Isaac Hayes’ Homegoing service

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Hat Tip:  By Jody Callahan, Memphis Commercial Appeal

A collection of musicians, politicians, celebrities and activists said goodbye to Isaac Hayes in a three-hour tribute at Hope Presbyterian Church today.

Hayes died Aug. 10 after suffering a stroke. He would have turned 66 Wednesday.

Stax veteran William Bell, serving as host, introduced Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who began the stream of speeches and anecdotes.

Next came noted saxophonist Kirk Whalum, performing Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” accompanied by a guitarist.

Although most of those speaking references Hayes’ musical and humanitarian efforts, several made pointed references to Hayes’ beliefs as a Scientologist. Many of the celebrities at Hope were Scientologists.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) made the first reference to Scientology, adding that Tom Cruise, also a member of that organization, was in Memphis at a private memorial Sunday to pay his respects.

Memphis filmmaker Craig Brewer spoke about Hayes’ movie career, referencing “Escape from New York” and “Truck Turner,” and talked about the impact Hayes had on Memphis music.

“I have a 7-year-old and a 6-month-old daughter, and rest assured, they’ll be raised on ‘Hot Buttered Soul’,” Brewer said.

A montage of clips from Hayes’ movie and television career ended with a poignant clip featuring Hayes and Bernie Mac in a promotion for Mac’s Fox sitcom. Mac died at age 50 one day before Hayes. They star together, along with Samuel L. Jackson, in the upcoming movie, “Soul Men.”

Actress Anne Archer (“Fatal Attraction,” “Patriot Games”) read a quote from Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. She’s a member of the group.

The back of the program handed to visitors as they entered has a quote from Hubbard: “A culture is only as great as it’s dreams, and it’s dreams are dreamed by artists.”

Another Scientologist, actress Kelly Preston (co-star of “Jerry Maguire” and wife of John Travolta), reminisced about Hayes and a Scientology-backed educational program he helped introduce into some schools.

Stax veteran Al Bell remembered his contribution to the title of Hayes’ landmark record. In Jamaica, a bottle of “hot buttered rum” caught his eye and he knew the term was perfect for Hayes’ sound. “I’m going to moss him terribly. I already do,” Bell said.

Jazz musician Chick Corea (piano) and noted film composer Mark Isham (trumpet) played a piece they dedicated to Hayes. Then Hayes’ daughter, Veronica, told the crowd, “We will persevere and keep my father’s legacy going.”

David Porter, Hayes’ songwriting partner for more than 40 years, recognized all the Stax veterans in the audience, as well as the star of the movie “Shaft,” Richard Roundtree. He also pointed out Public Enemy founder Chuck D and renowned bassist Bootsy Collins.

Demonizing Barack: The enduring racist double standard

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(Obama sets the record straight on Race, Religion, and his Pastor)

Having absorbed all of the calumny, reprobation, and histrionics I can stand regarding Barack Obama, Trinity United Church of Christ and its former Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, I can be silent no more.

Having failed to make the manufactured Farrakhan smear stick, Obama’s tormentors have succeeded in distorting Jeremiah Wright into his horrifyingly racist doppelganger.

First, let me say that Barack Obama’s “denunciation” of some of Dr. Wright’s justifiable indignation about America’s hypocrisy regarding race, war, and Hillary Clinton, left a bad taste in my mouth, a very bad taste indeed.

Obama, the Junior Senator from Illinois, has labored mightily to run a campaign which focuses on that which unites rather than that which divides because it is a reflection of the way he has lived his life and made his career as an organizer, lawyer, state legislator, senator, and presidential candidate. He hasn’t always met that goal. His unequivocal support of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of innocent Lebanese civilians in 2006 and his failure to adequately address the Clinton campaign’s deliberate and repeated attempts to racially polarize Democrats reflect his craven accommodations to America’s racial hypocrisy.

A sistah named Cassandra from Michigan emailed me saying, “For the first time I don’t care whether or not he wins if he must shed his spirituality and dilute his soul to neutralize the stench and sting of truth that so many White Americans refuse to acknowledge…The hypocrisy and denial of how racism is destroying the integrity of working class and poor American blacks, whites, Latinos, Arabs and Asians is the seam that is dividing and will eventually shred the Democratic Party.”

Americans talk a good game, but in the end, as Jesse Jackson before him, he is being held to a racist double standard that previous white Presidents and Presidential Candidates were not held too.

Barack Obama’s religious affiliation with Trinity United Church of Christ is an affirmation of his own bi-racial heritage as the son of a Kenyan and white Kansan. To say that his membership in the United Church of Christ, a predominantly white denomination created in 1957 from the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical Reform Church is somehow suspect or racist is both ludicrous and false.

Trinity United Church of Christ is both integrated and welcoming of all people-including gays and lesbians. When Hillary Clinton’s denomination, the United Methodist Church, sent conflicting signals over the issue of homosexuality and restricting the role of gay clergy and the ability of gay congregants to have their unions blessed in the Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ went in the opposite direction in affirming its covenant with gay clergy and parishioners. Years before then, Wright established an AIDS ministry and a singles ministry for gay and lesbian congregants.

Lisa Miller, writing in Newsweek said, “As a leader, Wright defied convention at every turn. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, he recalled a time during the 1970s when the UCC decided to ordain gay and lesbian clergy. At its annual meeting, sensitive to the historic discomfort some blacks have with homosexuality, gay leaders reached out to black pastors.”

“At that session, Wright heard the testimony of a gay Christian and, he said, he had a conversion experience on gay rights. He started one of the first AIDS ministries on the South Side and a singles group for Trinity gays and lesbians—a subject that still rankles some of the more conservative Trinity members, says Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago and a church member.”

Given the hatred and venom spewed forth in too many black pulpits toward black gays and lesbians, Dr. Wright stands out as enlightened, inclusive, and welcoming. But he would have to be in order to grow the church from 80 to 8000 members in three decades. Dr. Wright is the opposite from the bitter, angry, and bigoted portrait the corporate media has fashioned.

Come on, people. Do you really believe that a “black racist” would choose a 90% white denomination in which to plant his flag or are you just some kind of a damn moron engaged in a typical form of racist projection. I defy anyone to name one integrated, gay-friendly, mainline, protestant, predominately African American congregation you’ve ever stepped foot in where you’ve experienced hatred. I know damn well that nobody can because there is no such thing. Are you seriously scared of a moderate, bi-racial politician who bends over backwards to be inclusive, mainstream and non-threatening? Please.

Don’t fall for the right-wing attack campaign launched by Fox News and its corporate mimics.

Obama’s rise to prominence has been swift but it is not unlike that of another little known state politician who rose to prominence over thirty years ago, Jimmy Carter. Carter, you’ll recall was a born-again Baptist layman who also made common cause with all people regardless of race, religion, or background in order to heal the nation after Watergate. During the first months of his presidency in 1977, his home congregation, the Plains Baptist Church, of Plains, GA, forced out Pastor Bruce Edwards, because he sought, with the support of the President, to integrate the church.

During the waning days of the Presidential campaign, a black minister and “publicity seeker,” Rev. Clennon King, challenged the official policy of the church forbidding “Negroes and other civil rights agitators,” from membership. I find no record of the firestorm of criticism we see regarding Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. Nobody called on him to resign his membership or denounce the racially prejudiced people with whom he had lived his entire life.

Plotting a middle ground, the church, following Carter’s lead, denied Rev. King membership. The final straw, however, came after Pastor Edwards and his wife adopted a half-Hawaiian child. According to the President’s brother Billy, it was bad enough that the pastor was a liberal integrationist, but adopting the “tan-skinned” child was “99 per cent of the preacher’s problem,” wrote Margaret Montagno in Newsweek.

