Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thanks for a Great Semester

Thanks for a good discussion today. It is great to see such enthusiasm for ideas on the last day of the semester.

As you may know this was the first time I have taught this class. For me, that was the exciting part. I am anxious to see your comments and suggestions on the evaluation sheets for how I can improve this course. You all seemed very engaged and I got some great feedback from you during the semester.

Nommo is real. Be careful of its power when you speak randomly and without sufficient forethought. But, make sure to use it, speak the world you want, tell others about it, get them to talk about it, and you will be amazed at the creative properties of this process.

Thank you again and I hope to see you in a future class of mine.

Obama, Black Nationalism and Dreaming Blackness

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle...Image via Wikipedia


“Black power? A note about Black Nationalism, Barack Obama, and the future of black politics”

Notes by Alfred Snider

2008 presidential election is a watershed for America; a descendant of Africa has been elected president of the nation. Whether this progress is symbolic or substantive remains to be seen.

1.     It is hard for black nationalism to thrive in an era of such racial mainstream success.
2.     Conflict between group politics and deracialized campaigns.
3.     The employment of black blame
4.     Political constraints coming from the protest/protection impulse.

96% of African Americans voted for Obama.

Makes it difficult for black nationalism

Black nationalism thrives when there is continued marginalization by white power structure. Of course, one man in one office does not end marginalization, and black activists will need to work harder to keep the nationalist agenda alive.

Many say Obama’s race for the White House was race transcendent. He:
§  Avoided the use of civil right tropes
§  Got whites to vote for him because he focused on issues important to them, not just issues important to African Americans. Many successful black politicians now do this, like Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.
§  Never denies his African heritage and accepts that he is an African American, but tries to convince the public that this does not matter.
§  Race as an important issue was not featured in the campaign except for his speech about Jeremiah Wright.
§  Wright was a hangover from the previous era, not the new reality of race in America, where we can move beyond that (supposedly).  This same anger hangover exists in many whites.
§  Merged class and race issues, which of course undermines the importance of why blacks were discriminated against vs. why underclass whites are discriminated against.

In her survey of African Americans, they gave two sources of blame for racial injustices:
1.     Black blame: mistakes by the members of the community itself
2.     System blame: the system is rigged against African Americans.

Black blame can be a problem when used by Black politicians:
§  Characterization of black poor as “pathological” something is wrong with them. This, when done by Obama, carries this harmful message of irresponsibility and lends credibility to the charge.
§  Example of getting children to eat: p. 177
§  Black audience loved it.
§  Part of a long tradition of black criticism and uplift efforts.
§  Survey participants did not use black blame for distancing from other blacks.
Black blame outside the black community is different:
§  It shows that these black politicians are not “in the pocket” of the black community, which whites find comforting.
§  American tradition: when you get into office, your group will benefit.
§  Because white voters fear that, black politicians who use black blame show their ability to evaluate members of their own group using prevailing social norms, but special affiliations.
§  Any black politician who explains racial inequality using any other narrative than the need for hard work is seen as making excuses for black failure.

The protest/protection impulse.

There is an impulse to protect those members of the black community who have reached considerable academic, financial or athletic success.
Yet, this need to protect someone like Obama can undermine the need to deal with problems that still face the black community.
They may refrain from making protest demands that would call for the upheaval of a status quo that has made him the president.
Rev Wright incident was an example of this. They were angry at an attack on their most cherished institution, the black church, but did not want the incident to hurt Obama’s candidacy.
This was seen in very negative feedback given to those black voices that criticize Obama.
Perhaps in the White House he will be even more difficult for blacks to criticize.

Perhaps a black president is less able to engineer reform of a racist system than a white president?
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tea Party - A Lesson in White Privilege


What If the Tea Party Were Black?

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters descended on DC armed with AK-47s. Would they be defended as patriotic Americans? 

