Never seen James Baldwin interview released, ‘Honoring Water Protectors’ event at Unity Unitarian, and more

In this blog:

  • Honoring Water Protectors event and photo exhibit at Unity Unitarian, Wednesday, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Esquire: Suppressed ABC interview with James Baldwin released
  • The Tyee: Pipeline protesters punished but not pipeline firms
  • The lesser-known side of Norman Rockwell

‘Honoring Water Protectors’ event and photo exhibit at Unity Unitarian Wednesday

Photographer John Kaul, along with Indigenous Water Protectors Sharon Day and Tania Aubid, will discuss the ongoing efforts to protect the waters of North America Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m.

The event will be held both online (livestream at​) and in person at Unity Unitarian, 733 Portland Avenue, Saint Paul.

The photos and stories of 20 water protectors will be exhibited at the church and highlighted during the program.

“Particular attention will be given to the spiritual connection Indigenous people have with the water, as well as to the protests to protect clean water against the Dakota Access Line at Standing Rock and Line 3 in Minnesota,” publicity materials said.

Esquire: Suppressed interview with James Baldwin released

Screen grab for Esquire story. Link here.

A 10-minute interview with James Baldwin was produced in 1979 for ABC’s 20/20 news magazine, but never aired, Esquire reported.

The interview took place at Baldwin’s Manhattan apartment building, one he bought for himself and his family, the story said. The segment “showcases rare footage of Baldwin relaxed and gregarious at home, surrounded by a large and close-knit family.”

The piece also includes a behind-the-scene view of Baldwin watching a rehearsal of his play The Amen Corner.

When it didn’t run, producer Joseph Lovett asked why. “ABC reported that it had been scrapped, because, ‘Who wants to listen to a Black gay has-been?’” Esquire wrote.

The interview is now available on the Esquire story.

Pipeline protesters punished but not pipeline firms

Stop me if you heard this one. The Canadian news website The Tyee published a story: Punishment for Pipeline Protesters, but Not for Pipeline Firm’s Violations?

It echoes water protectors’ experiences opposing Enbridge Line 3.

Since Nov. 18, law enforcement has made at least 29 arrests, “including several Wet’suwet’en members and supporters opposed to the [Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline] project on the Indigenous nation’s Yintah, or traditional territory,” the Tyee reported.

Construction has resulted in a number of environmental violations, said Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau. For instance, in early 2021, “independent auditors found the company failed to meet eight out of nine requirements to control erosion and sediment,” the story said.

The company has faced administrative penalties, but no arrests, Furstenau said.

The lesser-known side of Norman Rockwell

I knew that Norman Rockwell had painted iconic images for the Saturday Evening Post, generally featuring thriving white people. (His famous painting “Freedom of Want” shows a white family gathered around a bountiful “Thanksgiving” feast.)

I didn’t know Rockwell quit his job because the Post wouldn’t let him explore issues around race. Andrew Yarrow, a former New York Times reporter, provided the background in a commentary published by several news outlets, including the Manchester Journal.

[Rockwell abandoned] his employer of nearly 50 years, the Saturday Evening Post, in large part because the magazine would let him portray Blacks only in subservient positions. After including two Black children in his 1961 illustration “Golden Rule,” Rockwell began receiving hate mail from segregationists, and the Post told him he should paint portraits only of statesmen or celebrities. Those instructions clashed with his conscience. Severing his ties with the magazine in 1963, Rockwell told his longtime editors that he had “come to the conviction that the work I now want to do no longer fits into the Post scheme.”

Andrew L. Yarrow, commentary in the Manchester Journal
Norman Rockwell: The Problem We All Live With (Look, 1964). Fair use.

Rockwell went to work for Look magazine. His first painting for Look, published in 1964, was “The Problem We All Live With,” Yarrow wrote. “It showed the torsos of four besuited U.S. marshals escorting a 6-year-old Black girl in a white dress, Ruby Bridges, to integrate an all-White school in New Orleans, with the word “n—-” scrawled above her.”

Yarrow closes, saying: “There is no reason to discard Rockwell’s happy Thanksgiving image, but there is every reason to pay more attention to his powerful paintings for Look.”

I disagree. As Post’s leaders’ comments make clear, the “happy Thanksgiving image” is meant to tell a particular story about who matters and who doesn’t, who deserves a nice meal and who doesn’t. We can’t ignore that.

Even Rockwell agreed, according to Yarrow’s commentary. In 1968, Rockwell said he couldn’t paint “Freedom From Want” or the rest of his “Four Freedoms” series, because “I just don’t believe in it.”

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