Friday, October 23, 2015

This Fall in African American Books, Movies and Stage...

Hot discussion this past Tuesday on Medical Apartheid! One thing is clear: many African Americans of various ages and backgrounds feel deeply mistrustful of the American health care system. Stay tuned for more EPL health literacy programs in the near future.

titleWe'll be moving back into fiction for our next two discussions. On November 17th, we'll discuss Valerie Flournoy's The Turner House, a novel treating some of the same issues we wrangled with in Family Properties; African Americans who discover that their property has not accumulated the wealth they thought it had. Yet this is  also a rich story of African American family life in all its complexity, with brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles squabbling yet generally supportive of each others' needs and eccentricities. The Turner House is a National Book Award finalist.

We're skipping December (too much holiday shopping!) and will pick up again January 19th with I Say A Little Prayer, E. Lynn Harris's marvelous novel about a gay man confronting homophobia in the black church. I've been wanting to discuss a Harris book for ages, and this is one of his best.

titleFinally, February 16th we'll be teaming up with the KeepinitReal nonfiction group to read My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, the memoir of a German-African woman who discovered that her grandfather was the notorious Nazi commandant featured in Schindler's List. How do you deal with the knowledge of such ultimate evil in your family tree, especially when that evil was directed at people who look like you?


In other news: be sure to catch the Chicago International Film Festival's Black Perspectives series, starting this weekend! Saturday night 10/25, pioneering black director Charles Burnett will be on hand  to present his classic To Sleep With Anger, starring Danny Glover.


If you missed Gem of the Ocean at Court Theater, you have another chance to see an August Wilson play next month. Joe Turner's Come and Gone is on stage at Depaul Theatre School November 6th-15th, with previews on the 4th and 5th. Tickets are only $5-$15!


Aaannnddd, Raven Theatre is doing a highly acclaimed musical, Direct From Death Row; The Scottsboro Boys, in which the 9 young black men accused of rape in the 1930s, "return from eternity to our stage, where they keep their story alive through songs, a magic act, skits and soft shoe - all to convey the tawdry show that their case became".Scottsboro Full cast

Keep reading!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Beyond the Tuskegee Experiment: Mistreatment of Blacks in the American Medical System

Most of us have heard about the notorious Tuskegee experiment, in which African American men were duped into letting doctors study the progression of their untreated syphilis . However, medical researcher Harriet Washington carefully documents how the callous use of black bodies both living and dead as research subjects goes all the way back to slavery times, and continues today in research on prisoners, institutionalized children, and Africans.

As with several other books we've read for AAL, this is a long and at times harrowing depiction of atrocities. To focus our discussion a bit, and make it easier for those who don't have time to read the entire book, let's concentrate on chapters 1, 2 , 10, 11, 12, 13, and the Epilogue, "Medical Research with Blacks Today". And, if you're really short on time, the above video interview with Ms Washington covers the major points.

Some questions to think about: does the history of medical mistreatment explain why African Americans have such disparate health outcomes from other Americans? Or is health care discrimination still going on?

Getting subjects for medical experiments is always difficult, and frequently involves either coercion, or financial compensation. But is it ethical to persuade  poor people to undergo medical tests because they need the money? And if not, how should medical research be conducted?

Are African Americans overall more distrustful of medical science than other groups? If so how do we fix this? Should this be covered in medical education?

What can or should the medical establishment do to correct or atone for these past mistakes and abuses? Do individual medical schools, clinics or medical journals bear any responsibility?

If you haven't already seen them, I highly recommend the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Pact, and Black Man in a White Coat for more on African Americans in the medical profession. Aaaannnddd...Wednesday night, (the day after our discussion) the History Book Group is discussing Remedy and reaction : the peculiar American struggle over health care reform.

See you this Tuesday October 20th at 7pm, Small Meeting Room on the 1st floor of the Evanston Public Library.