Nikki Tinker, Corporate Mammy

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Stunningly beautiful, flawlessly dressed, seemingly cosmopolitan and well educated, Pinnacle Airlines Attorney Nikki Tinker looks nothing like the plantation throwback and sellout that she is.

Yes, Children, she ain’t nothin’ but a corporate mammy and Trojan horse for white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

A protégé of Harold Ford, Jr, Tinker is an agent of the Memphis corporate power structure and has been running behind her corporate slave master, Phil Trenary, CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, like a 21st century Mammy.

The mammy archetype is such a powerful symbol of black subjugation. For some, it is soothing, and for others, it enrages. I’m one of the latter. For me, the mammy stereotype is evocative of a particular Memphis twist to the racist mammy image, and is so appropriate to a discussion of the impending primary challenge Tinker is mounting to freshman Congressman Steve Cohen.

  

During the forties, Memphis blacks continued chafing under the dictatorial rule of E.H. “Ed” Crump, the local political boss who ruled both Memphis and Tennessee for over forty years.

Crump ran a sophisticated operation in which his operatives paid the poll taxes of African Americans and he voted them for his slate of candidates. Crump supported white supremacy and never backed a black candidate. For years, most could be bought off with copious amounts of walking around money, beer and barbeque.

Others needed something more and sometimes got it as Jim Crow weakened. G. Wayne Dowdy penned an article in the Journal of Negro History entitled “The White Rose Mammy: Racial Culture and Politics in World War II Memphis.” He wrote, “…forty years of Crump rule allowed blacks access to the political process through him or his subordinates. Better schools, housing and city employment were results of this alliance between white and black. To be sure, the relationship was at best an unequal one, leaving most African Americans with little protection from the overall practice of white supremacy. Indeed, when individual blacks challenged Crump and the local Democratic Party, retribution followed.”

Population changes as a result of the war swelled the black population to 41% and racial tensions increased and dissent from the black community followed. Dowdy takes up the story, “As this unrest was spreading, the White Rose Laundry Cleaners erected a mechanical sign on Linden Avenue, which was not very far from prominent Peabody Avenue where Mayor Chandler and Mr. Crump both lived. The sign depicted an African American woman, dressed in traditional mammy garb, bending over a wash tub.”

“Founded by Jewish immigrant Henry Klyce in 1928, the White Rose Laundry was representative of the economic importance of the local Jewish community. Nominally a minority, the Jews of Memphis had almost completely assimilated into the prevailing white southern culture. Several Jews even held important posts within the Crump organization. The depiction was apparently done in a humorous fashion, with the woman bending over and revealing her undergarments. Many blacks saw little humor in this and instead were angered.”

African Americans protested and wrote Mayor Chandler, “The advertisement represents a complete effrontery to Negro people, in its subtle although effective ridicule of the race.” Chandler intervened on behalf of the offended African American community and asked the owners of the White Rose Laundry to take down the offending mammy sign. While it is unknown the extent of Boss Crump’s involvement in this case, what is known is that nothing of consequence happened in Memphis without his consent and the sign came down, although when is not remembered.

Today, what should offend the black community is the Trojan-horse candidacy of Nikki Tinker, a twenty-first century white rose mammy, and the machinations of her plantation puppet master, Phil Trenary. Her $100,000 haul at the end of the last fundraising quarter has proven that she’s still as serious a contender as she was in 2006, when she raised over $577,000. The Corporate Mammy’s candidacy is an affront to the black community, fueled as it is by the corporate friends and associates of her plantation puppet master, and is inimical to our social, political, and economic interests in Memphis. If black folk ain’t careful, they’ll empower another Boss Crump in the form of a present day corporate executive, or they will continue to empower the slightly less objectionable Steve Cohen, a man who has coveted this seat for years and who ran for it and lost to Harold Ford, Jr back in 1996.

It used to be different. Proud black women like Ida B. Wells and Maxine Smith, a civil rights crusader, school board member, and community elder, showed the young how its supposed to be done. They used whatever community resources they had to work on behalf of the community and to hold the white power structure to account. Today’s black politicians worship at the altar of the corporate power structure and like American Express, don’t leave home without it.

Campaign receipts and news stories to date reveal Tinker to be a Trojan horse candidate willing to pander to homophobia in the black ministerial community. The names of prominent black homophobes like Rev. LaSimba Gray, a supporter of last year’s “independent” candidacy of Jake Ford, are littered throughout her campaign report. It won’t work with bloggers like Thaddeus Matthews and me willing to spread the word.

