The Uncommon Man

October 14, 2008

Barack & Curtis: Manhood Power and Respect

A short documentary by Byron Hurt examining the contrasting styles of manhood exhibited by Barack Obama and Rapper/Mogul Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent.

Director's Statement from Byron Hurt

September 16, 2008

I am proud to be a part of the Black Masculinity Project, a project of the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). Like many other filmmakers who applied for this, I was required to submit to them three ideas for a short documentary (10 minutes or less) that examined various aspects of black masculinity. Of the three ideas I had, NBPC chose the one that was actually a last minute idea.

The idea for Barack & Curtis came to me the night before NBPC's deadline. I conceived the short doc just as Barack Obama was emerging as a presidential front-runner. I thought, "Why not create a short doc that discussed Barack Obama's masculinity in a way I had not yet seen." I wanted to make something that was topical, clever, fresh, unique, and off the beaten path. A political junkie, I was intrigued by Obama's rise to political rock stardom. The more I watched Obama stumping on the campaign trail, the more I found his cool presentation of manhood interesting and refreshing. On the surface, Obama's manhood appeared to be the polar opposite of the stereotypical images of black masculinity we've come to expect from hip-hop and popular culture.

When I tell people about Barack & Curtis, most people's first reaction is laughter. Or, they'll say, "I know who Barack is, but who's Curtis?" After I explain who "Curtis" is and what the piece is about, people generally say, "Wow, now that sounds interesting. I can't wait to see it!"

"Curtis" is rapper/mogul Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Why would I compare/contrast the masculinity of Barack Obama, an "upstanding" statesman-like presidential candidate, with 50 Cent, a "lowly" gangsta rapper, right? Well, because Barack Obama is THE MAN right now, who is shattering so many myths about black masculinity, and because 50 Cent, who was just named Forbes Magazine's top-earning rapper, currently embodies gangsta hip-hop masculinity like no other. Both are successful Black men. Both are rock stars. Both are admired and feared. I thought that juxtaposing the two in a short doc would make for historic level conversations.

I'm very happy with the final product, but I have to admit, I wish I could have made a much longer piece. I interviewed a lot of heavyweights who really know politics, gender, and hip-hop. Unfortunately, because the online piece had to be limited to 9 minutes and 58 seconds, I couldn't include them all. The piece you will see in October merely scratches the surface, and is a subject worthy of more time and attention.

The Black Masculinity Project and Barack & Curtis are scheduled to premiere online the first week of October. I want you to see some of the material that hit the cutting room floor, so I will release some of my favorite interviews and clips leading up to its launch. The first one starts this week.

I hope you'll watch Barack & Curtis online and then forward everywhere. Help spread the word by posting it to your blogs, social networking sites, websites, and listservs. Talk about it with your friends, co-workers, and family.

One final note: Barack & Curtis is in no way intended to create a negative association between Barack Obama and 50 Cent. Anyone who would suggest that mis-understands what my piece is all about. Furthermore, anyone who uses Barack & Curtis to smear Barack Obama in any way, is either ignorant, or morally bankrupt. In no way do I want to damage Barack Obama's historic presidential campaign. In no way am I suggesting that Barack Obama is down with G-Unit or is a gangsta rapper cleverly disguised as a presidential candidate. Neither is Barack & Curtis intended to glorify 50 Cent. Instead, the piece is my attempt to humanize 50 Cent, examine two very different Black men who express their masculinity in two very different ways, and who took two very different paths to achieve manhood, power, and respect.

In the end, I hope Barack & Curtis spreads all over the world over the Internet, igniting a powerful online conversation about Barack Obama, 50 Cent, and the range of black masculinity in between.

God bless,

B. Hurt

Posted by Daniel at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2008

A Crisis of Gender Violence

Video: Stephen Lewis | A Crisis of Gender Violence
via Tides

07.21.2008 | 21:46 minutes

Synopsis:A forceful and moving indictment of violence against women. Former U.N. Ambassador Stephen Lewis delivers a rallying cry to stop the systemic use of rape and abuse against girls and women across the globe.