Photo Credit: Street Protest TV

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.
So let’s begin.
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.
Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.
Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.
Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.
Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.
Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.
Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.
Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.
Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”
Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.
In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.
And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.
Game Over.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Challenge of Jesse Jackson - Notes from Cornel West

Cornel West, keynote speaker at the Martin Lut...Image via Wikipedia

Cornel West,  “The Challenge of Jesse Jackson,” 1984

Notes and annotations by Alfred Snider

America began as a liberal capitalist nation permeated with patriarchal and racial oppression.
American liberalism is not about opposing feudal systems, as in Europe, but on creating opportunities to accumulate private property, and thus at home with the domination of African descendants and women.
America embodied ideals of bourgeois freedom (property owning, accumulate capital, speak ones mind, and equal opportunity with racist and sexist constraints.
When the white male non-property owners got the vote without having to organize a mass movement for it, they became eternally in allegiance to the existing political order.
Extraordinary American productivity owing to technology, natural resources and the importation of labor (like slaves) enabled considerable upward social mobility for many. Lower classes subscribe to the “rags to riches” theory even though they may be excluded for racial and ethnic reasons.

The American left attempts to call into question the consensus of the liberal American ideology on behalf of the disenfranchised and disadvantaged.
There are seven historical elements of the American left:
Civic republicanism
Trade unionism
Socialism (including communism and anarchism)
And Black Radicalism

Civic Republicanism: Important mostly for its presence in political discourse, the idea of an ideal democracy where all citizens participate.  Yearns for a utopian polis of equal citizens. Rarely surfaces in an organizational form, does not mobilize people to action and change.

Populism: Those who are oppressed and are a majority need to rise up to have their needs met. Examples: farmers, exploited tenant laborers, victimized workers. Focuses on centralization as an enemy and large institutions as villains. Chain stores and mail order crowd out local businesses, large corporations hurt small companies, etc. Huey Long & Father Coughlin.  But it mostly tried top use federal power to stop these other centralized forces, which were inherently in league with them. Populism was weak because it also embraced xenophobia and isolationism, and feared “the other.”

Trade Unionism: was not class-consciousness as much as craft consciousness. It tried to mobilize workers, but focused on white male workers. It focused on large top-down organizations and bought into foreign policies that reflected xenophobia, especially fear of communism. New progress is being made by a focus on women and workers of color. The left probably cannot be regenerated in America without the contribution of labor.

Communitarianism: utopian radicalism that is proud of its utopianism. American society cannot be transformed, but we can build new communities around principles we embrace. These communities naturally presupposed ideological and cultural homogeneity.

Feminism: Most impressive contemporary movement in America.  Rooted in abolitionist movement of 19th Century and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.  Biggest contribution is to show how taken for granted natural everyday affairs and language can be oppressive, in this case to women. This is deeply transformative to many.  Although divided into different camps, it is highly able to influence the future of the American left.

Socialism: Not indigenous to America, but came over as a European import. Populist socialist movements like that of Eugene V. Debs thrived, but also resisted incorporating people of color early on. It was poisoned by the existence of the Soviet Union in the minds of many.  The communist movement actually successful recruited many African Americans but still had the poison of Soviet linkage. The “rags to riches’ myth also undercut it substantially.

Black Radicalism: It has been bred in a unique black Christian culture, but is always seen as different from more European isms. Divided as integrationist, assimilationist, or nationalist has not helped.  Opportunism (scrambling for crumbs) has often been its downfall, from Douglass to Booker T. Washington to Martin Luther King.


In a time of political triumph by the right in the 1980’s, many in the left still held black radicalism at arm’s length.  This was true of the Jackson campaign. He has the first really serious black candidate for president and gained well over 20% of the vote and showed well in polls, also attracting Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and whites. But the American left kept its distance.

African Americans finally had some political success in Chicago and in NYC (Adam Clayton Powell), but their strength remained in urban areas and in gaining some seats in congress. Jackson sought to go far beyond this, to have a national campaign, yet this effort was based on his ability to broker with democratic party elites. Jackson’s attempt to build new institutions such as the Rainbow Coalition were limited, because:
1. Jackson’s charismatic style accentuates enthusiastic attraction to him but not to creating enduring structures.
2. The black supporters that are the main pillar of his movement find it difficult to engage in prolonger political organization.
3. Allegiance to the democratic party diffuses energy that could be spent on political mobilization.