The Plains Baptist Church subsequently changed its policy in word, but not in deed. Nicholas King, writing in the New Republic said, “The ‘opening’ of the Plains Baptist Church was achieved last fall under the leadership of the Carter family…But there was opposition to the opening from the church’s old guard, and the only black face in the congregation the Sunday Jimmy Carter first returned to Plains as President belonged to a Secret Service man.” After he left the presidency, Jimmy Carter left the church and joined with former Plains Baptist Church members at Maranatha Baptist Church. The small congregation of 135 opens its doors to 12,000 visitors a year to hear the President teach Sunday School. A few years ago, Carter also left the hopelessly right-wing Southern Baptist Convention.

According to the Los Angeles Times, during the 1980 presidential campaign, in the midst of a conservative tide taking over the Southern Baptist Convention, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bailey Smith, proclaimed, “God almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” Again, nothing was heard from the media calling on President Carter to renounce the convention of which he was a member or for then Governor Ronald Reagan, who had addressed the same gathering of evangelicals in Dallas that same day to renounce the divisive and anti-Semitic statement of a right-wing supporter. The Washington Post covered the story on page F10 on September 26, 1980. The New York Times covered the story on three occasions and A 18 was the closet it came.

Lastly, can anybody recount for me the media firestorm over Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Giuliani. Refresh my memory about how many times the clip of the Religious Broadcaster and Baptist Minister advocating the assassination of the president of Venezuela, a supplier of oil to the United States, was run on Fox News and the rest of the corporate media in denunciation of Giuliani. How many times did they run the clip of Robertson agreeing with Jerry Falwell about the proper blame for 9/11 on abortions and gays and lesbians in a manner meant to accuse Giuliani of intolerance?

Today, nothing is materially different for the Hawaiian bred Barack Obama than it was for the half-Hawaiian son of Jimmy Carter’s Pastor. America, like Plains Baptist Church, has the same problem and like Jeremiah Wright has pointed out eloquently for thirty-six years as Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, race is 99 per cent of it.

Hillary’s Handkerchief Heads: Call Them Out

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Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)
Del. Donna Christensen (D-V.I.)
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.)
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.)
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.)
Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.)
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-Ohio)
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)
Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.)

If any of the listed Negro members of Congress supporting Hillary belongs to you, they need to hear a word from the people. I propose the following letter.

Dear Handkerchief Head:

You have been unconscionably silent in the face of Bill Clinton’s racially divisive tactics on behalf of Senator Clinton’s presidential campaign. I can only surmise from your silence that you either approve of Bill Clinton’s tactics or are too gutless to publicly register your opposition. Whatever the case may be, I have taken the liberty of writing to formally register my unbridled indignation and to withdraw whatever support I may have given to your re-election campaign.

Pretending that the President’s comments were somehow taken out of context or don’t mean what they plainly imply simply will not do. Burying your head in the sand or defending the indefensible won’t do either. It’s time to do-you know what-or get off the pot. You can delay addressing these comments if you want to, but you do so at your peril.

The Sunday morning talk shows were universally caustic against the Clintons.

On “Meet the Press,” Byron York of the right-wing National Review said, “You know, I don’t think you can overstate the amount of, of anger in–created in Democrats by Bill Clinton’s tactics. I mean, they were very, very unhappy with him. I was talking to a Democratic strategist the other day who said, “My wife just got in the car. She’s driving to South Carolina to volunteer for Obama.” They were that angry at what Clinton had done. And he also said, you know, Clinton is trying to turn him into Jesse Jackson. And sure enough, after Obama wins big, what does Bill Clinton say about it? “Well, you know, Jesse Jackson won here, too.”

Neo-Con Fox News Contributor and NY Times Columnist Bill Kristol wrote, “What do Jesse Jackson’s victories two decades ago have to do with this year’s Obama-Clinton race? The Obama campaign is nothing like Jackson’s. Obama isn’t running on Jackson-like themes. Obama rarely refers to Jackson.”

 

“Clinton’s comment alludes to one thing, and to one thing only: Jackson and Obama are both black candidates. The silent premise of Clinton’s comment is that Obama’s victory in South Carolina doesn’t really count. Or, at least, Clinton is suggesting, it doesn’t mean any more than Jackson’s did.”

“But of course—as Clinton knows very well—Jesse Jackson didn’t win (almost all-white) Iowa.  He didn’t come within a couple of points of prevailing in (almost all-white) New Hampshire.  Nor did he, as Obama did carry rural Nevada. And Saturday, in South Carolina, even after Bill Clinton tried to turn Obama into Jackson, Hillary defeated Obama by just three to two among white voters. So Bill Clinton has been playing the race card, and doing so clumsily.  But why is he playing any cards.?

On “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director, provides a blunt answer to Kristol’s  rhetorical question,  “But, you know, it does feel like, though, that what Bill Clinton is doing is he reads a poll, and he said, “OK, when am—how am I going to get her to 51 percent.  OK. We’ve got to figure out how to drive white men away from Barack Obama. We’ve got to figure out how to drive Latinos away from Barack Obama.” That’s what works on February 5th.  And, you know, he may not ever say that, but it feels like it’s a very tactical thing that they’ve done, and I think that’s what, you know, is going to offend the Beltway corridor, the Amtrak corridor, and, and you’re seeing a lot of, sort of, the New York and Washington Democrats who are probably going to keep coming out against Clinton on this…”

Some of us were raised to believe that members of the Congressional Black Caucus were among the best Black public servants in the country.  Your actions belie that notion and constitute a slap in the face to those that came before you in the Reconstruction era.  They fought valiantly for a seat at the table for African Americans before they were disenfranchised through the white supremacist tactics of mob violence, grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and poll taxes. 

Continuing to languish on the Clinton plantation in light of these racially divisive tactics is a betrayal of the progressive ideals of the Democratic Party and to the many unsung heroes of the civil rights movement who fought to make America a functioning and pluralistic democracy.  As for me, I am through with the Clintons and I am too through with you.

Sincerely,

Skeptical Brotha, a Negro who has some damn self-respect.



 

Jacqueline Jackson cuts endorsement ad for Hillary Clinton

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South Carolina Hotline is reporting that Mrs. Jacqueline Jackson, independent of her husband and son, has endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton and has cut a Radio ad for her. The text of the ad is below:

JACKSON: This is Jacqueline Jackson. My husband, Rev. Jesse Jackson, is a native of South Carolina. Let me tell you why I decided to support Hillary Clinton for President. As a mother and a grandmother, I know that raising children begins and ends at home. It begins with a loving family that builds esteem. It ends with a woman’ touch that inspires children to make their dreams a reality. That’s why this election is so important. It is also why I believe Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified candidate to be President in these tough times. Hillary believes that the way we treat our children reflects our nation’s values. For 35 years, Hillary has fought for families. As first lady, she fought for universal health care and fought just as hard to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Women are used to making difficult choices, but this is easy because it’s about what’s best for our families. Join me in supporting Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

HILLARY: I’m Hillary Clinton, candidate for President, and I approve this message.

 

 

 

ANNOUNCER: Paid for by Hillary Clinton for President

 

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Mrs. Jackson’s endorsement was pounced on by Hillary’s camp. They’re desperate to demonstrate that they are still technically proficient, have prominent black support, and that they intend to fight tooth and nail for black votes- especially those of black women.

Jesse disses Obama in Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed piece

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Brotha Jesse is pissing outside of the tent again, this time its in the form of an op-ed piece in the Sun-Times. After reading it, give me your take.  Is Jesse’s criticism valid and is his timing right?  He’s endorsed the brotha and is pulling even with Miss Hillary in Iowa.  This piece begs the question of whether Jesse really wants Obama to win.