Bio: Stephen Lewis is a U.S. based Co-Director of AIDS-Free World, an advocacy organization that works to promote more urgent and more effective responses to HIV/AIDS. Amongst several senior UN roles that spanned more than two decades, Lewis has served as the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, and Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations. He holds 28 honorary degrees from Canadian universities and is a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest honor for lifetime achievement. In 2007, the Kingdom of Lesotho invested Lewis as Knight Commander of the Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe, the country's highest honor. Lewis is currently a Professor in Global Health at McMaster University, serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and chairs the board of the Stephen Lewis Foundation in Canada.

Posted by Daniel at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2007

Cesar Chavez - A Model of Men's Nonviolence

By: Emiliano Diaz de Leon

This column will appear in Saturdays issue of the San Benito News.

If you walk into my office at Casa de Proyecto Libertad in Harlingen, where I work as an Immigrant Rights Legal Advocate, you will see two posters – one of Emiliano Zapata and the other of Cesar Chavez. Both of these men struggled for the rights of the poor and oppressed and organized movements that changed society; however, the tactics they used to achieve this social change differed greatly. Today, on his birthday, I would like to reflect on the example of change set forth by Cesar Chavez.

Chavez once said:

Nonviolence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak…Nonviolence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.

No one lived these words better than the man himself. Cesar Chavez modeled a deeper meaning of nonviolence, not just as a way of acting but as a basic principle of life. He realized that in order to change the world, he had to be willing to start with himself; therefore, in 1962, he resigned from his post of national director of the Community Service Organization and founded the United Farm Workers of America. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and the Southern Civil Rights movement, Chavez humbly led the union for more than three decades with nonviolence as the guiding tenet for all of his actions. Even in the face of violent attacks from landowners and growers, Chavez maintained his commitment to nonviolence, organizing and participating in successful strikes and boycotts, as well as fasting for nearly a month on several occasions to send a message to farm workers, who began to speak of responding in kind to the violent assaults against them. Chavez sacrificed personally, going days without eating, earning less than $6,000 a year, never owning a house, and leaving his family with no savings upon his death in April of 1993, but his sacrifice and dedication won fair wages, medical coverage, humane living conditions, and above all dignity and respect for farm workers. Cesar Chavez was an ordinary man who accomplished extraordinary feats, always believing que “sí se puede.”

LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Entero) has organized a march in memory of this extraordinary man for 9:30 AM today, beginning at Guajardo Park in San Juan and ending at the LUPE office with cultural activities. Through the work of LUPE, I see Chavez’s spirit of community and his passion in action. I praise them for their work and encourage others to walk in line with them, bringing to life the words of Cesar Chavez:

When you have people together who believe in something very strongly – whether it’s religion or politics or unions, things happen…We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.

In this time, when so much emphasis is placed on self-preservation and retaliation, may the words and legacy of Cesar Chavez inspire and challenge us all to become the peace we seek in our community and in the world.

Emiliano Diaz de Leon is the director of the Men's Resource Center of South Texas.

Posted by Daniel at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2007

Activists fight Nigerian anti-gay law

Friday, January 19, 2007 / 01:18 PM
via PlanetOut Warning: if the law is passed, any Nigerians clicking the above link to a "gay website" will face a mandatory 5-year prison sentence.

SUMMARY: The law now before the National Assembly levies a five-year automatic jail term on all pro-gay statements and expressions of gay sexuality.

Nigeria seems certain to legislate one of the world's most sweeping and repressive anti-gay laws unless international pressure is bought to bear on the Nigerian government in the next few weeks, according to Peter Tatchell of the London-based LGBT rights group OutRage!

"We appeal to gay and human rights groups worldwide to take urgent action to press the Nigerian government to uphold international human rights law and to drop this draconian legislation," Tatchell said in a statement that called the bill being debated in Abuja's parliament "the most comprehensively homophobic legislation ever proposed in any country in the world."

The law approved by the Federal Executive Council and now before the National Assembly levies a five-year automatic prison sentence not only on almost every expression of gay identity and sexuality but also on giving advice or support to lesbians or gay men.

Backed by Nigerian religious leaders including Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola, to whom several U.S. churches upset with the Episcopal Church's gay tolerance have switched allegiance, it is expected to be passed into law within weeks.