Jackson was very successful in the primaries. This is because his opponents had ceded much of the liberal left positions to him in a race to the middle of the American electorate.
He focused on updating New Deal programs to a post-industrial America.
In foreign policy he rejected knee-jerk anti-communism, demanded attention to the situation in South Africa (ignored by many), he sided with third world revolutionary movements and against US support for dictatorships.
More importantly, he rejected US favoritism towards Israel and called for recognition of the needs of Arab states and specifically the Palestinian people.  Other candidates towed a pro-Israel line.
Jackson was damaged by his association with Louis Farrakhan and his unfortunate statement about NYC being “Hymietown.” These associations and policies were interpreted by the media and “Anti Israel, anti Jewish.”
The black political class would not endorse Jackson, thus ensuring that the more radical forces who did would stand out to others.

But, Jackson did create the broadest and largest political front of a Black nature since the days of Martin Luther King. His ability to harness the energies of Black Baptists was a good example of this.

The result is that although no one expected him to win, it was a coming of age for Black politics. If it could have caught on with other democrats, it could have made a huge difference and saved the waiting until Barack Obama in 2008.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jesse Jackson Speeches








Short Biography of Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson
Also known as: Jesse Louis Jackson, Jesse L. Jackson, Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson
Birth: October 8, 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina, United States
Nationality: American
Ethnicity: African American
Occupation: civil rights leader, politician, minister (religion)
Source: Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 27. Edited by Ashyia Henderson. Gale Group, 2001.


Jesse Jackson has firmly established himself as one of the most dynamic forces for social and political action in both the national and international arenas. He has campaigned for economic justice, human rights, world peace, and the United States presidency. An inspirational speaker, committed activist, and tireless and confident campaigner, Jackson began his career as a foot soldier in the Civil Rights movement of the 196Os and has developed into a leader of millions of Americans--black and white--a "rainbow coalition" of the nation's dispossessed and disenfranchised.
Jackson has drawn upon his own early experience in Greenville, South Carolina, to relate to his constituency. He was born on October 8, 1941, to a seventeen-year-old unwed high school student and her older, comfortably middle-class neighbor, a married man. Jackson's ancestry includes black slaves, a Cherokee, and a white plantation owner. Although the young Jackson was quite aware of poverty and illegitimacy, his mother, grandmother, and stepfather were always able to attend to family needs. Even so, his knowledge of social inequities and of his more privileged half brothers affected him. As Barbara Reynolds wrote in her biography Jesse Jackson: America's David: "Every teacher Jesse came into contact with took note of his insecurities, masked by a stoic sense of superiority. They never perceived him as brilliant, but rather each saw him as a charmer, a spirited, fierce competitor with an almost uncanny drive to prove himself by always winning, always being number one in everything." At Sterling High School Jackson was elected president of his class, the honor society, and the student council, was named state officer of the Future Teachers of America, finished tenth in his class, and lettered in football, basketball, and baseball.
In 1959 Jackson left the South to attend the University of Illinois on an athletic scholarship. During his first year, however, he became dissatisfied with his treatment on campus and on the gridiron and decided to transfer to Greensboro's North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, a predominantly black institution. There he was quarterback, honor student, fraternity officer, and president of the student body. After receiving his B.A. in sociology he accepted a Rockefeller grant to attend the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he planned to train for the ministry. Jackson was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968, though he had not finished his course work at CTS, having instead left in 1966 to commit himself full-time to the Civil Rights movement.
Jackson first became involved in the Civil Rights movement while a student at North Carolina A&T. There he joined the Greensboro chapter of the Council on Racial Equality (CORE), an organization that had led early sit-ins to protest segregated lunch counters. In 1963 Jackson organized numerous marches, sit-ins, and mass arrests to press for the desegregation of local restaurants and theaters. His leadership in these events earned him recognition within the regional movement; he was chosen president of the North Carolina Intercollegiate Council on Human Rights, field director of CORE's southeastern operations, and in 1964 served as delegate to the Young Democrats National Convention. In Chicago in 1965 Jackson was a volunteer for the Coordinating Committee of Community Organizations and organized regular meetings of local black ministers and the faculty of the Chicago Theological Seminary.

