Thursday, November 28, 2013

American Holocaust

The banner at the top of this blog says that it's about "race." It is. But more particularly, it's about White Supremacy. White Supremacy is an equal opportunity oppressor. It is not a person, even a crazy person. It is a system. An ideology. A paradigm committed to the premise that "White" people (whatever that means) are special. Are better. Are above the law. Any law. In any country. In history.

White Supremacy oppresses any person of color anywhere in the world, especially in the United States, which has distinguished itself as the most consistently White Supremacist country ever and over the longest period of time. The YouTube video above demonstrates how it worked when "White" people came to the Western Hemisphere to take it for themselves and what has happened to the indigenous people of North America since.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Racism, Who's Your Daddy?

Two years ago today, Angola 3 icon Herman Wallace sat on his bunk in the solitary confinement cell where he had spent nearly 40 years of his life and penned me a letter in which he wrote:

"If we are to teach our children the need for social change, then we must ourselves have some understanding of what is taking shape – not only on Wall Street or in states around the country – but the fall of Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, and now the threat points at Syria. It is capitalism that is in a financial crisis, so what makes people think more capitalism or imperialistic rule is best for the world?

"There are people out there demonstrating and, for the life of them, cannot tell you what they are demonstrating for. That is because they lack real leadership. Conditions will create their leaders and the 1% is going to be in a world of trouble.

"It is hard for people in America to accept positive change since we have benefited from the exploitation of underdeveloped countries for nearly 300 years. It’s going to take a lot more than peaceful demonstrations to make change. Americans don’t want change; they want reform. Big difference."

When he was released from prison and almost immediately passed to the other side last month, I spent a few weeks grieving and then began looking through the stacks of A3 papers in my office for a message Herman may have left me after the fact -- something he sent me before, but which might now take on a stronger meaning. I found it in the form of this handwritten missive which I'm posting here today in memory of Herman and his long-standing commitment to true justice for all. But I'm also posting it to give me an opportunity to discuss in fuller detail what he wanted us to consider about the connection between the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" and our current global economic system: capitalism.

Friday, October 04, 2013

For Herman Wallace, Who Is Free

Herman "Hooks" Wallace, Taken April, 2013

It's been quite a week. I work twelve hour days teaching and spending time one-on-one encouraging students to learn how to think in a society that's trying to crush them or numb them into roboticism. I'm working on a paper on law enforcement and African-American men in the inner city to present at a conference in Washington, D.C., next week. I'm getting ready to drive ten hours to visit Albert Woodfox in prison over the weekend. And they released Herman Wallace from Elayne Hunt Correctional Center near Baton Rouge Tuesday night. He was moved first to the LSU Medical Center and then on to a friend's home, where he was continually surrounded by people who loved him until he passed quietly in his sleep early this morning. His last words were, "I am free. I am free."

Herman was dying of liver cancer when he was ordered released from the solitary confinement cell he's been in for nearly forty-two years by a judge who stayed in his chambers and threatened a contempt of court ruling when the prison officials flatly refused to follow his initial order. Dying or not, however, when the prison gates opened, Herman Wallace was quoted as saying, "Get me the f#@k outta here."

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Rest In Peace, Ralph Ray Evans

Today, they put the body of my daughter's father in the ground. In memory of him, I'm re-posting this Emmanuel Jal video that I first posted last January. His last act, it seems, was to bring his daughter back into the fold of her family, a fine legacy and one I'm sure he's enjoying as he observes. Rest in peace, Ralph Ray Evans. And do not forget us. You belong to the ages now.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Akinyele Omowale Umoja: We Will Shoot Back

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement turned me onto a set of five YouTube videos showing Akinyele Omowale Umoja discussing his book on Black armed resistance in the southern United States entitled We Will Shoot Back (NYU Press, 2013). Since it's not out in paperback yet, this may be the book that makes me buy a Kindle. Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait to read it. Ooooo-eeee!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Shiz: "The New Jim Crow"

A few months ago, on my early morning jog down the country road I live on, I heard a voice telling me I was being held down. I knew what it meant. I was clinging to a relationship and I needed to let go so I could fly to whatever chapter comes next. Ever been there?