On Friday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu once again deplored the African church's position and urged it to concentrate on the continent's problems.

"To penalize somebody for their sexual orientation is the same as what used to happen to black South Africans for something about which we could do nothing," the South African Press Association quoted Tutu as saying.

Among other things, Tatchell said, Nigeria's proposed law "will outlaw membership of a gay group, attending a gay meeting or protest, advocating gay equality, donating money to a gay organization, hosting or visiting a gay website, the publication or possession of gay safer sex advice, renting or selling a property to a gay couple, expressions of same-sex love in letters or emails, attending a same-sex marriage or blessing ceremony, screening or watching a gay movie, taking or possessing photos of a gay couple, and publishing, selling or loaning a gay book or video."

Homosexuality is already illegal under Nigerian civil law, and carries the death penalty in the northern regions of the country that are governed by Muslim Sharia law.

Posted by Daniel at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2006

Obama publicly takes HIV test to combat stigma in Kenya

This is one of a number of news entries on Senator Obamas website documenting his current travels in Africa.

August 26, 2006

KISUMU, Kenya (AP) - Sen. Barack Obama and his wife took HIV tests before a crowd of thousands Saturday at a clinic in Kenya in an effort to battle the fear and social stigmas that have slowed progress in fighting the spread of AIDS. Thousands of people gathered around the tiny mobile clinic in Kisumu, western Kenya, to see Barack and Michelle Obama tested for the virus that causes AIDS. "If you know your status, you can prevent illness," Obama, the only African-American in the Senate, told the crowd. "You can avoid passing it to your children and your wives."

To read the whole story, click here.

Click here
for more news about Obama's Africa trip.

Posted by Daniel at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2006

Senator Obama's Africa Trip

Steven brought this piece to my attention. It’s from Senator Barack Obama’s eNewsletter and website. I have e-mailed the senator, thanking him for his work and telling him about MRI's initiatives in Zambia and Nigeria. (I’ll post any replies from Senator Obama or his office.)

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) will begin his 17-day trip throughout Africa today, including stops in Kenya, South Africa, Congo, Djibouti and with refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. The trip will spotlight important issues facing Africa, such as the spread of AIDS, genocide in Darfur, the prospects for parts of Africa becoming a haven for terrorists and what role America can play in the region.

Read more about the trip here:

For daily updates at with news coverage, photos and audio reports from the Senator, visit:

One detail of his trip that I found particularly interesting:

Obama plans to visit a group of Kenyan women age 50 and older who have adopted children suffering from AIDS and are making a success of it with the help of a "microcredit" program supported by his personal funds from a children's book deal.

The program, with an initial $14,000 Obama investment, enables the women to obtain small loans so they can buy such items as sewing machines or bicycles or crops at market that might enable them to start small businesses.

If you’re interested in receiving updates directly from Barack Obama’s official website, click here.

Posted by Daniel at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2006

Roe vs Wade - 33rd Anniversary

Yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Below is a link to the Wikipedia entry, which gives a great overview and details about this important supreme court decision:

via Wikipedia - Roe vs Wade

Posted by Russell at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

VAWA Update...we have reauthorization...

Yesterday, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act by unanimous consent. Now, their are difference between the version from the Senate and the one from the House. These differences need to be worked out in conference. Programs that are funded this year will continue to be funded, but the resolution of the two versions in congress will affect the future focus on this very important act. For more details and future updates, check out the link below.

via - - VAWA Reauthorization

Posted by Russell at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2005

VAWA Expires

Yesterday, the Violence Against Women's Act expired. It had passed in the House of Representatives, but was held up in the Senate. There is still a chance that it will go through the Senate, but perhaps not without some changes to the House-approved version. I know of a lot of very important programs funded through this money. There are a lot of people - women, men and children - who are on the edges of their seats, and perhaps becoming fearful for their lives as we wait and see what happens.