Hat Tip: By Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times  

Can Democrats get the votes they need simply because they’re not Republicans? You might think so in this presidential campaign. African-American and urban votes are critical to any Democratic victory. Bill Clinton won two terms without winning the most white votes. His margin was the overwhelming support of black voters. George Bush learned that lesson; that’s why his campaigns spent so much effort suppressing the black vote in key states like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. His victory margin was the tally of votes suppressed or uncounted.

Yet the Democratic candidates — with the exception of John Edwards, who opened his campaign in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign — have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country. The catastrophic crisis that engulfs the African-American community goes without mention. No urban agenda is given priority. When thousands of African Americans marched in protest in Jena, La., not one candidate showed up.

Democratic candidates are talking about health care and raising the minimum wage, but they aren’t talking about the separate and stark realities facing African Americans.

The civil rights movement succeeded in ending segregation and providing blacks with the right to vote. But the end of legal apartheid did not end the era of discrimination. And the ending of institutionalized violence did not end institutionalized racism.

Patterns of discrimination are sharply etched. African Americans have, on average, about half of the good things that whites have, and double the bad things. We have about half the average household income and less than half the household wealth. On the other hand, we’re suffering twice the level of unemployment and twice the level of infant mortality (widely accepted as a measure of general health).

African Americans are brutalized by a system of criminal injustice. Young African Americans are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched if stopped, more likely to be arrested if searched, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be sentenced to prison if charged, less likely to get early parole if imprisoned. Every study confirms that the discrimination is systemic and ruinous. And yet no candidate speaks to this central reality.

African Americans are more likely to go to overcrowded and underfunded schools, more likely to go without health care, more likely to drop out, less likely to find employment. Those who do work have less access to banks and are more likely to be ripped off by payday lenders, more likely to be stuck with high-interest auto and business loans, and far more likely to be steered to risky mortgages — even when adjusting for income. And yet, no candidate speaks to this central reality.

The result is visiting a catastrophe on the urban black community. I and many others campaign for young people to stay in school, to graduate and not to make babies until they are prepared to be parents. My son and I write and teach about personal financial responsibility. Personal responsibility is critical. But personal responsibility alone cannot overcome the effects of a discriminatory criminal justice and economic system in generating broken families and broken dreams.

The Rev. Martin Luther King saw the movement to end segregation and gain voting rights as the first stage of the civil rights movement. The second stage — to gain economic justice and equal opportunity in fact — he knew would be more difficult. Now, 40 years later, it is no longer acceptable for candidates to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to entrenched discrimination and still expect to reap our votes.

Forging a Winning Progressive Coalition

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Chris Bowers of Open Left has an excellent piece on Barack Obama’s failure to recreate the progressive white and African American coalition that catapulted him to national prominence.   Read it and tell me what you think.   I think he’s dead on.

Hat Tip: By Chris Bowers of OPEN LEFT

I want to make an addendum to my post yesterday about Obama’s campaign. In particular, I want to say that one of my longest-running visions in progressive politics has been for a strongly progressive Democrat to win the party’s presidential nomination, and then the Presidency, based on a coalition that, at its core, combines African-Americans and the white progressive “creative class.” Loosely speaking, as I articulated in one of my very first blog posts ever, it would be a combination of the Jesse Jackson coalition in 1988 and the Howard Dean coalition of 2003. In a more recent formulation, I have referred to it as the coalition of non-whites and non-Christian Democrats. That isn’t to say that other demographic groups wouldn’t be involved in the coalition, just that its two largest demographic groups would be people of color and whites who do not self-identify as Christian.

Why do I focus on these two groups? Several reasons. First, they tend to be the most Democratic-leaning of all demographic groups in terms of voting patterns. Second, because members of congress who come from these districts tend to be the most progressive Democrats around. Third, because non-whites and non-Christians are both high growth demographic groups, and represent a potential long-term governing majority. Fourth, because they already make up a majority of Democratic voters nationwide. Fifth, the 1988 and 2004 elections demonstrate the willingness of these groups to support non-establishment candidates. In short, this is a coalition that could dominate Democratic politics and even national politics for a long time to come, with the result being an electable, progressive governing majority if formed. I see this coalition as the Holy Grail of progressive electoral politics.

In early 2004, while living in Chicago, I saw a candidate who explicit strategy in the Illinois Democratic Senatorial primary was to forge that very coalition: Barack Obama. I thought that, if he won a Senate seat using that strategy, it would then become possible for him to use that strategy to become President either eight years down the road (was banking, of course, on a Democratic presidential victory in 2004). If a state Senator could do it on a statewide level, a US Senator could do it on a national level. Obama seemed like a potential solution to a long-running electability problem for progressives on a national level. And given that many people I talked with had considered him a possible future President even when he was in a distant third-place in the Senatorial primary, his potential to pull this coalition off, even before his 2004 DNC speech, appeared enormous and very believable.

Because of this, I leaned toward Obama for a long, long time in this campaign. Despite events like the Edwards blogger controversy, or Richardson coming out in favor of no residual forces, I kept waiting for Obama’s campaign to put this coalition together. Once it started happening, and his early lead among the progressive creative class was matched by an advantage among African-Americans, I was ready to jump on board. Given how long I had looked for such a coalition to form, I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines once it actually did. However, it just no longer seems to me as though Obama is going to pull that coalition together. He never overcame Clinton’s advantage among African-Americans, and as I documented in yesterday’s post he started losing ground among the progressive creative class. If, as the campaign progresses, a candidate is losing ground, and is behind overall, among the two main of this potential coalition, I have a very difficult time seeing that candidate as the leader of the progressive governing coalition I have sought.

I don’t know why Obama has been unable to make any dent in Clinton’s overall advantage among African-Americans. I have my theories on Obama’s struggle with the progressive creative class that I articulated yesterday. Frist, he kept attacking extremist liberal strawmen, which is basically an attack on the progressive creative class. Second, he kept talking about unity and reaching across the aisle during a time when conservatives and Republicans were repeatedly shooting down consensus legislation in the Senate, where Obama himself holds a seat. It seemed as though he was determined not to pursue his 2004 primary strategy on a national level, and instead take a more traditional, establishment route. I don’t know for certain how accurate my analysis is, but for one reason or another Obama has now failed to bring either of the two main components of this coalition together during the campaign, and current trends make it seem like the situation is only going to get worse.

I still hope that this coalition will one day come together, but I no longer see Obama as having real potential to pull it off anymore. I also don’t think that the coalition can be successful if it forms on its own, and then endorses a candidate without being endorsed by that candidate. Voluntarily offering your support to a candidate that hasn’t endorsed you is a good way to become irrelevant once that candidate is in office. See, for example, the way that congressional Democrats went along and condemned MoveOn.org, now that, once they are in the majority, they can use corporate PAC money instead of netroots money. If you give it away for free, people can find other sources of support once they are in power. Also, it is hard for any coalition to come together without a unifying cause for it to come together around.

I see this as a big missed opportunity in 2008. I don’t know what happened to the Barack Obama of the Illinois Senate primary. Maybe nothing did, and I simply misjudged his potential as the leader of this new progressive coalition.  Either way, it is very disappointing, and it has me searching for answers much like I was after Dean’s defeat four years ago.

To the Jena 6: Just hold on, change is coming

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Norman Hutchin’s song, “A move of God,” has been in my head all day.

To Mychal Bell,  Robert Bailey, Jr, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and the other unnamed young brotha, just hold on, change is coming.

“I feel a breakthrough coming your way, it’s a mighty move of God, it’s gonna change your day. With signs and wonders, miracles to perform, God is gonna bless you for just holding on.”

“Just hold on, a change is coming, feel it in the air, it’s in the atmosphere. Just hold on, a change is coming, a move of God is on the way.”

