Melvin’s Anti-’Weekly’ Fit Upset at Least One Constituent

I was one of the people in the coffee shop when the incident described in The Skinny between Sen. Al Melvin and the owner happened (“Al Melvin Doesn’t Want You to Read This,” The Skinny, Nov. 25). I was so glad to see this covered in your newspaper.

I observed Sen. Melvin, while he was sitting alone at a table, and I heard him ask to speak to the owner of the café. There were only four other patrons in the café at the time, and his voice was loud enough to be heard throughout the room. I overheard him speaking in a loud and intimidating manner to the owner, informing her that he objected to her allowing a local newspaper, the Tucson Weekly, to be carried in the restaurant. He stated very loudly that the Tucson Weekly is a radical, left-wing publication that is offensive to members of his party, and that he would not support her business if she continued to carry it. Mr. Melvin appeared to be bullying her!

The owner informed Mr. Melvin that she carries free publications in the restaurant as a courtesy to her customers, to give them something to read. Shortly after his conversation with the owner, Mr. Melvin paid for his coffee and stormed out angrily.

As one of Mr. Melvin’s constituents, I am sincerely amazed by his abusive, intolerant and unacceptable behavior. As a state senator, Mr. Melvin above all people should understand and be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and individual rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

I am appalled that a state senator would do anything that could be detrimental to a small-business owner, whose business contributes to our city and state. It seems to me that if citizens are allowed to carry weapons around openly, then having access to a free newspaper would be fairly innocuous. Someone needs to remind him of our Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Tucson Weekly is a quality newspaper, one that I read, and such an important publication for the Tucson area.

Susan Wright

Claim: Review of ‘For Colored Girls’ Was Ignorant, Offensive

I can’t remember when I’ve been more outraged by a film review than I am of this one by Jacquie Allen (“For Colored Girls,” Film Clips). I wonder if she has any understanding of the history of the original musical by Ntozake Shange or the power of its poetry in the lives of women (especially African-American women), from 1974 when it was first presented until today. (A revival will be on Broadway next spring.) If Allen is aware of the significance of this artistic creation, she gives no evidence of it in her review.

For Allen to say that this film is a “despicable, depressing, frightening waste of time,” and that the violence and abuse these women suffer “is thrown into this movie for the shock value, without any real substance” is utterly contemptible. This was written by Ntozake Shange to express in poetry the unspoken agony of women’s particular kinds of suffering—not at the hands of all men, but at the hands of some men. Its fundamental purpose is not to shock (although what they suffer is shocking), but to give women voice—to give African-American women voice. Did Allen even hear the line at the beginning: “Who will sing a black girl’s song?”

I could write more, but Allen and the readers of her review need to see what Allison Samuels said of it in Newsweek (as part of a story about how much acting in this film meant to Janet Jackson and her own self-healing). Samuels calls it a “beautiful and haunting play” that is, admittedly, an “un-film-friendly work.” The transference to film is not without problems, but “(Tyler) Perry has deftly updated (the characters’) situations to feel more true to 21st-century Harlem.” Maybe this is what Jacquie Allen doesn’t get: Real women still live like this and still need artistic vehicles that give them voice and power. I hate to think what she might have thought and written about Precious last year!

Tyler Perry was aware of the challenges in making a film of this play, since he knew “that some women really consider it the black woman’s bible.” He understood the historical importance of this project, and he even posted a letter on his website assuring viewers that he would treat the play with respect. I was extremely disappointed that Jacquie Allen did not review the film with a similar respect.

I remember seeing For Colored Girls when it first went on tour in the 1970s, and I was stunned by its raw truth-telling about the violence and duplicity that women experience, along with the message of redemption and love to be found in the “laying on of hands” by women who have lived through their own pain and suffering. Shange gave women one of the most inspiring, memorable lines that have come out of the 20th century women’s movement: “I found god in myself, and I loved her—I loved her fiercely.”

It is despicable that the history and meaning of this film were completely missed in Jacquie Allen’s review.

Sylvia Thorson-Smith

Retired professor of sociology and gender studies, Grinnell College

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