Josephine Baker: I knew so little

Genius in France

Josephine BakerI knew that Josephine Baker was a famous black entertainer starting in the 1920s. Yes, I was aware that she left the United States because of its open segregation laws. She was a big star in France. That’s about it.

That is until I was watching CBS Sunday Morning while waiting for my train to arrive. This segment is rightly titled The legacy of Josephine Baker.

First a bit of biography. “She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906, to washerwoman Carrie McDonald and vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson. Eddie abandoned them shortly afterward, and Carrie married a kind but a perpetually unemployed man named Arthur Martin.” After a brief and difficult career in the US, her career thrived in Paris.

I’m fascinated by how France has been perceived as this sanctuary, at least for a little while. Some of the notable transplants, at least for a time, included James Baldwin and Lenny Kravitz. My noted activist cousin  Frances Beal lived there for a few years. And American soldier Henry Johnson, for years, got a lot more recognition for his World War I exploits by the French than by his home country, the US.

A star over there, but…

For Josephine Baker, a “1936 return to the United States to star in the Ziegfeld Follies proved disastrous, despite the fact that she was a major celebrity in Europe. American audiences rejected the idea of a black woman with so much sophistication and power, newspaper reviews were equally cruel (The New York Times called her a ‘Negro wench’), and Josephine returned to Europe heartbroken.”

She was active in the French resistance during World War II. “She performed for the troops” and… smuggled “secret messages written on her music sheets.” The French government later awarded her medals for her valor.

In the 1950s, “she began adopting children, forming a family she often referred to as ‘The Rainbow Tribe.’ aided by her third husband, composer Joe Bouillon. Josephine wanted her to prove that ‘children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers.’ She often took the children with her cross-country.” She raised two daughters, from France and Morocco, and 10 sons, from Korea, Japan, Colombia, Finland, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Venezuela, and three from France.

Civil rights advocate

But she did make it back to the United States again. I was struck by this dialogue in the CBS piece.
Reporter: “How long are you going to stay?”
Baker: “You want me to stay, don’t you?”
Reporter: “I’d like you to stay. I think you could help the Negro movement in the United States.”
Baker: “Oh, don’t say that.”
Reporter: “Why not?”
Baker: “Because it’s not a Negro movement. It’s an American movement.”
True enough.

She spoke at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. “You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents, and much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ’cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world.”

Triumphant return

Josephine Baker “agreed to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall” in 1973. “Due to previous experience, she was nervous about how the audience and critics would receive her. This time, however, cultural and racial growth was evident. Josephine received a standing ovation before the concert even began. The enthusiastic welcome was so touching that she wept onstage.

“On April 8, 1975, Josephine premiered at the Bobino Theater in Paris. Celebrities such as Princess Grace of Monaco and Sophia Loren were in attendance to see 68-year-old Josephine perform a medley of routines from her 50-year career. The reviews were among her best ever. Days later, however, Josephine slipped into a coma. She died from a cerebral hemorrhage at 5 a.m. on April 12.”

And in 2021, she has been inducted into France’s Pantheon, the first black woman, the first performing artist, and the first American so honored. She joins Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie among the 80 so honored.

Peculiar year for American workers

The appropriately named Johnny Paycheck

It’s been a fascinating year for American workers. Job opportunities are coming back after being devastated by the pandemic. Yet it is clear that organizational leaders who expect the workplace to get back to “normal” are surprised.

Employees are quitting in masses. “Nearly 3.6 million Americans resigned in May [2021] alone. But it’s not an issue that’s specific to a certain industry, role, or even salary — it’s a workplace issue.

“A new Gallup analysis finds that 48% of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities. Businesses are facing a staggeringly high quit rate… and a record-high number of unfilled positions. And Gallup discovered that workers in all job categories, from customer-facing service roles to highly professional positions, are actively or passively job hunting at roughly the same rate.”

Take this job and shove it 

From The Atlantic: “Why the sudden burst of quitting? One general theory is that we’re living through a fundamental shift in the relationship between employees and bosses that could have profound implications for the future of work. Up and down the income ladder, workers have new reasons to tell their boss to shove it.

“Lower-wage workers who benefited from enhanced unemployment benefits throughout the pandemic may have returned to the job and realized they’re not being paid enough.” The poor pay has been true for decades, BTW.

“Now they’re putting their foot down, forcing restaurants and clothing stores to fork over a higher wage to keep people on staff.” This means that some workers are getting close to, or exceeding, the $15 per hour wage so many have demanded for several years.

“Meanwhile, white-collar workers say they feel overworked or generally burned out after a grueling pandemic year, and they’re marching to the corner office with new demands… Gallup finds that it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them, and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.”