“You’ve been expecting a change in your life, looking for your midnight to turn to sunshine. It’s gonna happen, you wait and see, all things are possible to them that believe.”

“Just hold on, a change is coming, feel it in the air, it’s in the atmosphere. Just hold on, a change is coming…A move of God is on the way.”

Thousands of chanting demonstrators filled the streets of this little Louisiana town Thursday. It's not about black and white. It's about right and wrong. I would like to see these young men set free,

We should have progressed past this kind of unequal treatment based on race; however, we clearly are not. The outpouring of community support in the black community and the dearth of support from others is quite telling.   Katrina became an enduring symbol of neglect and racial indifference and Jena, Louisiana has provided the nation with another.  

There is nothing particularly unique about the disproportionate felony charges meted out to these six teenage boys, this happens everyday to black children somewhere in America, as Al Sharpton has pointed out.  What is unique is the black reaction the racially discriminatory actions of the LaSalle Parish School Board and LaSalle Parish District Attorney provoked.    

Today’s rally was amazing in its genesis and scale, as the song above says, “It’s a mighty move of God, it’s gonna change your day.” I feel confident in predicting that the charges against all six young men will be dropped.  

Praise God for Michael Baisden, Tom Joyner, Howard Witt, Amy Goodman, Roland Martin, Rev.Al, Rev. Jackson, Color of Change, the black blogosphere, and for the many black college students and other concerned persons who raised the alarm to inform the community when it was needed.  

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, on hand for the day’s events, told CNN’s Kyra Phillips that the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to subpoena the LaSalle Parish District Attorney to Washington to explain his conduct and the President himself said that the Justice Department is monitoring this case.  Despite protestations to the contrary, there is a valid reason why Tina Jones, mother of Purvis Bryant, believes that the D.A. is “so adamant about destroying these kids lives.”  I would love to hear his explanation of how a tennis shoe becomes a deadly weapon.   

The idea of a 21st century civil rights movement which focuses on the disproportionate punishment of people of color in the criminal justice system warms my heart.  That’s something that this skeptical brotha can get with enthusiastically.  Much remains to be done and it is not simply a local issue.   I hope that that Congresswoman Waters and Congressman Conyers grasp that a comprehensive solution which addresses the lack of resources for indigent defense is at the root of the harsh and disproportionate treatment that our children and adults face nationwide. 

 

Jesse Jackson takes Obama to task over Jena 6

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Hat Tip: By Roddie A. Burris, the State

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called Tuesday on Democrats seeking the 2008 nomination for president to give S.C. voters “something to vote for” when they go to the polls in January.

On a statewide tour to register new voters, Jackson said South Carolina will determine “who has momentum” in the primary when it votes Jan. 29.

Jackson sharply criticized presidential hopeful and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for “acting like he’s white” in what Jackson said has been a tepid response to six black juveniles’ arrest on attempted-murder charges in Jena, La. Jackson, who also lives in Illinois, endorsed Obama in March, according to The Associated Press.

“If I were a candidate, I’d be all over Jena,” Jackson said after an hour-long speech at Columbia’s historically black Benedict College.

“Jena is a defining moment, just like Selma was a defining moment,” said the iconic civil rights figure, who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1965 Selma civil rights movement and was with King at his 1968 assassination.

Later, Jackson said he did not recall making the “acting like he’s white” comment about Obama, stressing he only wanted to point out the candidates had not seized on an opportunity to highlight the disproportionate criminal punishments black youths too often face.

Jackson also said Obama, who consistently has placed second in state and national polls behind New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, must be “bolder” in his political positions if he is to erase Clinton’s lead.

Jackson is the only African-American ever to carry South Carolina in a presidential primary election.

Obama’s South Carolina campaign pointed to a statement it released last week in which Obama called on the local Louisiana district attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in the case.

“When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy,” the Obama statement said. “It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions.”

Thousands from across the country, including some from Columbia, are expected to converge on the small town of Jena today to protest the “Jena 6” arrests.

Jackson told the 500 to 600 students in his audience at Benedict that “criminal injustice,” instead of a rope, is the pressing civil rights issue of their day, but that voting remained their strongest ally.

Your fight is not about ropes, it’s about hope,” Jackson said, blasting the flood of guns and violence he said permeates many black communities.

Civil rights, he said, has become the counterculture of the day rather than the prevailing culture. “You can’t call on the Justice Department anymore; it’s not there.”

Jackson, who became only the second major black candidate to run for president, won five primaries in his 1984 bid for the office, then 11 primaries and nearly 7 million votes in his 1988 run.

He said the 2008 presidential candidates must speak most directly to the pressing S.C. issues of housing, high tuition costs, health care and a plan to end the war in Iraq.

“The candidates have got to speak to South Carolina,” said Jackson, who was traveling also to S.C. State University in Orangeburg and to Charleston Tuesday evening before wrapping up his registration drive tonight in Aiken.

A Greenville native, Jackson said he hoped to register thousands of new voters during the statewide swing, which began Saturday in Rock Hill.

“Their votes must equal change,” he said, referring to residents in a state where only 1 in 4 eligible voters go to the polls. “I want to make sure the right agenda is being voted on in 2008.”

His approach worked for senior mass-communications major Darius Dior Porcher, 21, who graduated from famed Scotts Branch High School in Clarendon County, which produced the Briggs v. Elliott school desegregation case of 1954.

“The main thing when you speak to students is to get them to move,” Porcher said. “He moved students today. He got them to come down to the floor and register to vote.”

Charges against Mychal Bell overturned in Jena 6 case

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Hat Tip: Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press, USA Today 

NEW ORLEANS — A state appeals court on Friday threw out the only remaining conviction against one of the black teenagers accused in the beating of a white schoolmate in the racially tense north Louisiana town of Jena.

Mychal Bell, 17, should not have been tried as an adult, the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said in tossing his conviction on aggravated battery, for which he was to have been sentenced Thursday. He could have gotten 15 years in prison.

His conspiracy conviction in the December beating of student Justin Barker was already thrown out by another court.

Bell, who was 16 at the time of the beating, and four others were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder. Those charges brought widespread criticism that blacks were being treated more harshly than whites after racial confrontations and fights at Jena High School.

Bell’s attorney Louis Scott said he didn’t know whether his client, whose bond was set at $90,000, would get out of jail immediately.

“We don’t know what approach the prosecution is going to take — whether they will re-charge him, where he would have to be subjected to bail all over again or not,” Scott said.

Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, had been planning a rally in support of the teens for the day Bell was to have been sentenced.

“Although there will not be a court hearing, we still intend to have a major rally for the Jena Six and now hopefully Mychal Bell will join us,” Sharpton said in an e-mailed statement.

Said Jackson: “The pressure must continue until all six boys are set free and sent to school, not to jail.”

Jena, La., is a mostly white town where racial animosity flared about a year ago when a black student sat under a tree that was a traditional gathering place for whites. A day later, three nooses were found hanging from the tree. There followed reports of racial fights at the school, culminating in the December attack on Barker.

The reversal of Bell’s conviction will not affect four other teenagers also charged as adults, because they were 17 years old at the time of the fight and no longer considered juveniles, said attorney George Tucker of Hammond.

Prosecutors have the option of appealing to the state Supreme Court. District Attorney Reed Walters did not return a call Friday.

Judge J.P. Mauffray had thrown out Bell’s conspiracy conviction, saying it was not a charge on which a juvenile may be tried as an adult. But he had let the battery conviction stand, saying Bell could be tried in adult court because the charge was among lesser charges included in the original attempted murder charge.

Teenagers can be tried as adults in Louisiana for some violent crimes, including attempted murder, but aggravated battery is not one of those crimes, the court said.

Defense lawyers had argued that the aggravated battery case should not have been tried in adult court once the attempted murder charge was reduced.