Via - VAWA Expired Due To Lack of Senate Vote

Posted by Russell at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2005

The Impact of Abortion Restrictions

Many are concerned over the potential (an increasingly likely) confrimation of Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court - and the potential impact on abortion rights. But the article linked to below examines the impact of legislation that has already restricted abortions since Roe vs. Wade.

via Planned Parenthood - Impact of Abortion Restrictions

Posted by Russell at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2005

Women Senators Send Letter to Bush

In an effort to have women's voices be part of the "New" Iraq, at the time that its foundations are being built, there are more and more voices speaking up about women's voices being left out. Including our own limited number of female senators:

Article: via Feminist Daily News - Women Senators Call on Bush to Push for Women's Rights in Iraqi Constitution

Posted by Russell at 07:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2005

Judge Roberts May Not Be The One to Worry About

When it comes to the issue of abortion - a confirmation of Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court would bring the vote tally to four most likely to oppose and four most likely not to oppose - with Judge Kennedy the new swing-vote.

Article: via Women's E-news - Kennedy One to Watch on Abortion

Posted by Russell at 06:58 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Frequently Asked Questions about VAWA and Gender

Q: Why is the bill called the Violence Against Women Act?
A: Senator Biden, author of the 1994 VAWA, explains why the Act specifically names women: "The reality is that the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are women and children, and most outreach organizations take those demographics into consideration when providing services . . . The bottom line is - violence is violence no matter what gender the victim. Because of that, the Violence Against Women Act applies to all victims of domestic violence, irrespective of their gender. Nothing in the act denies services, programs, funding or assistance to male victims of violence."

Q: Does the Violence Against Women Act currently serve men?
A: Yes. VAWA funds continue to be available for services provided to victims regardless of gender, and male victims frequently receive help from VAWA-funded programs. For example, men who contact domestic violence and sexual assault programs and hotlines are provided advocacy services and legal assistance to protect their safety. VAWA programs also train law enforcement officers on how to respond to and assess situations of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, which enhances their capacity to properly identify victims and their perpetrators.

Q: Will the reauthorization of VAWA improve services for men?
A: Yes. In addition to continuing to serve all victims regardless of gender, all program grants in VAWA 2005 have been expanded to assist underserved populations. In fact, the expansion of the sexual assault programs will better meet the needs of men, who experience sexual assault more frequently than domestic violence. The reauthorization of VAWA will serve more men than ever before, and it will better protect men from victimization.

Q: Who are the majority of victims of domestic violence?
A: The Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice, and Centers for Disease Control studies all conclude that victims of intimate partner violence are overwhelmingly female. A recent study reports that women compose 84% of spouse abuse victims and 86% of victims of abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend. In terms of victimization, intimate partner violence against men is overwhelming committed by male perpetrators.

Q: Who are more likely to be victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners?
A: The Department of Justice has found that women are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than men, especially when a weapon is involved. Women are 7 to 14 times more likely to report severe violence by an intimate partner, where they are beaten, choked, almost drowned, threatened with a gun, or shot. When women use force with their intimate partners, it is most often in the context of self-defense. Furthermore, a "significant amount of research reports that women suffer more negative consequences as a result of violence from a current or former male partner than men do from a current or former female partner."

Q: What about rape, sexual assault and stalking?
A: Women are almost 6 times as likely as men to be victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. While 9 out of 10 rape victims are women, men and boys are also victimized by this crime. Around the world at least 1 woman in every 3 has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Women are 3.5 times more likely to be stalked in their lifetime.

Q: What about studies that report equal rates of victimization between men and women?
A: Most studies that report equal rates of victimization typically use the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS), which is severely flawed. The CTS ignores the context, motivations, meanings, and consequences of intimate partner abuse. Surveys that use the CTS generally count the raw number of violent acts committed while ignoring the context of the violence. Many women resort to violence to defend themselves against the aggression of their male partners, while men generally use violence in order to control their female partners. The CTS uses a focused, singular approach that often does not uncover the complete picture of violence and results in misleading statistics about the incidence and frequency of abuse of women as compared to men.

via Michael Flood

Posted by Russell at 06:30 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2005

Men For VAWA Declaration of Support

Men, please sign this declaration to encourage legislators to re-authorize the Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA). This act has, since 1994, helped to reduce the rates of domestic violence and sexual assault. Don't let this important piece of legislation fade away.

More info: Men For VAWA Declaration of Support

Posted by Russell at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

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