It wasn't that the relationship hadn't been a good one. And it wasn't by a long shot even close to as bad as many of my messed up versions of love affairs have been. In fact, we had both learned a lot and still cared about each other. We weren't anywhere near yelling at each other in the parking lot yet (though there was one incident on a different early morning jog one time that bordered on that). And it wasn't just me that was being held down; it was both of us. But it was time to move on and I didn't want to.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

All Aboard For Fruitvale Station

Originally, I wasn't going to see "Fruitvale Station," the just released film about the last twenty-four hours in the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by a Bay Area Rapid Transit quasi-cop on New Year's Day in 2009. Fruitvale Station is the Oakland, California, stop Grant, his girlfriend, and their buddies reached after a night of New Year's Eve revelry in San Francisco. It was the end of the line for Oscar Grant and I didn't think I could handle it right now.

I had barely crawled out from under the rotted log the George Zimmerman verdict had dropped on my psyche. And I had things to do. So, when a student messaged me on Facebook asking if I was going to see the film, I responded instantly that I didn't have the emotional and psychological cool to go.

Still, as I jogged that morning before the Louisiana heat and humidity descended, I remembered that, if we don't attend films like this, they won't make them. And people that look like me need to show up in particular because (a) it's good for our consciousness (painful or not) and (b) Black people need to know that some of us give a shit. Sigh.

So I went.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Boondocks: "Return of the King"

Folks are always forwarding me stuff they've come across (for which I'm grateful). And they usually say two things: "You've probably already seen this" (which is often not the case) and "I'd really like your take on this" (which I'm not always sure of). The above Aaron McGruder video in The Boondocks series just showed up as a message on my Facebook page. I hadn't already seen it and I'm thinking it'll cause some consternation (as McGruder's work often does).

What do you think?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Coup Is NOT Just Going On In Egypt

I like to think I have a clue. Sometimes I don't; sometimes I do. I just found out about The Coup (an Oakland-based political hip hop band that's been leading the charge for twenty-three years). Where the eff have I been?

"Not Yet Free" (Kill My Landlord, 1993)

"Fat Cats and Bigga Fish" (Genocide & Juice, 1994)

"The Guillotine" (Sorry to Bother You, 2012)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blackmon: "America's Twentieth Century Slavery"

This is the first story in an eleven-part series of stories on Race -- Past and Present sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and originally published by the Washington Monthly Magazine. They've gone out of their way to invite folks to use these stories, and while I may not post all of them on this blog, if you haven't read Douglas Blackmon's Pulitzer prize-winning book, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, this might make you want to.

"America's Twentieth Century Slavery"
by Douglas A. Blackmon

On July 31, 1903, a letter addressed to President Theodore Roosevelt arrived at the White House. It had been mailed from the town of Bainbridge, Georgia, the prosperous seat of a cotton county perched on the Florida state line.

The sender was a barely literate African-American woman named Carrie Kinsey. With little punctuation and few capital letters, she penned the bare facts of the abduction of her 14-year-old brother, James Robinson, who a year earlier had been sold into involuntary servitude.
Kinsey had already asked for help from the powerful White people in her world. She knew where her brother had been taken-a vast plantation not far away called Kinderlou. There, hundreds of Black men and boys were held in chains and forced to labor in the fields or in one of several factories owned by the McRee family, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Georgia. No White official in this corner of the state would take an interest in the abduction and enslavement of a Black teenager.  

Confronted with a world of indifferent White people, Mrs. Kinsey did the only remaining thing she could think of. Newspapers across the country had recently reported on a speech by Roosevelt promising a "square deal" for Black Americans. Mrs. Kinsey decided that her only remaining hope was to beg the president of the United States to help her brother.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Langston Hughes: Kids Who Die

Kids Who Die
by Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
Your are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

Monday, July 15, 2013

There Will Be No Peace Until There Is Justice

Atlanta, GA

Boston, MA

Chicago, IL

Detroit, MI

Houston, TX

Kansas City, Kansas

Los Angeles, CA

Memphis, TN

Miami, FL

Milwaukee, WI

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

New York City

Oakland, CA

Orlando, FL

Sacramento, CA

San Francisco, CA

St. Louis, MO

Washington, D.C.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dear George,

I know you think you won last night. When the verdict was read, I'm sure you exhaled for the first time since that fateful night last year when you stood on a patch of grass on a street in Sanford, Florida, and murdered a seventeen-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin. I'm sure you think you dodged a bullet yourself last night. But you didn't. And I'm writing this so you and everybody else will remember that there's no free lunch.