The case “remains exclusively in juvenile court,” the Third Circuit ruled.

The Audacity of Ambivalence

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Twenty-three years ago, I was transformed by the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson.  I became the political animal that haunts this blog with sporadic amounts of humor and cynicism.  The campaign became a coming of age that should define a generation of us in our mid-thirties. The rhetoric of the campaign was uplifting and edifying in a spiritual way and inspired a new generation of African American politicians great and small.    

In his convention address, Jesse said, “No generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born, but through leadership it can choose to make the age in which it is born an age of enlightenment, an age of jobs, and peace, and justice. Only leadership — that intangible combination of gifts, the discipline, information, circumstance, courage, timing, will and divine inspiration — can lead us out of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Leadership can mitigate the misery of our nation. Leadership can part the waters and lead our nation in the direction of the Promised Land. Leadership can lift the boats stuck at the bottom.” 

After seven years of movement conservative disaster, America is looking for a leader that can heal our land and lead us toward what Dr. King described as the beloved community, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” The beloved community is an ideal founded on the biblical principle embodied by the commandment to, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The opening salvos of this Presidential campaign was a period of assessment in which we could go to our quiet place, commune with ourselves, and reflect on what it is that our President should embody besides white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.   

Over $100 million dollars has been raised by just two of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and I find myself wondering, “is this it?”  “Is this shit all there is?”  I really don’t need to hear more deceptive rhetoric masquerading as courage and understanding. Quoting Big Mama’s favorite bible verse is not gonna cut it this year. I need to get a sense that there is a plan for progressive transformation behind the Machiavellian mask.  

Hiding deep in the recesses of their rhetoric should be some amalgamation of the hopes, fears, and wild aspirations of the average working class person.  What we’ve all been hearing for the last six months is the emotionless recitation of the same broken promises that we threw our votes away for the last four times.  Playing it safe in order to keep power is what got us here to start with and placating the establishment so that it facilitates the rise to the ultimate power of the Presidency is not my idea of radical transformation.   

Creeping up inside of my listless and dispirited soul is a powerful melancholy because we’ve been on the smooth glide path toward plutocracy for over a century and nothing in the last twenty-five years has slowed down the process.  Instead, what we’ve seen is an acceleration of the total corporate hegemony over our democracy.  

I am incapable of realizing the eminent death of our democracy and the moribund nature of national democratic leadership while smiling optimistically into the face of Barack Obama as the physical embodiment of my youthful idealism and the personification of my adult ambivalence.   

While Rev. Jackson paid homage to this nation’s diversity, America is not like a blanket — one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt: many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. The white, the Hispanic, the black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the native American, the small farmer, the businessperson, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled make up the American quilt.” 

“Even in our fractured state, all of us count and fit somewhere. We have proven that we can survive without each other. But we have not proven that we can win and make progress without each other. We must come together.” 

Obama tipped his hat to a white vision of race-less, class-less American-ness, “…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”  

Common ground can never be reached by a pander bear reaching out to people blinded by willful ignorance and deliberate racial amnesia.

I am angry that  Rev. Jackson has bequeathed the legacy of his progressive imprimatur to a man with the audacity to deny the necessity for slave reparations.    

I am angry that Obama is content to go through the motions of opposition while leaving reactionary power arrangements intact. 

I am angry that Obama claims the mantle of the biblical Joshua and then secretly  dons the robes of a Pharaoh.  

I am angry that our system of presidential selection is a closed process of capitalist kabuki dancing that is all calibrated to telegraph the non-threatening intentions of the contenders to the white power structure so that they may choose the most willing corporate whore.  

I am angry that my voice no longer matters and that the hunger for true leadership is turned against us so that we’re forced to accept Wall Street’s favorite ventriloquist dummy as our President.  

I am angry that identity politics is no longer a means of empowerment but an instrument of our oppression.  

I am angry that my youthful idealism is in reality a childish delusion.  

I am angry that I am losing my willingness to stay in this country and fight the forces of reaction that are devouring our planet and killing our people.  

I am angry that my writing and local activism isn’t enough.   

I am angry that the one man that speaks to my frustration, Dennis Kucinich, is marginalized, belittled and ignored.

I am angry that I am still just one lonely voice as powerless after 225,000 site views as I was the very first day I posted over a year ago when nobody was listening. For me, the thrill of politics, the driving passion of my life, is gone.

CBS AXES IMUS

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 IMUS BLOWS (ON) IT

HAT TIP:  AP NEW YORK – CBS fired Don Imus from his radio show Thursday, the finale to a stunning fall for one of the nation’s most prominent broadcasters.

Imus initially was given a two-week suspension, to start Monday, for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos” on the air last week, but outrage continued to grow and advertisers bolted from his programs.

“There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society,” CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing the decision. “That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.”

Rutgers women’s basketball team spokeswoman Stacey Brann said the team did not have an immediate comment on Imus’ firing but would be issuing a statement later Thursday evening.

Time Magazine once named the cantankerous broadcaster as one of the 25 Most Influential People in America, and he was a member of the National Broadcaster Hall of Fame.

But Imus found himself at the center of a storm after his comments. Protests ensued, and one by one, sponsors pulled their ads from Imus’ show. On Wednesday, MSNBC dropped the simulcast of Imus’ show.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson met with Moonves to advocate Imus’ removal, promising a rally outside CBS headquarters Saturday and an effort to persuade more advertisers to abandon Imus.Sumner Redstone, chairman of the CBS Corp. board and its chief stockholder, told Newsweek that he had expected Moonves to “do the right thing,” although it wasn’t clear what he thought that was.

Hillary’s Catch 22

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Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Nominee. Now, more than ever, that is a debatable proposition. Work with me. Y’all with me? O.K. It’s July 2008 and Hillary, who 50% of the American people are adamantly opposed to voting for, is facing a decison about a Vice President.

Hopefully can we agree that Barack Obama, regardless of his flaws and evasions from the progressive black consensus, has earned consideration for Vice President. Even if we don’t agree, I think the majority of African Americans believe that. If Obama continues on as he has and comes close, but falls short of the mark in the primaries and Hillary doesn’t choose him to be her VP, Black folk are gonna be, as Momma says, “much pissed.” You see, Obama is who my mother is for. I view Momma as kind of an “everyblackwoman” and can gauge a lot of things accurately by her responses. Momma made it plain that she, “don’t want her” [Hillary].

Dukakis before her had a similar decision regarding Jesse Jackson in 1988 and his poor handling of that politically charged and delicate decision resulted in the lowest share of black support for a Democratic nominee in quite some time. A lot of black folk just sat on their hands at home and let him twist in the wind. Being white and female however, is a different situation.

The woman pictured above with Hillary is former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest daughter of former Senator Robert F. Kennedy. A popular figure, she blew her big chance at the corner office in 2002 when she chose a republican as her running mate instead of a number of qualified black elected officials. That was perceived as a slight by the African American community that had never elected anybody to statewide office. It was a weakness that Bob Ehrlich deftly exploited by choosing Michael Steele, a corporate lawyer and freelance Uncle Tom, as his running mate.

It is interesting that in a democratic state with one of the most affluent black suburbs in the nation, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend didn’t feel free to choose an African American as her running mate for fear that she couldn’t win. Race, as much as we like to deny it, is still the elephant in the room. Some people just can’t wash that white woman/Mandingo taboo outta their hair. Black folks responded to that by either turning out in lower numbers or voting in higher than normal numbers for the ticket with the brotha on it.

I don’t harbor any illusions about who and what both Hillary and Barack represent. They are both servants of the multi-national corporate power structure. Politically speaking though, Obama’s candidacy represents a cross-roads for African American Democrats. If he is spurned, the relationship between African Americans and the Democratic Party will be irreparably damaged.