Daily stress

There is a global workplace survey commissioned by Gallup. In the United States and Canada, workers there “reported the highest rate of daily stress in the world during 2020.” Working women, younger workers were more stressed than their counterparts. “Only about one in three U.S. employees and one in five Canadian employees are engaged at work. Burnout prevention requires both high engagement and high employee wellbeing.”

It’s not just MORE money workers desire. Americans Are Willing to Take Pay Cuts to Never Go Into the Office Again. “A new survey shows 65% of workers who said their jobs could be done entirely remotely were willing to take a 5% reduction to stay at home.” But NOT a 20% reduction.

It could be worse

From Newsweek: In June, “The Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit that claimed the Minneapolis-based Cargill and the American arm of Switzerland-based Nestle ‘aided and abetted’ slavery by knowingly buying cocoa beans from farms that used child labor.

“Six African men brought the lawsuit, claiming that they were trafficked from Mali as children and forced to work long hours, then locked up at night, at cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, the world’s leading producer of cocoa. The group sought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of themselves, as well as who they say are thousands of other former child slaves.

“But justices ruled 8-1 that an appeals court improperly let the lawsuit against the food companies go forward in the U.S. as the respondents’ injuries ‘occurred entirely overseas’, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a majority opinion for the court.

A 2020 report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the cocoa industry in West Africa was exploiting 1.6 million child laborers and that the use of child labor has risen despite industry promises to reduce it.

True? Fiction?

The American Dream. The Forgotten Employee.

Eastern, other directions in US and Canada

is Alaska east or west?

Eastern US map
Since there are no US states, Canadian provinces, or territories start with the letter E, I thought I’d get a little directional: east, west, north, and south.

Time zones: both countries have Eastern time zones, as well as Central, Mountain, and Pacific. But the Eastern time zone is NOT the easternmost. That distinction goes to Newfoundland time in Canada. In the US, there are zones for Alaska and Hawaii-Aleutian, the latter the islands of Alaska.

Extreme points:

Northernmost point: Point Barrow, Alaska 71°23′ N, 156°29′ W
Easternmost point: West Quoddy Head, Maine 44°49′ N, 66°57′ W
Southernmost point: Ka Lae (South Cape), Hawaii 18°55′ N, 155°41′ W
Westernmost point: Cape Wrangell, Alaska (Attu Island) 52°55′ N, 172°27′ E

But there’s a big caveat here: These are measured from the geographic center of United States (including Alaska and Hawaii), west of Castle Rock, S.D., 44°58′ N, 103°46′ W. If measured from the prime meridian in Greenwich, England, Cape Wrangell, Attu Island, Alaska, would be the easternmost point, because Attu is on the other side of the International Date Line.

If you just count the contiguous 48 states:

Northernmost point: Northwest Angle Inlet in Lake of the Woods, Minnesota 49°23′04.1″N, 95°9′12.2″W – because of incomplete information at the time of the Treaty of Paris (1783) settling the American Revolutionary War.
Easternmost point: still West Quoddy Head, Maine 44°48′55.4″N, 66°56′59.2″W
Southernmost point: Western Dry Rocks, Florida 24°26.8′N 81°55.6′W, In the Florida Keys – occasionally above water at low tide; Ballast Key, Florida 24°31′15″N 81°57′49″W – continuously above water
Westernmost point: Cape Alava, Washington 48°9′51″N, 124°43′59″W

For Canada:

Northernmost point — Cape Columbia, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut 83°6′41″N, 69°57′30″W
Southernmost point — South point of Middle Island, Ontario, in Lake Erie 41°40′53″N, 82°40′56″W
Easternmost point — Cape Spear, Newfoundland 47°31′25″N, 52°37′10″W
Westernmost point — Boundary Peak 187,[1] Yukon 60°18′23″N, 141°0′7″W

The Eastern United States can be defined as east of the Mississippi River. It is further delineated by the designations of the map, which are hardly standardized.

Eastern Canada is generally considered to be the region east of Manitoba, consisting of the following provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec. Ontario and Quebec define Central Canada, while the other provinces constitute Atlantic Canada.

For ABC Wednesday

Migration is important to the United States

“Unless American birthrates pick up suddenly and expand the work force — an unrealistic assumption given that the country just set a record for low fertility… the United States will be staring at real G.D.P. growth of less than 1.6 percent per year in less than a decade, all else remaining equal.”

migrationMigration to the United States is a volatile issue, you’ve likely read. Yet “a growing number of Americans say immigration levels should remain the same or increase.”