In the grand scheme of things, George, we get away with nothing. No matter how it looks. No matter how much suave and bravado and quasi-sincerity we put out there for the public, deep in our souls, we always know that what we plant grows -- for good or ill. You plant beans, you get beans. And my dear mis-guided fellow human, you have most definitely planted some pretty horrific beans. They're not magic, but they will grow into a vine that will choke you every day for the rest of your woebegotten life.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

For The Next Month, "Herman's House" Is The Place To Be

I have resisted writing this blog post for thirteen days. I know my readers have been waiting for a while now for me to suit up and show up again. I couldn't write about anything else until I wrote about this. And if I wrote about this, it would make it real. And I didn't want to face that.

So here I am up against a deadline and not taking no for an answer. Sigh.

The thing is: I've been blogging about the Angola 3 for five years now and visiting Albert Woodfox for four. In a nutshell, the Angola 3 are a trio of Black Panthers who organized the then infamous Angola Prison back in the early 1970's to stop the prisoner to prisoner violence there. They were successful, which meant to insiders that they had more power than the prison administration. Not something the warden was happy about. And the guards (whose corruption and criminality typically subsidized their meager earnings) were furious.

Then state legislators in Baton Rouge started looking into increasingly well-documented and well-presented prisoner complaints about the institution and the Powers-That-Be decided that something had to be done. So when somebody stabbed a White guard to death in April of 1972, it didn't take administrators a hot minute to recognize this as the opportunity they had been waiting for.

There were bloody footprints and fingerprints, but in an institution where everything is "handled" inside by insiders, those footprints and fingerprints were never matched to anyone. They were cleaned up and deep-sixed. And almost immediately, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were in solitary confinement charged with the murder, later to be joined by Robert King, who wasn't even in the prison at the time of the crime, but had the misfortune of also being a Black Panther and automatically deserving "special treatment."

Of course, there were "grand juries" called and multiple "trials" conducted and "witnesses" (one of which was legally blind, one of which eventually recanted, and one of which -- a serial rapist and acknowledged snitch -- was paid off and released from prison). Nevertheless, through it all, the Angola 3 have staunchly maintained their innocence. Yet, forty-one years later, Woodfox and Wallace are still in solitary. King was released a decade ago and has spent everyday since stumping around the world, raising awareness of his brothers still in torment.

Amnesty International has climbed on the bandwagon. Several films have been released. Mother Jones magazine, Democracy Now, and even MSNBC have made an art form out of covering the story. But Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell seems hell bent on personally keeping the key in these particular locks. One can only wonder what demons Caldwell is hiding that won't let him let them go. He means for Woodfox and Wallace to die in a 9 X 6 foot cell. And just now, Caldwell must be excited indeed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The John Brown Brigade

The other day, Google sent me a signal that someone had left a comment on my post on "There's No Such Thing as Black History". It turned out to be one J. Nkomo, who wrote: "It is a sordid game, to manipulate racial tension to careerist aims in the face of unprecedented systematic anti-prejudice. The youth are embracing anti-prejudice surrounding sexual orientation, race, politics, lifestyle, gender, etc. But, in some sectors, the manipulation of U.S. racial tension might pass as legitimate academic research. Who might lick racial wounds green all the way to the bank?"

It wasn't the first time I've heard a disgruntled person (usually of color) suggest that a White person -- especially a White person in academe -- who has anything to say about racial oppression is doing so to make money off the back of the Black community, which would (according to the disgruntled person) be doing perfectly fine if all White people would just butt out. The point seems to be that no White person, educated or otherwise, could ever have any possible objective other than to make money and, most particularly, by exploiting people who suffer, even if that exploitation takes the form of appropriating the suffering in some way (such as "studying" it).

Okay. I hear you.