Will Hillary make the same mistakes as Dukakis and Townsend? She’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t in some respects. Only time will tell. Talk to me. Don’t hold back.

Barack’s Betrayal

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Barack Obama, displaying his peerless skills as a courtier in Rich Daley’s racist court, endorsed the Mayor in his bid against a qualified, competent, and honest opponent: Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown“I had made a determination well before the exploration of my presidential candidacy that this was the right thing to do.  I am a Chicagoan.  I care about the city.  This is where I live. This is where my wife works.  This is where my kids go to school, and I want to continue to see the city make the progress it has made.” By turning his back, he shows his true colors to anybody intelligent enough to see the import of this endorsement for what it is: a betrayal of justice and a betrayal of the black community.

 

The politically astute could see this coming because the Mayor’s brotha Bill Daley, a former Clinton Commerce Secretary, was added to the Obama campaign payroll in an “advisory” capacity. Obama really believes what the pundits breathlessly write about him and was duty bound to return the corrupt favor to the Daley regime.

 

Some of you might say, “It’s just politics,” or “He has to cut deals to get to the next level.”  To that, I would ask, who does he step on to elevate himself to the Presidency? And by what right does he spend political capital to endorse Rich Daley and spit in the face of the black community? These questions are best answered by examining the political culture of Chicago and by revealing in explicit detail the victims of Daley’s regime and Obama’s ambition.

 

CHICAGO’S POLITICAL CULTURE OF WHITE SUPREMACY & CORRUPTION

 

During Harold Washington’s historic campaign for Mayor of Chicago in 1983, he was introduced at an event by a preacher as, “an amalgamation of all the good qualities of past mayors. There were no good qualities to be had, Washington said upon taking the podium, Daley included: “He was a racist to the core, head to toe, hip to hip, there’s no ding or doubt about it. He eschewed and fought and oppressed black people to the point that some thought that was the way they were supposed to live, just like some slaves on the plantation thought that that was the way they were supposed to live. I give no hosannas to a racist, nor did I appreciate or respect his son. If his name were anything other than Daley, his campaign would be a joke.”

 

The general election campaign against Harold Washington in 1983 was hands down the most racist in Chicago history. Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Ed Vrdolyak succinctly put the naked hostility and public revulsion expressed by the white community at the prospect of having a black mayor by saying, “It’s a racial thing. Don’t kid yourself. I’m calling on you to save your city, to save your precinct. We’re fighting to keep the city the way it is.” (Controlled by white ethnics) 

 

Washington defeated Incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne andCook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley, son of the legendary mayor in the Democratic primary.After the primary, neither lifted a finger for Harold Washington. Their white supporters and the Democratic machine outside of black precincts defected en masse to the Republican challenger, Bernard Epton.

 

From Gary Rivlin’s book “Fire on the Prairie,” “Whites attending Epton rallies startled reporters with their frank comments about not wanting a nigger mayor. They held up signs calling Washington a “crook” and took to wearing a variety of political buttons decidedly racial in appeal: one showed a watermelon with a black slash through it, another was simply all white. VOTE WHITE, VOTE RIGHT one popular T-shirt boldly proclaimed.”…They passed out literature saying, “You will be robbed or killed. White women will be raped. With a black police chief there will be absolute chaos in the city.” 

 

Washington’s first three years as Mayor were marked by a bitter and protracted battle with a white cabal of Alderman for political primacy.Stung by their loss of access to the power of the Mayor’s office and the political patronage that serves as the lifeblood of a ward heeler, they reacted like spoiled children and became obstructionists hell bent on crippling Washington’s authority. They hurled racist insults and taunts dripping with homophobic invective toward the Mayor. Moreover, they conspired with a compliant media in a racially motivated PR campaign to stoke white fears in an effort to stymie Administration initiatives.

 

The swirling cauldron of white racial animosity towards the black community shaped the politics of Chicago then and still shapes it today.  Two years ago, the Daley machine that seized power after the death of Harold Washington wouldn’t give Barack Obama the time of day during his run for the Senate. 

 

In keeping with the tenants of racial preferences and political nepotism for their own, they endorsed Dan Hynes, the son of Tom Hynes, an acolyte of the Daleys and pinstripe bigot who challenged Mayor Washington’s re-election by running against him as an independent. Now, when Obama’s star shines brightly enough to put the lights out on Daley’s re-election as Mayor, they endorse him for President.  How convenient.   

 

CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: KLANSMEN IN UNIFORM

 

July of last year saw the release of a whitewash report by Special Prosecutor Edward Egan, which was the culmination of four years of investigation and $7 million in taxpayer funds.  The report acknowledges, according to a new standard news report, “clear proof that torture took place at Area Two, a 60 square mile police district on the city’s south side,” during the 70’s and 80’s.

 

Kari Lydersen, a staff writer for New Standard News wrote, “Significantly the report lacked any mention of the racial component which some critics saw as the most important facet of the case.  Almost all of the 60-plus men who claimed to have been tortured by [Jon]Burge and other officers are black; the officers were all white.  Alleged widespread racism on the part of officers was just part of an overall racist justice system; in the 1970s Chicago prosecutors were known to compete in a game called “niggers by the pound” to see who could convict the most black defendants.

 

From the website of the University of Chicago’s Police Torture Archive: Between the years of 1972 and 1991, approximately [192] African American Men and women were arrested and tortured at the hands of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command at Area 2 police headquarters.  Some of these victims were as young as thirteen years old. Various court cases have established that the methods of torture used in the interrogation of suspects included electric shock to the ears and genitalia, mock executions, suffocation, and burning. While Jon Burge was ultimately fired by the Chicago Police Department, not a single perpetrator of the tortures has ever been criminally prosecuted.  Ten of those tortured were sent to death row. 

 

According to the Chicago Reader, “More than 50 men alleged that they were tortured by Burge and his detectives during Daley’s term asCook County state’s attorney, from 1981 to 1989. He was put on notice several times, most dramatically in the case of Andrew Wilson. Photographs of Wilson’s stitches, burns, and alligator- clip wounds made compelling evidence in court, underlined by [DA]Hyman’s failure to ask if Wilson had given his statement voluntarily. Received copy of letter from Dr. John Raba, who as medical director of Cermak Hospital examined Wilson’s injuries, urging police superintendent Richard Brzeczek to investigate. Brzeczek told Daley he had promised to investigate all cases of police brutality but did not want to jeopardize Wilson’s prosecution and asked for guidance. Daley sent no reply.” 

 

Daley’s tenure as prosecutor is stained by his craven capitulation to an electorate and a power structure in thrall to an ideology of white supremacist hate.  Prosecuting police officers for their sadistic torturing of black criminal suspects, and their prosecutor enablers on his staff would have permanently put an end to his political support in the white ethnic wards of Chicago that still had fond memories of the brutal repression of anti-Vietnam political dissent at the 1968 Democratic National Convention ordered by Daddy Daley. Ultimately, Daley’s power rests on a foundation of deliberate indifference. 

 

I don’t care how many handkerchief head Nigras Daley surrounds himself with.  I don’t care how many Negroes people his Administration. I don’t care how many Negroes show up to his re-election press conference to create an illusion of inclusion.  I don’t care that Michelle Obama worked for Daley and treated her well. What he has done cannot and will never atone for this. Dorothy Brown finally realized that and has asked U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to investigateand prosecute the Klansmen in uniform responsible for these crimes. 

 

On the Senate floor, Barack Obama opposed the Military Commissions Act because it gave short shrift to the rights of foreign terror suspects. He said, “…the fundamental human rights of the accused, should be bigger than politics. This is serious and this is somber…”  If he really meant that, he would be defending those same rights here at home, not endorsing a man who repeatedly turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the screams of scores of black men tortured by those sworn to protect and serve white supremacy in a south side Abu Ghraib.

