Looking Forward and Still Left

“This Week in Black and White” is now in its thirteenth week so I am mindful of the way my mix of genetic inheritance and societal upbringing easily draws me into the familiar realm of the irrational. That said, I offer these few thoughts in what I call a pivotal column of sorts. You decide. A year ago, I was excited about the birth of THE PROJECT on Grove Street in the Glenwood neighborhood of Greensboro. It was painful to dismantle such a beautiful spot, a working wonderland for me, or so it seemed destined to be. Anyway, when I got close to finally emptying the place several days ago, I knew I would have to paint over the logo in what I jokingly referred […]

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Capitalism, Coronavirus, and the Privatization of the Mind

I still have many excellent books from my study of European history as a young man and the doctorate I eventually completed at Boston College much later in life. Some of them came up in a conversation the other night with Scott Van Doren, one of my BC mentors during the 1970s and today a trusted and dear friend. As historians, we talked about similarities and differences between the crisis of the Later Middle Ages during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that laid bare much of Western and Central Europe, and the one we are now experiencing. We agreed that both should be understood as structural and irreversible crises resulting from the decline and decay of existing modes of production and social relations, but also […]

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The “Vestibule” of THE PROJECT, logo by Hugh Latham of Greensboro

A Time of Smashed Dreams Big and Small

Millions of Americans know what it is like to experience so much loss and death from COVID-19, another great depression in the making, and the pervasive killing of African Americans by police and vigilantes dedicated to the upholding of white supremacy. Together they have taken us closer to fascism and war at home and abroad. And with it so many smashed dreams, countless, it seems. I have one, too, although it pales in comparison. I am forced to give up THE PROJECT at 1202 Grove Street in Glenwood a little more than a year after I rented this large and highly usable space for an amazingly low amount and without a lease. What amazing luck, everyone said. I had it all in my hands and […]

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"The Boss Pushes Us Ahead" by Nate Roberto

From Chaos Must Come The Movement

I am glad to be back from cataract surgery and am extremely grateful to Al Brilliant and Nate Roberto for their superlative contributions to “This Week in Black and White.” Al is my great friend who lives and works a few doors down from THE PROJECT and a daily source of information, analysis, and wisdom that flows from his rich and still flourishing life. Nate, my only son and hero, is a brilliant young artist whose beautifully written column last week reveals a young man of exceptional character and consciousness.  Both are worthy comrades of twenty-first century revolution. So drawing from what they wrote and what I have tried to do while sidelined, I offer a few observations and commentary far too sweeping yet credible. […]

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Monsters Fill the Void

My wife walks in the door, fresh off lunch shift. She looks tired. The first day back to work in months, she now serves wearing a face mask and latex gloves. “I must have gone through 50 pair of gloves!” The tips are average, she says. We assumed people would be generous considering the times and the risk on the part of restaurant workers. Maybe the people who dared to dine today aren’t the smartest or the most conscientious. One woman was disturbed to discover a lipstick smudge on her water glass. Martha shrugs. “All those things are run through the dishwasher and sanitized.” I see myself cooking at home for the foreseeable future. I don’t miss normalcy. Who misses working 40 hours a week […]

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Al Brilliant

“Sorry Empire”

I want to thank Dr. Michael Joseph Roberto for the honor of being the first guest on his new blog column that is devoted to the betterment of our community, our city and our nation. And since the U. S. seems to be the dominant nation affecting all others decisively, perhaps Michael’s efforts can change the world? Yet I have noticed a reluctance, right at the beginning, for so many people, to accept Michael’s words and insights from years of teaching, writing, and activism in this city. He was a solid historian who taught for two decades at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Distinguished academicians and public intellectuals are usually given a lot of respect and forbearance. I recognize that Michael’s “home truths” […]

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Want a Dose of Reality? Ask a Barber.

I come from a line of barbers on my mother’s side of the family. Her older brother, Michael Fasano, spent his whole adult life in Madison, New Jersey, where he was known as “Mike the Barber.” His son Frank has told me many stories about his dad who was a fixture in the city and respected as a solid guy. Since Uncle Mike rarely made it out to Long Island, NY, where I grew up, I can only remember one haircut he gave me when I was a kid. Actually, that task had fallen to Papa Roberto, my paternal grandfather, who used clippers that he squeezed together like a vice as he ran it over my scalp, often taking some skin along with the hair. […]

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Mother Knows Best: A Tribute to Ethel Fasano Roberto

A week ago I thought it would be easy to write a tribute to my mother, Ethel Fasano Roberto, who turned 91 in January and is struggling with advanced COPD which she, a non-smoker, contracted from my father Joe, whose addiction to tobacco and alcohol eventually brought his life to a close on New Year’s Day 2000. They were of that “Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw famously called them. Like other men of his times, Dad smoked and drank excessively for most of his adult life. Canadian Club and Marlboros, his brands of choice I remember most, laid claim on his mind and body much too early. To my knowledge, Mom never smoked – at least I never saw her light up. She did have […]

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An Interview with Greensboro Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan

This past week, I asked Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan if she was willing to take some time to answer a few questions for “This Week in Black and White.” They were submitted and answered just as they appear here verbatim. The same is true for Mayor Vaughan’s responses. Nothing has been changed. More importantly, there is no editorial comment of my own anywhere in this interview. My purpose is solely to give the mayor an opportunity to describe in greater detail the efforts made by her and local governments to deal with the impact of COVID-19 and its consequences for Greensboro. MJR: How are we as a city handling the crisis? What more can you tell us about what city government has done so far, […]

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Off the Top …

My friend Justin Harmon, a highly intelligent and much younger man whose ability to work by his own clock with fierce determination is both admirable and tiring to an older fellow like me, makes sure I get three or four magazines he reads diligently before passing them on to me, usually neatly deposited on my back porch. Sadly, they have been piling up on my shelf as of late. What’s your excuse, old man, he often barks at me about this or that? As for the publications, I am drawn to The Atlantic and Harper’s but not The New Republic. My disdain for the latter dates to the mid-1980s, when it became clear to me that the magazine’s editorial board crowded into a chicken coop […]

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