Joined King and the SCLC in 1965

Jackson joined Martin Luther King, Jr., and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1965 during demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, pushing for expanded voting rights for blacks. When the SCLC launched the Chicago Freedom movement in 1966, Jackson was there to put his knowledge of the city and contacts within the black community to work for King. He organized local ministers to support the movement, marched through all-white neighborhoods to push for open housing, and began work on the SCLC's economic program, Operation Breadbasket. Drawing from successful campaigns in other cities, Operation Breadbasket organized the black community to use selective buying and boycotts to support black manufacturers and retailers and to pressure white-owned businesses to stock more of their products and hire more black workers. Jackson served as Operation Breadbasket's Chicago coordinator for one year and was then named its national director. Under Jackson's leadership the Chicago group won concessions from local dairies and supermarkets to hire more blacks and stock more products from black businesses. It encouraged deposits from businesses and the government for black-owned banks and organized a Black Christmas and a Black Expo to promote black-owned manufacturers.
In addition to his SCLC activities, Jackson led a number of other campaigns in his adopted home city and state. In 1969 and 1970 he gathered Illinois's malnourished and led them on a march to the state capital to raise consciousness of hunger. He led a similar event in Chicago. The state responded by increasing funding to school lunch programs, but Mayor Richard Daley's machine in Chicago was less cooperative. The mayor's power and resistance to change, as well as an Illinois law that raised difficult barriers to independent candidates, prompted Jackson to run for mayor of Chicago in 1971. He was not successful; some believe, however, that his efforts laid the foundation for Harold Washington's successful bid to become Chicago's first black mayor in 1983.
In 1971 Jackson resigned from the SCLC to found his own organization, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH). Because of his aggressive, impatient, and commanding personality, Jackson had long irritated SCLC leadership; and, in the three and a half years after King's assassination, he had offended others with his public antics to secure a role as leader of the Civil Rights movement and his feuds with Ralph D. Abernathy, King's successor as president of the SCLC, over leadership, policy, and funding.
Through PUSH Jackson continued to pursue the economic objectives of Operation Breadbasket and expand into areas of social and political development for blacks in Chicago and across the nation. The 197Os saw direct action campaigns, weekly radio broadcasts, and awards through which Jackson protected black homeowners, workers, and businesses, and honored prominent blacks in the U.S. and abroad. He also promoted education through
PUSH-Excel, a spin-off program that focused on keeping inner-city youths in school and providing them with job placement.

Ran for President

Jackson launched his first campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. His appeals for social programs, voting rights, and affirmative action for those neglected by Reaganomics earned him strong showings in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. He received 3.5 million votes, enough to secure a measure of power and respect at the Democratic convention.
Jackson's 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination was characterized by more organization and funding than his previous attempt. With the experience he gained from 1984 and new resources, Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition surprised the media and the political pundits. Initially written off as unelectable, Jackson emerged in the primary/caucus season as a serious contender for the nomination. He attracted over 6.9 million votes--from urban blacks and Hispanics, poor rural whites, farmers and factory workers, feminists and homosexuals, and from white progressives wanting to be part of a historic change. In his platform he called for homes for the homeless, comparable worth and day care for working women, a higher minimum wage, a commitment to the family farm, and an all-out war on drugs. "When we form a great quilt of unity and common ground" he told delegates at the party convention on July 19, 1988, "we'll have the power to bring about health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our nation.
After early respectable losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, he won five southern states on Super Tuesday, March 8, 1988. On March 12 he won the caucus in his birth state of South Carolina and three days later finished second in his home state of Illinois. On March 26, 1988 Jackson stunned Dukakis and the rest of the nation in the Michigan caucus: Having won that northern industrial state with 55 percent of the vote, Jackson became the Democratic front-runner. Dukakis later recaptured the lead and the eventual nomination with strong showings in the second half of the primary season.
Jackson then exercised the power of his second-place finish to force his consideration as a vice-presidential running mate and to influence the nature of the Democratic Convention and the issues included on its platform. Although Jackson was not chosen as the vice-presidential running mate, he had succeeded in bringing Americans of all colors to consider a black man for the presidency and vice-presidency.
After the 1988 elections Jackson moved his home from Chicago to Washington, D.C. There he has campaigned against homelessness in the nation's capital. He was considered one of the top contenders to take over as the capital's mayor after Marion Berry was forced out of office by a drug scandal, but Jackson refused to run. Instead, he announced in July of 1990 that he would seek election as the District of Columbia's "statehood senator," a position recently established by the city government to push Congress to grant statehood to the district. He was elected in November and sworn into office in January of 1991. Jackson did not seek re-election after his six-year term as statehood senator ended in 1996, although he continued to advocate statehood for the nation's capital.