 

From important quarters in the black community, we’ve heard a cacophony of uncritical praise. Jesse Jackson and the black press are simply delusional, and the black Chicago political establishment has clearly been corrupted.  Nothing else explains their cavalier attitude regarding Obama turning his back on Dorothy Brown, black victims of torture, the black community, and quite frankly, himself.

 

Debra Dickerson claims that Barack Obama’s heritage is not African American.  Born the child of a Kenyan and a white woman, he lacks the cultural legacy of a descendant of slaves. Moreover, she believes that because his upbringing was managed by white relatives that we have nothing in common.  It is my contention that the sistah is mistaken.  Barack Obama is an indentured servant to the Daley machine and a slave to his own ambition. In the new millennium, becoming a willing tool and psychological servant to a corrupt white power structure is very African American.

 

I expect better from a former community organizer, constitutional law professor, and civil rights attorney than the politics of expediency.

 

 

 

 

OBAMA, SHARPTON AND THE LEGACY OF KING

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“And so we shall have to do more than register and more than vote; we shall have to create leaders who embody virtues we can respect, who have moral and ethical principles we can applaud with an enthusiasm that enables us to rally support for them based on confidence and trust. We will have to demand high standards and give consistent, loyal support to those who merit it.  We will have to be a reliable constituency for those who prove themselves to be committed political warriors in our behalf. When our movement has partisan political personalities whose unity with their people is unshakable and whose independence is genuine, they will be treated in white political councils with the respect those who embody such power deserve. ” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

As we profess to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr this week, we should be mindful of his words. As the leader of a movement tasked with dealing with politicians large and small, he came to become intimately familiar with human nature and the psyche of the black politician. He came to understand what made each tick and was able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Barack Obama has taken a step this week on a journey that no other African American has ever been on. It is a step leading to the precipice of ultimate power: the Presidency. We, along with the entire world, will get a chance to see what this brotha is really made of. Unlike the dashing enigma that some in the corporate media have portrayed him to be, in reality, he is nothing of the sort.  

His path to power has been eased by his gracious personality and his craven political accommodations to those of greater power. His unique positioning in the field of 2008 contenders is both calculated and largely deceptive. While Senator Obama is one of us, his candidacy is not from us. 

This boom-let of uncritical and fawning praise and publicity culminating in his announcement for President is not a creation of the black community. We actually chose Jesse Jackson. He spoke for an undiluted consensus of black political thought. He did so eloquently and forthrightly despite the enormity of his vanity and ego. In contrast, Al Sharpton’s political persona is substantially weaker and his vanity, ego, and manifold character flaws are even greater. However, the substance of his critique of the Democratic Party as an institution which takes African Americans for granted is valid. Obama, on the other hand, speaks for those to whom he is indebted.   

Dr. King was insightful when he wrote, “The majority of Negro political leaders do not ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support. Although genuinely popular leaders are now emerging, most are selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources, and inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of Negroes nurtures a healthy suspicion toward these manufactured leaders.” 

Obama is a manufactured leader who has allowed himself to be advanced by a cabal of media elites and “DLC centrist” political actors determined to choose an alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Those of us in the progressive black blogosphere have ample reasons to be suspicious of brotha Barack. While it is important to examine what a politician stands for, it is just as important to examine who stands behind them pulling the strings.

Standing foursquare behind Senator Obama is the Chicago Daley machine.  The Daley machine of old led by their father, and the Daley machine of today, have always stood for the maximization of white ethnic political power and the subjugation of minority communities to their corporate backed rule. As I’ve said before, Mayor Daley has endorsed Obama for President in a self-serving power move designed to eliminate the looming black threat against his re-election in a metropolis that long ceased to be majority white. His brotha Bill Daley, the former Gore Campaign Chairman and Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton Administration, has also come aboard ship Obama, signing on as a senior advisor.

In the Daley Machine of old, the contenders had to make a great show of coming to Chicago and kissing daddy’s ring.  During that time, he controlled the Illinois delegation of convention delegates to the Democratic National Convention. His active support was usually critical and his active efforts in 1960 led to JFK’s narrow win over Nixon.  Today, the Daley brothers exercise that power as a team.

Mayor Daley heads a Chicago political fiefdom in which he is virtually unchallenged.  He has maintained that control by buying off black elected officials with patronage and pork barrel projects and by shamelessly catering to rapacious corporate interests.  He issued his first Veto in 17 years as Mayor to prevent the City of Chicago from mandating that Wal-Mart and other big box retailers pay living wages of at least $10.00 an hour.       He did this despite an accumulation of over $78.9 billion in assets for Wal-Mart’s founding family. 

Mayor Daley’s brotha Bill Daley negotiated NAFTA on behalf of the Clinton Administration and PNTR with China.  These, and other regressive free trade packages advanced by the corporate friendly Clinton Administration facilitated the ongoing destruction of America’s manufacturing base by shipping jobs to Mexico and other developing nations better suited to paying workers poverty wages and leaving Americans unemployed.  He is now the Chicago front-man for the investment banking firm of JPMorgan. 

Obama’s vote for the Oman free trade agreement is probably the source of Bill Daley’s enthusiasm and should be a basis for progressive skepticism. Oman prohibits union organizing and is nothing more than a top down dictatorship with a record of human rights abuses. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis as he supported a strike by black sanitation workers for living wages and collective bargaining rights. It is an affront to King’s legacy and contrary to his dream to support right-wing trade agreements that fail to uphold people’s basic human right to a living wage.

Political Scientist Michael Parenti has postulated that “American capitalism represents more than just an economic system; it is an entire cultural and social order, a plutocracy — that is, a system of rule by and for the rich — for the most part.”  Now that Obama’s moderate, mealy-mouthed political manifesto has met with critical acclaim and made him a millionaire, he is acceptable to the ruling class as a colored proxy and Trojan horse for their malevolent interests.  

During the contentious debate over the nomination of dangerous black reactionary Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nations second highest and most important appellate court besides the Supreme Court itself, Obama said, “I am not somebody who subscribes to the view that because somebody is a member of a minority group they somehow have to subscribe to a particular ideology or a particular political party. I think it is wonderful that Asian Americans, Latinos, African Americans, and others are represented in all parties and across the political spectrum. When such representation exists, then those groups are less likely to be taken for granted by any political party.”  Part of that statement contains a kernel of truth but also reveals a stunning lack of insight about liberation movements and  progressive social change. Nobody tasted freedom by becoming an Uncle Tom reactionary.

None of the groups he has mentioned has been unscathed by a bald-faced economic, social, and politically directed racism meant to subjugate them under a paternalistic white hand. His lack of fortitude in filibustering the nominations of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court and Appellate Judges like Clarence Thomas Clone Janice Rogers Brown, reveal a political moderation that goes against the progressive grain of the black political consensus and a capitulation to the contemporary forces of reaction.  

This betrayal and lack of fortitude make him palatable to the teeming masses of white political activists yearning for the chance to wave their support of Obama in our faces as proof of their liberalism while the racist underpinnings of our imperialistic domestic and foreign policy remain intact.  I believe in the old adage “show and prove.”  Both Obama and the liberal white blogosphere must do copious amounts of both before they are “absolved of all sin” by me.  His run for the White House was paved by the efforts of Jesse Jackson and the black community 20 years ago. Obama has yet to show himself worthy.

While Jesse Jackson was at heart a black politician and part-time preacher in search of political legitimacy. Al Sharpton is a street hustler with a clerical collar in search of a better hustle. If that means partially representing the black political consensus by running for President while simultaneously living the high life on campaign funds solicited by GOP operatives trying to embarrass and weaken the democratic party, he seems to be O.K. with that.  That, in a nutshell, describes Reverend Al’s 2004 Presidential bid.