And you won't find me arguing that White Supremacy (with the support of the White community and most White individuals) is not the problem. It is. However, Mr/Ms Nkomo, you wrote your comment to me on my blog, so I must assume you are referring to me specifically and, since it is my blog, I get to respond. Thanks.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Angola 3 vs The State of Louisiana: The Battle of the Century

In a ruling on February 26th, Albert Woodfox (one of the Angola 3 that I have written about before) had his conviction overturned for the third time. As a proud supporter of the Angola 3 and the campaign to free them, I urge you to read the following article written by Jim Ridgeway and Jean Casella, the material linked within it, and my posts linked above. Then, if you agree that the continued brutality visited on these men represents an unconscionable miscarriage of justice in a nation that touts itself as the land of the free, I hope you will  decide to sign this petition calling for the State of Louisiana to refrain from appealing the new ruling. The world is watching not only "Buddy" Caldwell, but all of us. Are we going to stand for justice wherever it is under fire -- or are we not?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jon M. Chu: "Silent Beats"

This short film by Jon M. Chu is so powerful, I'm not even going to say anything about it. It's entitled "Silent Beats" and won the Princess Grace Award in 2006. Prepare to be made veeeery uncomfortable. Prepare to be forced to think long and hard about some of these images afterward.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

There's No Such Thing As Black History

When I was first asked to be the guest speaker tomorrow at the NAACP campus chapter Black History Month Kickoff (a well-attended annual affair), I didn't immediately answer. I wasn't sure it was appropriate. I'm a popular teacher among the Black students. I spend a fair amount of time working to help Black students bridge whatever obstacles they face to finishing college. When it comes to race relations, I get it. And I can certainly talk at the drop of a hat. Especially about race. Or gender. Or power relations of any kind, for that matter. But there are some great young Black speakers in this region who would do a fine job of bringing an inspiring message of hope to those in attendance. So I was afraid I'd be stepping up where I should step back.

Still, I didn't want to disrespect the students who opted to ask me. After all, they're not children. They have a right to choose for themselves (don't they?). I decided I wouldn't respond to the email until the morning after I was asked and I tried to go to bed and get some sleep. But sleep wouldn't come.

I thought about calling the organization faculty/staff advisor (who I know well) to ask what she thought I should do. But that felt as if I was patronizing the student leaders. I checked my ego to see if that was somehow mixed up in the game. But how do you know that for sure? Isn't ego always mixed up in the game? Finally, I called on the Universe to handle it: "If I should do this, tell me what I'm supposed to say." And from then until ninety minutes later, I didn't get a wink of sleep until the outline for the entire set of remarks was scrawled on a legal pad on the desk in my office.

To help me make sure I'll be solid on Monday, I've decided to write it all up as my Black History Month blog post. If you're interested in what I intend to say, read on. And if you want to help me tweak this, that would be great.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Emmanuel Jal: Cush

A couple of years ago, I learned of a man named Emmanuel Jal. He had just published a bestselling book about his experiences as a Sudanese child soldier who had wound up going to school and, ultimately, became an ambassador for peace through his rap music. I mentioned him in a post at the time because I had read his book (which I highly recommend), Sudan was in the news at the time, and I have a long-standing attachment to that country.

A few days ago, I received an email tipping me to Jal's newest album, entitled See Me Mama. One of the cuts from the album is featured above, reminding us that the human race in general and, most particularly, our darker brothers and sisters, share a rich history dating back to the kingdom of Cush.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Louis CK On The Historical Context Of White Supremacy

A couple of days ago, I re-posted Brotha Wolf's discussion of Whiteness in the U.S. I'm certain some White folks would be more than a little defensive about the essays he chose to present. So I'm posting a short YouTube video today to let Louis CK add his two cents. Humor about White Supremacy is the equivalent, I guess, to making children's medicine bubblegum-flavored so it's easier to swallow. Come on, kiddies, open wide.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Brotha Wolf: About the White Male Problem

I am hosting another of Brotha Wolf's blog posts today. In it, he features and discusses three recent essays examining White male pathology, a topic I think is not only crucial, but long, long overdue for consideration. Thanks to Brotha Wolf for this piece and for his permission to re-post it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Would Martin Be Like Today?

The minute Martin Luther King, Jr., went from talking about equal rights for Black people to calling for the end of war and a shift from giving the military a blank check to a fair and equitable distribution of wealth in the U.S. and around the globe, he was a dead man walking. Those with the Power-To-Define in the White Supremacist system didn't feel threatened by King talking about Black folks suffering or White folks having privilege. That was just considered "whining." White Supremacy says Black peoples' suffering is acceptable, if it's noticed at all, and White folks have earned their privilege.

But when he started pointing at the basic foundation of White Supremacy, the mother lode of capitalist profit that gushes from the wounds of millions of exploited workers -- Black and White -- into the hands and bank accounts of the few at the very top, it was time for a lynching. And lynching it was.