From D.C. to Wall Street

In 1997, Jackson shifted his focus from the nation's political capital to its financial capital. Seeing a need for a stronger minority presence on New York's Wall Street, Jackson founded the Wall Street Project. The organization lobbied companies to provide more business and employment opportunities for minorities. The Wall Street Project promoted conscientiousness among African American stockholders who may not realize the influence that they have as shareholders. As Jackson explained to Black Enterprise, "When you go into a meeting as a shareholder, you now have the right to the floor. Now you can walk into a board meeting and say 'Mr. Chairman, I'd like to see a list of our Board of Directors...a list of our employees so we can see where they fit into this company horizontally and vertically." A stockholder has the power to promote greater employment and business opportunities for African Americans.
Prior to founding the Wall Street Project, Jackson's strategy for influencing corporate behavior had been to organize protests. However, a pivotal event occurred in 1996 which helped Jackson decide to change his tactics. When charges had surfaced that Texaco employees had made racist comments, Jackson called New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, asking him to join him in picketing Texaco. McCall told Black Enterprise that he responded, "'Jesse, when you own a million shares you don't have to picket.'" Because McCall controlled New York state's investments, he had a great deal of influence with the companies the state had invested in.
With the Wall Street Project, Jackson hopes to give minorities the same influence McCall had with Texaco. Jackson told Black Enterprise. "We empower politically with our vote. Now we must empower economically with our dollar." But not just anyone can vote. Only stockholders have a real say in corporate operations. The purchase of just ten shares of stock, Jackson said, provides a shareholder with enough leverage to promote business opportunities for African Americans. As the stock's value increases, so too does the amount of influence a shareholder has. Jackson told Ebony, "So we have gone from sharecroppers to shareholders. We say to corporate America: We don't want to be just consumers and workers, but investors and partners."

Diplomatic Efforts

Throughout his career as a political and social activist, Jackson has also been a prominent figure in international diplomacy. In 1979 he traveled to South Africa to speak out against apartheid and to the Middle East to try to establish relations between Israel and the Palestinians. In January of 1984 he returned to the Middle East to negotiate the release of Lieutenant Robert Goodman, a black Navy pilot who had been shot down and taken hostage in the region. Later that year he traveled to Cuba to negotiate the release of several political prisoners held there and to Central America, where he spoke out for regional peace. In 1990 Jackson was the first American to bring hostages out of Iraq and Kuwait.
When three U.S. soldiers serving as part of NATO's forces in Yugoslavia were captured by the Yugoslav army in March of 1999, Jackson, along with an interfaith delegation, embarked on a diplomatic mission to negotiate their release. U.S. national security advisor Sandy Berger warned Jackson, as a private citizen, he did not have the authority to offer Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic any concessions on behalf of the United States. Berger also warned that Jackson's safety could not be guaranteed. Despite these warnings, Jackson, confident that he could persuade Milsocovic to release the prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, set off on his diplomatic mission. Jackson's confidence was not unfounded and when Jackson returned it was with the three soldiers at his side. The U.S. Senate recognized Jackson's efforts with a commendation.
In May of 1999, Jackson traveled to war-torn Sierra Leone, where he negotiated a cease-fire agreement between Tejan Kabbah, the country's president, and rebel Foday Sankoh. Jackson also negotiated for the release of more than two thousand prisoners of war. One year later, he returned to Sierra Leone to assist once more in the country's peace process.

