly capture. Much of her monologue was Tubman’s own words.
If you get WGN on your cable system look for that episode “on demand” now, because on Spectrum it will be available only through May 17. Or, you can watch it on the WGN America website. You may want to watch it more than once.
Come the Civil War Tubman joined the Union army, as a nurse and cook, then as an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 750 slaves. She was in her 40s. Yeah, kickass Harriet belongs on the 20.
But we now have a president who recently expressed glowing admiration for Andrew Jackson, his avowed populist role model, but a POTUS held in low esteem by many. So do you figure the new 20, dropping Jackson for Tubman, announced last year, will actually happen as scheduled in 2020? Betcha 20 it doesn’t.
ESPAÑOL EN CUBA?
I grew up in Albuquerque but never learned a lick of Spanish. But neither did Dave Baca, best man at my (first) wedding, to my high school sweetheart. (If you’re going to get marriage right, you have to practice at least once.) If I was going to make up for that, here’s where I would do it.
In Santiago, Cuba this summer (flight RT LAX-Havana, Alaska Air, only $327), July 2-16 or 16-30, or both. I know next to nothing about this program, but here’s why I recommend it.
I visited Cuba a couple months ago and fell in love with it. The people, the history, everything. The sponsoring tour group I joined, from the Center for Cuban Studies in New York, are absolute experts on Cuba, hundreds of trips there and so well connected. Their tour that I joined was priceless. Coffee and cookies in the home of the former UN ambassador? The photographer who was in the mountains with Fidel before marching into Havana?
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is OPA is running more open, more friendly, less intimidating monthly meetings lately or do I think so only because I started attending each one — or have they finally paid attention to long-standing criticisms only because a member of the press is watching? Either way, looks like my second Monday of the month will be spent wishing I hadn’t skipped dinner for the snacks provided. Hey! Back off. I’m a former music journalist, we expect to be fed.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” — Denis Leary
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at