Steve Cohen

More progressive than either Ford, Jr or Tinker, Cohen’s motives in running for this seat aren’t as pure as he claims. He won this seat because of divisions in the black community and a slate of too many black candidates. Only in Congress for nine months, it hasn’t taken him long to travel to Israel and cavort with the most extreme right-wing political actors in that country-the same people who brought last summer’s war with Lebanon that was roundly condemned by human rights groups. Nobody was blameless during that war-Hezbollah was not, but like a fight among children, somebody started it. Israel started the conflict last summer with cluster munitions supplied by the United States.

While a strong opponent of the Iraq War, Cohen has said nothing that I can find about the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions by Israel to kill innocent civilians in Lebanon. That war was an abrogation of the international rules of war and a stench in the nostrils of God. What is needed in Memphis is a real progressive candidate willing to stand up and fight all forms of injustice. Neither the Corporate Mammy nor Cohen fit the bill. However, in the absence of a true progressive, Cohen will have to do until the real thing comes along.

 

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Bishop Weeks Indicted by Fulton County Grand Jury

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Hat Tip: By D. Aileen Dodd, John Hollis, Atlanta Journal Constitution 

Apparently it’s going to take more than blaming the devil to get Bishop Thomas Weeks off the hook with the authorities.

A Fulton County grand jury indicted the husband of national evangelist Juanita Bynum for what Bynum said was an attack on her in the parking lot of an Atlanta hotel.

Weeks faces one count of aggravated assault, one count of terroristic threats and two counts of simple battery in connection with the Aug. 22 incident at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel.

Weeks fled the scene before police arrived, but later told members of his congregation the devil had been responsible for his actions.

The charges against him carry a maximum possible sentence of 27 years.

Weeks’ church was also facing possible eviction before the alleged attack.

According to police and court records, Weeks, 41, was struggling to pay the bills since he and Bynum separated three months ago.

Weeks was evicted from his home in Duluth in late June. And he was close to losing the church he built with his wife.

An attorney representing the landlord for Global Destiny Church in Duluth said Friday that Weeks had received several notices that he was in violation of his lease agreement for the church for nonpayment of funds. GrimesSquare Executive Inc. proceeded with an eviction lawsuit when the matter was not resolved within its timeline.

“I wrote the letter to comply with the law,” said Stephanie Friese, attorney for GrimeSquare Executive. “I am sure they did others.”

According to court records, Friese backed up the threat of eviction on Aug. 23. She filed a lawsuit against Weeks in Gwinnett County Civil Court that started eviction proceedings “for the non-payment of rent,” Friese said.

Two days later, Weeks was facing litigation again — for allegedly beating his wife after they met at the Concourse Renaissance Hotel in Atlanta to discuss what family has described as “personal business.”

Friese, the attorney for the landlord, called the incident “coincidental.”

Weeks turned himself in to police last Friday at the Fulton County Courthouse and was released on a $40,000 bond. He was charged with two felonies — aggravated assault for allegedly beating, choking and stomping Bynum and making terrorist threats for threatening to kill her, police said.

Bynum’s publicist did not have a comment early Friday.

Weeks could not be reached for comment. However, his attorney, Ed Garland, said he is not aware of any money problems Weeks may be having.

“I have not concerned myself with his financial status,” Garland said.

Garland said Weeks and Bynum discussed many things the night of the alleged incident. He said he did not know about a possible eviction from the church.

“They had been meeting a couple of hours discussing everything about their relationship,” he said. “There was a huge number of things being talked about.”

An out-of-court deal was reached Friday to stop the eviction proceedings against Global Destiny, Friese said.

“This morning the parties reached an agreement,” he said. “The settlement document has already been signed.”

Friese would not discuss whether GrimeSquare Executive received full payment for the church’s rent and other fees under the lease or whether Weeks was put on a payment plan. The bishop continued to have church services there. The church is located at 4830 Rivergreen Parkway in Duluth.

“If he complies with the terms of the settlement, he will be able to remain in possession,” she said.

Juanita Bynum’s ministry at a crossroads

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 Hat Tip: By Errin Haynes, Associated Press

Juanita Bynum is known and admired by thousands as a fiery evangelist whose no-nonsense, lead-by-less-than-perfect-example message of self-improvement was seemingly illustrated by her fairy-tale marriage to a man who also is a widely known minister.

The romance, which included a million-dollar wedding, became a nightmare last week when Thomas W. Weeks III was charged with choking his wife, pushing her to the ground in a hotel parking lot and stomping on her.

Her example, of living one’s life as an empowered Christian single woman-turned-spouse, now shifts to spouse-turned-survivor.

“The very thing she’s been preaching and proclaiming has now blown up in her own life,” said Duke University theology professor J. Kameron Carter. “She becomes Exhibit A for her own message.”