Sought Answers in Suspicious Hanging Death

When teenager Raynard Johnson was found hanging by a belt from the pecan tree in front of his home in Kokomo Mississippi in 2000, suspicions arose immediately that his death may have been a lynching. Although medical examiners found no evidence of struggle, Johnson's parents could not believe that their son had committed suicide. Jackson did not believe the boy's death was a suicide either. He told Jet, "He had just gotten a computer. He was outgoing. He was in the Top 5 percentile on his test scores. He was very bright....A lot of signs point upwards. He was excited about life."
Jackson's Rainbow Coalition/PUSH launched its own investigation into Johnson's death. Jackson's investigators identified several people who could have been involved in the teenager's death and said that someone may have been angered by Johnson's friendship with two white girls. Authorities, however, said that Johnson's girlfriend had broken up with him shortly before his death and contended that all the evidence was consistent with suicide.
In 2000, Jackson, along with his son, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., published It's About the Money!: How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams! The book is a how-to guide for financial independence and security. Jackson explained to Mother Jones that economic self-sufficiency is a vital base for the struggle for freedom. "It costs to send children to college," Jackson said. "It costs to have health insurance." Yet, in a culture of credit card debt, so many Americans do not understand basic economics. With his book, Jackson hoped to change that.

Never Far From Controversy

Jackson has stirred both admiration and criticism. His behavior in the hours immediately following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., was a subject of controversy: Jackson claimed that he had held the dying leader, heard his last words, and had his shirt stained by King's blood. Other SCLC officers present at the murder have disputed those claims. As an organizer Jackson often overstepped his authority in SCLC matters and violated organization policy in a number of his Chicago campaigns. His economic boycotts were criticized by some businessmen as extortion and by some reformers for lacking follow-through. The management of PUSH's people and finances were the subject of close scrutiny and the freewheeling nature of the organization was regularly called into question. Jackson offended some Americans by negotiating with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), Fidel Castro, and the Marxist Sandinista govenrment of Nicaragua. Jackson's connection with the Black Muslim leader and outspoken anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, as well as the candidate's reference to New York City as "Hymietown", outraged Jews.
However, the same driving ambition to achieve success that is the root of Jackson's weaknesses is also the source of his strength. He is a tireless worker who is fiercely committed to his causes, even when bedridden--Jackson suffers from sickle-cell trait. He is an intelligent, creative, and charismatic leader, and an inspirational speaker capable of archiving numerous details, then using them to encapsulate his agenda along with the aspirations of many Americans. He has a flair for the dramatic that infuses an increasingly tedious political process with life. And finally, Jackson acts while others talk of action. He has become the leading spokesman for Americans forgotten by the power brokers of the political process, especially blacks. In a 1996 speech, Jackson said, "If you go along and get along, you're a coward. Only by principled engagement can you be a force for change and hope." Jackson's life has been one of principled engagement.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nommo in "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry"

Russell Simmons at Emory UniversityImage via Wikipedia
Make sure to do the reading at 
It is UVM password protected.

From Wikipedia: 