Al is always getting in bed with disreputable people he has no business dealing with in an unscrupulous effort to make a damn dollar.   Rhetorically however, he comes closer to being on point than most of his so-called mainstream brethren.  He sounds the right notes at the right times from an undiluted, and politically honest sheet of authentically black music. 

“This is not about a party. This is about living up to the promise of America. The promise of America says we will guarantee quality education for all children and not spend more money on metal detectors than computers in our schools.”  

“The promise of America guarantees health care for all of its citizens and doesn’t force seniors to travel to Canada to buy prescription drugs they can’t afford here at home.”   

“The promise of America provides that those who work in our health care system can afford to be hospitalized in the very beds they clean up every day.”  

“The promise of America is that government does not seek to regulate your behavior in the bedroom, but to guarantee your right to provide food in the kitchen.”  

“The issue of government is not to determine who may sleep together in the bedroom, it’s to help those that might not be eating in the kitchen.” 

“The promise of America [is] that we stand for human rights, whether it’s fighting against slavery in the Sudan, …AIDS in Lesotho; (or)… police misconduct in this country.”  

For the aforementioned reasons, I feel it necessary to sanction another run by Al Sharpton. America, especially black America, could use a sober dose of candor regarding race and its relationship to the Democratic Party.  While this falls far, far, short of an endorsement, I feel his presence necessary to articulate what Obama always fails to say.  If for no other reason, I relish the chance to see Sharpton “spank the donkey” one more time.  If he has to slap some damn rhetorical and policy sense into Barack Obama in the process, so be it.  If nothin’ else, it might keep Barack honest enough for black folks to eventually support and honor the legacy and dream of a King.

#1 The Congressional Black Caucus is falling down on the job

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Congressman Kendrick B. Meek (D-Miami) is sworn in as a Member of the 109th Congress with Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York and Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen of the Virgin Islands.  Members of the Congressional Black Caucus participated in a mock ceremony at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, January 4, 2005.

 “Where there is no vision, the people perish”-Proverbs 29:18

The Politics of Division

The Congressional Black Caucus, according to the CBC monitor, has transformed into the  “Corporate Black Caucus” , due in large part to the nefarious tentacles of the “racist and rightwing Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC was created after the Reagan years to move the Democratic Party more to the right and to do this they have unleashed the corporate hounds to payoff Black faces  to perform for them what whites cannot. ” 

We can see ample evidence of this nefarious corporate influence and lack of black unity in the glaring disparity of support for two members of the CBC attempting to move up to the U.S. Senate, an elected body called, “the greatest deliberative body in the world” that has only elected five African Americans in 216 years. The U.S. Senate is the most stunning example of the power of white privilege and social connections.   The top three richest Senators are Democrats with a combined net worth of at least $1.193 billion dollars.

Given the millionaires club atmosphere of Congress, 123 members of the House of Representatives are also millionaires, you’d think that Black members of Congress would do their part to show some love to their contemporaries tryin’ to move up the rough side of the political mountain.  Not so.

Former NAACP President and former Congressman Kwesi Mfume ran for the U.S. Senate this year as did a younger, brasher contemporary, Harold Whore, Jr.  Who do y’all think the CBC showed more love to, the one who used to lead them as Chairman, or the Corporate Whore?

You guessed it, the Whore.  Most members of the CBC vote differently than Ford on the vast range of issues, yet they still support the Charlatan in their midst. CBC members gave $36,268 to Harold Whore, Jr. Barack Obama and Charlie Rangel gave nearly $19,000 alone. 

Hall of Shame

If they were trying to treat both men equally, which Ford doesn’t deserve, the following contributors would have given to both him and Mfume.  The following gave only to Ford: Dianne Watson, Kendrick Meek, Gregory Meeks, Sanford Bishop, Emmanuel Cleaver, Alcee Hastings,  Barbara Lee, Barack Obama, Charlie Rangel and former Congressman Bill Clay whose successor, his son, told the Hill newspaper that he and his father would both support Mfume, but neither came through with enough money to show up on a disclosure report.

There are 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Barack Obama in the Senate and 42 members in the House. Nine members of the CBC gave contributions to Kweisi Mfume.  Yes, that’s right, I said Nine.  Of the $1.3 million raised by Mfume, $16,500 came from Black members of congress.  That’s about 1%. 

Mfume’s heroes

Mfume’s contributors represent a heroes and sheroes roster: Elijah Cummings, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Juanita Millender-McDonald, Chaka Fattah, Danny Davis, Corrine Brown, Mel Watt, Don Payne and Bobby Scott.  I find this list fascinating because it says so much about us as a people. 

Prominent black and white celebrities stepped up. The white creator of Good Times and the Jeffersons, Norman Lear, gave $2,100,  Black Billionaire Bob Johnson and Debra Lee, the corporate chieftains of BET, gave over $17,000 between the two of them, more than the entire CBC.  Black Publishing executives, Susan Taylor of Essence, Linda Johnson Rice of Ebony and Jet, and Earl Graves, Sr of Black Enterprise gave $19,300 between them.  Friend of Bill Clinton, Atty Vernon Jordan and Michael Jordan’s wife Juanita gave as well.

Mfume came within 3.2% of winning that primary against five white opponents who raised nearly $12.5 million against him.  He was outspent by nearly 12 to 1 and almost won. 

The Washington beltway crowd and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee led the charge against Mfume.  Mfume’s two leading white opponents Ben Cardin and Josh Rales spent over $11 million to defeat him.  Rales spent millions of his own money. Cardin raised over $373,000 from Members of Congress alone, including two Uncle Tom’s in the CBC, Alcee Hastings and Kendrick Meek.  A single white Senator, Blanche Lambert Lincoln, gave Mfume a contribution so it wouldn’t look so obvious that Senate Democrats were attempting to prevent a qualified and respected former Black Congressman from being elected. The white power structure conspired through negative press coverage and aggressive arm twisting of potential donors to damage Mfume’s candidacy. With all of that going for him, Cardin barely won the primary.

Jesse Jackson, Sr, whose son also sits in the Congressional Black Caucus gave so little to Mfume that it didn’t show up on a disclosure report, or gave him nothing at all.   I find that astounding.  I have always had great respect for Jesse.  It wasn’t too long ago that Mfume and Jackson were leading marches together.   He found time for Ned Lamont, a white Connecticut Millionaire running against Senator Joe Lieberman. So did Maxine Watersand Al Sharpton.  Lamont is not going to ultimately defeat Lieberman, so these people wasted their time and effort on a white candidate that cannot win and didn’t help a black candidate that could. 

It makes no sense that Kweisi Mfume was struggling for cash while Harold Whore, Jr is buoyed by a river of special interest cash $7.3 millon dollars greater. Similarly, I hope Barack Obama doesn’t think these Negroes are gonna help him get elected President.  Left to their own devices, they will do for him what they did for Mfume: next to nothing.

Our Black leadership is hopelessly fractured and leading in opposite directions that usually lead to the same right-wing corporate cul de sac.  They can’t even support each other based on general principle, is it any wonder that they don’t support or represent us?

Where in God’s name is the vision?   The distorted and confused amalgamation of leaders and positions is disheartening.  We are marinating in the aftermath of two Presidential Elections in which significant questions of black and brown voter suppression exist and these Black politicians can’t even get it together enough to fight that and support each other at the same time for election to the Senate, where the community has never had adequate representation.

Manning Marable teaches us that, ” Oppressed people learn strategies for survival: if they do not learn, they perish.”  If these highly educated people cannot navigate these shallow waters, how can they fight poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, Globalization and the rest of the ailments to the black diaspora?