Since their marriage in an elaborate ceremony in 2002, Bynum and Weeks had both worked out of Global Destiny Church, but had their own independent and successful ministries, attracting tens of thousands to their conferences and selling thousands of books and CDs. She is the star preacher in the marriage, with her successful career as a media personality, gospel singer, author and playwright.

They had become estranged, and on Aug. 22 they met at a hotel to try to reconcile their differences. Within hours, police were called to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, where they found Bynum with bruises. According to the police report, she told officers Weeks “choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her … until a bellman pulled him off of her.”

Two days later, Weeks turned himself in to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. He was released on $40,000 bail with the condition that he have no contact with his wife or her sister. On Friday, he was indicted on charges of aggravated assault and making terroristic threats.

Weeks’ attorney, Ed Garland, didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

A request to speak with Bynum through her publicist was declined.

Bynum’s MySpace page has a message for her followers: “I am currently recovering from all of my injuries and resting well. There are so many great things happening for me in my future, and so much to look forward to concerning my destiny, this too shall pass. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:25 ‘Let your eyes look right on with fixed purpose and let your gaze be straight before you.'”

Bynum, a former hairdresser and flight attendant, gained wide attention after she preached her breakout sermon, “No More Sheets,” at a Christian singles event in 1998 about breaking free of sexual promiscuity. An audience of thousands applauded her raw, no-nonsense delivery, peppered with first-person accounts of her struggle with her spirituality and secular ways.

“I find it very difficult to listen to anybody preach to me about being single when they got a pair of thighs in their bed every night … telling me to ‘Hold on,'” Bynum roared. “I wanna hear ‘Hold on’ from somebody who’s really holding on! I wanna hear ‘Hold on’ from somebody who knows about struggle!”

She admonished the women in the audience to improve themselves before seeking husbands.

“We ain’t got nothing,” she told them. “What are you bringing to the table? God is calling you to accountability today! Get yourself together!”

Lauren Aqeel was 10 years old when she saw Bynum’s sermon and said it had a powerful effect on her.

“At the time, there were not many female preachers I had been exposed to,” said Aqeel, now 18, who added that she felt the call to preach a few years later. “She has been a mentor from afar to me.”

Pulpit power couples like Bynum and Weeks lead several successful black churches, with their marriages prominently factored into their ministries and serving as an example to their congregations. Often, the wives also run popular women’s ministries that extol the virtues of being a good Christian woman, spouse and parent.

These couples include Creflo and Taffi Dollar, who head World Changers Church International, based in College Park; Bishop T.D. Jakes and his wife, Serita, leaders of The Potter’s House, based in Dallas; and Bishop Eddie Long and his wife, Vanessa, who are the faces of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia.

But for Bynum and Weeks, the allegation of domestic violence could have meaning beyond their marriage.

“For all of the strides that have been made to overcome the male dominance that is associated with fundamental Christian expression, this throws light on the ways in which women have been overshadowed in problematic and troublesome ways in the charismatic movement,” Carter said.

At a forum Thursday at Spelman College, a historically black women’s college in Atlanta, many of the young women in the audience said they were shocked and saddened to hear of the alleged attack on Bynum.

“It just hit me like a wake-up call, that even the strongest can be victims,” said sophomore Elizabeth Alexander. “When he was hitting her, her husband had no respect for her role.”

Alexander said she sought the opinion of her own pastor, who is male, expecting him to condemn Weeks’ actions. Instead, he responded with scriptures, and said nothing of domestic violence being wrong.

“I was thinking ‘This is my spiritual leader. If I’m abused, what do you do for me?'”

Support for Weeks has been strong on his MySpace page. One message posted Aug. 28 reads: “Bishop Weeks, don’t be discouraged, but be encouraged. Stand firm and know that the Lord is mighty in battle.”

Kera Street, 20, said she is disturbed by such comments.

“She is a victim,” Street said. “It can’t be supported or condoned by the church.”

In an Aug. 31 e-mail to The Associated Press, Jakes said it is time for the faith community to come out of shock over the Bynum-Weeks controversy.

“Knowing the Bible may make you a strong Christian or a great speaker but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the only resource we can draw from or work with to help those in our pews who suffer in silence,” Jakes wrote. “Prayer is a good starting point but this is a problem where wise and fair action steps are needed.”

Aqeel said the incident brings Bynum closer to her followers.

“It got a point where you didn’t see her past anymore,” Aqeel said. “You were seeing a polished, well-groomed, woman of God. But now you see she’s still a work in progress. That’s going to create a deeper audience for her.”

Carter said it’s impossible to predict how Bynum’s ministry will rebound, but he said it’s possible she’ll resume with little loss.

“This in no way undermines her significance. If anything, it underscores the importance of that aspect of her message — the need for healthy relationships. It underscores that no preacher is bigger than their own message.”

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