Def Poetry, also known as Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry or Def Poetry Jam, which was co-founded by Bruce George, Danny Simmons and Deborah Pointer, is an HBO television series produced by hip-hop music entrepreneur Russell Simmons. The series presents performances by established spoken word poets, as well as up-and-coming ones. Well-known actors and musicians will often surprise the audience by showing up to recite their own original poems. The show is hosted by Mos Def. Def Poetry is a spin-off of Def Comedy Jam. As he did on Def Comedy, Simmons appears at the end of every episode to thank the audience.
Though technically not a poetry slam, Def Poetry has become heavily associated with the poetry slam movement, and utilizes many of poetry slam's best known poets, including National Poetry Slam champions such as Beau Sia, Taylor Mali, Big Poppa E, Mayda del Valle, Mike Mcgee, Alix Olson and Rives, among others. Even poets who are critical of the poetry slam, such as John S. Hall, have acknowledged slam's influence on the show. In a 2005 interview, Hall was quoted as saying,
It's true that I was on Def Poetry even though I've never slammed. I'm probably the only person to be on there who hasn't slammed. And I think most people on Def Poetry have won slams or done well in slams. And, all of them, except the special guest stars, the celebrities, are writing slam poems and performing slam poems on Def Poetry, so to me, Def Poetry is still extremely slam-informed, and I think it will probably always be. What they say about Def Poetry is that it wants to bring an urban feel. And to me, they don't mean black or Latino, or non-white. What they really mean is, a rhythm of poetry that comes out of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, that came out of the slams.[1]
In a 2005 interview, Bob Holman, who founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe's poetry slam and appeared on Season 4 of the show, applauded Def Poetry, noting,
I'm real happy poetry is on television. My hat is off to Russell Simmons, who has found a way to get poems on HBO in a way that feeds his own business. It gives him the back credentials for his hip-hop label, and at the same time he's magnanimous towards the art of poetry, giving us a place like that. It's a great, great moment, just as Def Poetry Jam on Broadway was a great moment, too. Not since Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf has a poem like that been on the stage.[2]
In November 2002, a live stage production, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam opened on Broadway. The show feauted poets Jessica Care Moore, Beau Sia, Suheir Hammad, Staceyann Chin, Lemon, Mayda del Valle, Georgia Me, Black Ice, Poetri and Steve Coleman. The show ran on Broadway until May 2003, and won a 2003 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event.[3]. The show subsequently toured both nationally and internationally.
Def Poetry premiered on HBO in 2002 and the latest season to air (Season 6) premiered in February 2007. As of summer 2008, there has been no word about the possibility of a Season 7. Starting in 2008, producers of Def Poetry (including Simmons, Stan Lathan, and Kamilah Forbes) developed and broadcast the HBO poetry show Brave New Voices, which is stylistically similar to Def Poetry, with teenage poets competing and backstage scenes.[4]

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

King Speeches & News

Martin Luther King Memorial Project

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 29:  A model of the plan...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
The month of April marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are commemorating the life and work of Dr. King by creating a memorial in our nation's capital. The Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial will honor his life and contributions to the world through non violent social change. I'm reaching out to ask if you and your readers would help spread the word by posting about this wonderful project on The Reggae Lunch.

I've put together this blogger-friendly micro-site to help get the message out - there are videos, photos, banners, and even a web toolbar that, when used, donates money to the creation of the memorial:

After years of fund raising, the memorial is now $14 million away from its $120 million goal. This will be more than a monument to a great humanitarian, the National Memorial will be a place for visitors from around the world to share the spirit of love, freedom, and peace. If you are able to post or tweet about this please let me know so I can share it with the team. If you have any questions please pop me an email. And if you are able to help, thank you so much.


Lowell Dempsey,
Twitter @mlkmemorial

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity"
--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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MLK - "I Have a Dream"


I Have a Dream Speech

Full text (transcribed from audio)
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹
martin luther king I have a dream speech
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."²
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
luther king I have a dream speech
                And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
                Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
                Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of
                Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
                Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
                But not only that:
                Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
                Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
                Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!³

¹ Amos 5:24 (rendered precisely in The American Standard Version of the Holy Bible)
² Isaiah 40:4-5 (King James Version of the Holy Bible). Quotation marks are excluded from part of this moment in the text because King's rendering of Isaiah 40:4 does not precisely follow the KJV version from which he quotes (e.g., "hill" and "mountain" are reversed in the KJV). King's rendering of Isaiah 40:5, however, is precisely quoted from the KJV.

Martin Luther King Jr. Short Biography

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern.Image via Wikipedia

Biography of Martin Luther King Jr.:
One of the world's best known advocates of non-violent social change strategies, Martin Luther King, Jr., synthesized ideas drawn from many different cultural traditions. Born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, King's roots were in the African-American Baptist church. He was the grandson of the Rev. A. D. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church and a founder of Atlanta's NAACP chapter, and the son of Martin Luther King, Sr., who succeeded Williams as Ebenezer's pastor and also became a civil rights leader. Although, from an early age, King resented religious emotionalism and questioned literal interpretations of scripture, he nevertheless greatly admired black social gospel proponents such as his father who saw the church as a instrument for improving the lives of African Americans. Morehouse College president Benjamin Mays and other proponents of Christian social activism influenced King's decision after his junior year at Morehouse to become a minister and thereby serve society. His continued skepticism, however, shaped his subsequent theological studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, and at Boston University, where he received a doctorate in systematic theology in 1955. Rejecting offers for academic positions, King decided while completing his Ph. D. requirements to return to the South and accepted the pastorate of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