This word comes from the the latest data from the General Social Survey — “a widely respected poll that has measured trends on American attitudes since the 1970s. The 2018 survey, released in March 2019, shows 34 percent of Americans want immigration levels to be reduced, down from 41 percent in 2016…

“That’s compared with 23 percent of Americans who want more immigration, up from 17 percent in 2016. Forty-one percent say they want immigration levels to stay the same. It’s the first time since the survey question was first asked in 2004 that more Americans want immigration to remain the same than to be reduced.”

Perhaps it’s the realization that the numbers show that we need more migration to the United States, not less. “By any reasonable metric, the idea that America is experiencing mass immigration is a myth. The reality is that we desperately need to pick up the pace of immigration to maintain our work force and economic health.

“A good yardstick for whether a country is admitting too many or too few immigrants — beyond the political mood of the moment — is its economic needs. If America were admitting too many immigrants, the economy would have trouble absorbing them.”

“In fact, the unemployment rate among immigrants, including the 11 million undocumented, in 2016, when the economy was considered to be at full employment, was almost three-quarters of a point lower than that of natives. How can that be evidence of mass immigration? The truth is that America is a low-immigration nation. Demographic trends in America point to a severe labor crunch that’ll become a huge bottleneck for growth unless the country opens its doors wider.” (Source: https://www.fl-ilc.com/inmigracion/)

Yet the federal government has made legal immigration more difficult, even adding regulations to H1B visa applications, the ones that restrict the type of applicants to those with “special” skills. It has also reduced the overall numbers, banning people from certain countries.

“It has long been clear that the dropping fertility rates of native-born white Americans meant that the generations coming after the millennials were on track to be much smaller. From 2015 to 2035, the number of working-age Americans with domestic-born parents is expected to fall by eight million. Furthermore, the Census Bureau in 2017 quietly revised downward its population forecast for 2050 by a whopping 50 million people from its 2008 estimates…”

The government has also regularly employed mass deportation efforts against legally registered immigrants, removing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the most vulnerable. These are usually people escaping war and violence in their own countries and now being solid contributing residents here.

“Unless American birthrates pick up suddenly and expand the work force — an unrealistic assumption given that the country just set a record for low fertility… the United States will be staring at real G.D.P. growth of less than 1.6 percent per year in less than a decade, all else remaining equal.”

Experts suggest that America should be admitting a million MORE migrants moving to the US per year — more than double the current number from now until 2050. “This still won’t add up to mass immigration because it would put America’s foreign-born population that year at around 26 percent, less than Australia’s is today.”

Also, the Dreamers, the children who came here as minors, need a path to citizenship. They know no other home save for the US and have contributed mightily, going to college, and/or serving in the armed forces. Even DJT said to the Wall Street Journal in January 2018: “I have great feeling for DACA. I think that we should be able to do something with DACA. I think it’s foolish if we don’t.”

Here’s a video showing where people came to the US from.

For ABC Wednesday

The Silent Parade against lynching in America

‘America has lynched without trial 2,867 Negroes in 31 years and not a single murderer has suffered.

“10,000 black men, women, and children wordlessly paraded down NYC’s Fifth Avenue in 1917. Their tactic was silence, but their message resounded: anti-black violence is unjust and un-American.”

From Bowery Boys History

“The Silent Parade of July 28, 1917, was unlike anything ever seen in New York City. Today it is considered New York’s (and most likely America’s) first African-American civil rights march…

“This extraordinary procession was organized by the burgeoning National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a group of concerned black and white activists and intellectuals which had formed less than a decade earlier in New York.

“The march was organized in direct response to a horrible plague of violence against black Americans in the 1910s, culminating in the East St. Louis Riots, a massacre involving white mobs storming black neighborhoods in sheer racial animus. Two sets of riots in May and July 1917 left almost 200 people dead. Rioters burned black neighborhoods, cutting off water hoses and watched as families fled the burning buildings — to be picked off by gunmen.”

Google is financially supporting, and highlighting on its page, the Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching in America presentation, which you should spend time listening to.

From Heavy.com:

“‘The children will lead the parade followed by the Women in white, while the Men will bring up the rear. The laborer, the professional man – all classes of the Race – will march on foot to the beating of muffled drums…’

“The flyer also contained a list of mottos that were to be used on posters during the Silent Parade. Among them:

“‘Make America safe for Democracy.’
‘Thou shalt not kill.’
‘America has lynched without trial 2,867 Negroes in 31 years and not a single murderer has suffered.’
‘200,000 Black men fought for your liberty in the Civil War.’
‘The first blood for American Independence was shed by a Negro- Crispus Attucks.”
‘12,000 of us fought with Jackson at New Orleans.'”

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