On December 5, 1955, five days after Montgomery civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to obey the city's rules mandating segregation on buses, black residents launched a bus boycott and elected King as president of the newly-formed Montgomery Improvement Association. As the boycott continued during 1956, King gained national prominence as a result of his exceptional oratorical skills and personal courage. His house was bombed and he was convicted along with other boycott leaders on charges of conspiring to interfere with the bus company's operations. Despite these attempts to suppress the movement, Montgomery bus were desegregated in December, 1956, after the United States Supreme Court declared Alabama's segregation laws unconstitutional.
In 1957, seeking to build upon the success of the Montgomery boycott movement, King and other southern black ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As SCLC's president, King emphasized the goal of black voting rights when he spoke at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. During 1958, he published his first book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. The following year, he toured India, increased his understanding of Gandhian non-violent strategies. At the end of 1959, he resigned from Dexter and returned to Atlanta where the SCLC headquarters was located and where he also could assist his father as pastor of Ebenezer.
Although increasingly portrayed as the pre-eminent black spokesperson, King did not mobilize mass protest activity during the first five years after the Montgomery boycott ended. While King moved cautiously, southern black college students took the initiative, launching a wave of sit-in protests during the winter and spring of 1960. King sympathized with the student movement and spoke at the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April 1960, but he soon became the target of criticisms from SNCC activists determined to assert their independence. Even King's decision in October, 1960, to join a student sit-in in Atlanta did not allay the tensions, although presidential candidate John F. Kennedy's sympathetic telephone call to King's wife, Coretta Scott King, helped attract crucial black support for Kennedy's successful campaign. The 1961 "Freedom Rides," which sought to integrate southern transportation facilities, demonstrated that neither King nor Kennedy could control the expanding protest movement spearheaded by students. Conflicts between King and younger militants were also evident when both SCLC and SNCC assisted the Albany (Georgia) Movement's campaign of mass protests during December of 1961 and the summer of 1962.
After achieving few of his objectives in Albany, King recognized the need to organize a successful protest campaign free of conflicts with SNCC. During the spring of 1963, he and his staff guided mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, where local white police officials were known from their anti-black attitudes. Clashes between black demonstrators and police using police dogs and fire hoses generated newspaper headlines through the world. In June, President Kennedy reacted to the Birmingham protests and the obstinacy of segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace by agreed to submit broad civil rights legislation to Congress (which eventually passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Subsequent mass demonstrations in many communities culminated in a march on August 28, 1963, that attracted more than 250,000 protesters to Washington, D. C. Addressing the marchers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" oration.
During the year following the March, King's renown grew as he became Time magazine's Man of the Year and, in December 1964, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite fame and accolades, however, King faced many challenges to his leadership. Malcolm X's (1927-1965) message of self-defense and black nationalism expressed the discontent and anger of northern, urban blacks more effectively than did King's moderation. During the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, King and his lieutenants were able to keep intra-movement conflicts sufficiently under control to bring about passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but while participating in a 1966 march through Mississippi, King encountered strong criticism from "Black Power" proponent Stokely Carmichael. Shortly afterward white counter-protesters in the Chicago area physically assaulted King in the Chicago area during an unsuccessful effort to transfer non-violent protest techniques to the urban North. Despite these leadership conflicts, King remained committed to the use of non-violent techniques. Early in 1968, he initiated a Poor Peoples campaign designed to confront economic problems that had not been addressed by early civil rights reforms.
King's effectiveness in achieving his objectives was limited not merely by divisions among blacks, however, but also by the increasing resistance he encountered from national political leaders. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's already extensive efforts to undermine King's leadership were intensified during 1967 as urban racial violence escalated and King criticized American intervention in the Vietnam war. King had lost the support of many white liberals, and his relations with the Lyndon Johnson administration were at a low point when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while seeking to assist a garbage workers' strike in Memphis. After his death, King remained a controversial symbol of the African-American civil rights struggle, revered by many for his martyrdom on behalf of non-violence and condemned by others for his militancy and insurgent views.
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