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Monday, December 29, 2014

Ferguson/Garner protests: The uprisings will continue until...

By Charles Brooks
  
Photo credit: digitaldefection via www.flickr.com
For over a month now, the world has witnessed a special moment unfolding in America where literally thousands upon thousands took to the streets in a stunning display of mass resistance in response to, not one but two recent controversial grand jury rulings. The world took notice of the rebellious uprisings emerging in city after city – from Ferguson, Missouri to Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California – making their presence felt uptown as well as downtown, in the ‘hood’, and on college campuses. Protestors infiltrated and disrupted holiday shopping, Thanksgiving parades, Christmas events – brought the nation’s major highways and the railroads to a stop – gnarling traffic for miles.  
Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue via www.flickr.com
Two separate high profile grand jury proceedings in St. Louis and New York City ruled against indicting police officers, Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo – in essence validating their use of deadly force against Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively. The vastly unpopular rulings triggered an incredible wave of mass resistance protesting against not just the police brutality issue but also against the abysmal lack of accountability for killing unarmed African American men. The grand jury’s decision not only exonerated the use of deadly force with no criminal charges but the decision also reinforced the notion that such deadly force is indeed the standard operating procedure, particularly when unarmed African Americans are involved. But there’s more - the grand jury’s decision essentially enables the uninterrupted freedom of both officers and allows them to return to their jobs, to walk the beat above ground while the bodies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner lay buried below ground. 

Simply put, the ruling triggered painful reminders from a wretched racist past.  Take for example, the ruling serving as a reminder of the second-class citizenship that typically characterized Black America in the days before integration – you know, like when lynching was routine.  Another reminder of how unjust and unequal the criminal justice system is towards the black communities that make up Black America.  Another reminder of the Black America’s relationship with the police and how different that relationship is with other communities that make up the nation. Another reminder of the role the police had during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements – as the first line of defense -  the brutal enforcers of Jim Crow and legal segregation. Another reminder of their role with COINTELPRO. And yet another reminder of the tragic failure of the state to recognize black humanity.  
  
Photo credit: Rose colored Photo via www.flickr.com
Consider for a moment what activist Rosa Clemente recently noted when she underlined significance of the ruling: “…The grand jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson means that the physical evidence, testimony of witnesses, police report on the incident, and Wilson’s own inconsistent and implausible account will never be subject to cross-examination, scrutiny, and comparison before a jury.”  Simply put, Ms. Clemente nailed it in pointing out the implications when police are left unindicted – no trial, no public scrutiny, no transparency and certainly no accountability. That’s why so many are just infuriated with the grand jury refusals to indict, and in fact, held very little hope for indictments of police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo.  Deep down…we already knew…
Photo credit: sierraromero via www.flickr.com
Take the Michael Brown case for instance where there were issues from the start. There were several events that instilled doubt within the local Ferguson community and larger extended community who demanded justice. Aside from not having a video of the shooting, Mr. Brown’s character came under heavy scrutiny, while the Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. McCullough refused to recuse himself from the case despite the strong conflict of interests.  Doubts around the Brown grand jury grew stronger as leaks spilled out, at one point, almost daily.  For days, all eyes were squarely riveted on Ferguson as we constantly heard that a decision “was coming any day now.” We braced ourselves for the worst… During this time the Governor announced his plan to deploy the National Guard, and declared a state of emergency…before an emergency.  Businesses fortified themselves as if preparing for a hurricane to blow through town. Schools closed down. Gun sales hit the roof. And then the announcement was made hours after the day turned into night - at the nighttime hour of nine o clock - Darren Wilson will not be indicted.  The Ferguson community erupted at the news and the rebellious uprising was in full swing quickly spreading across the country like California wildfire.  To make matters worse, we gradually learned about disturbing issues with the grand jury – first, the inconsistent presentation of evidence, and most recently, the apparent issues with lying witnesses. 
Then less than two weeks after the Brown grand jury decision, the Garner grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Despite the cellphone video showing an illegal chokehold used on Mr. Garner by Mr. Pantaleo as well as Chief Examiners Report that ruled Mr. Garner’s death a homicide!   Just like the Brown case, there were issues with the Garner case from the start – community demands for a special prosecutor, concerns regarding a jury pool being picked from a biased pro-police Staten Island community and the Staten Island District Attorney seemingly delaying the grand jury process considering they didn’t start hearing evidence until nearly October – almost three months after Mr. Garner was killed. To make matters worse, nearly ten days after the Brown grand jury ruling, the Garner grand jury was announced and the public response was both swift and fierce with a flurry of daily protests around the country. 


And then two New York City police officers were gunned down on a Saturday afternoon – and you can sense the gradual shift in the narrative as the pro-police forces began to assert themselves. The police killing was immediately linked to the protests, and echoed loudly with inflammatory commentary by police union chief Pat Lynch, former governor George Pataki and former mayor Rudy Guiliani.  Ironically though, calls were made to halt the protests against the police violence while making no mention of stopping the pro-police protest rallies or their divisive rhetoric.  Nonetheless a debate quickly emerged – should the protests continue in light of the two dead NYPD officers?  But the real question is not whether the protests should continue or not but rather - When will police officers be held accountable for their criminal use of deadly force?

Meanwhile, the protest demonstrations continued unabated – and for a few good reasons. Let’s see, the issue of police brutality and violence has become a national crisis.  An issue that has been ongoing for many years with no apparent repercussions or consequences for police use of excessive deadly force. The police officers routinely get the benefit of the doubt regardless of the questionable circumstances that ultimately feeds doubt.  And then, aside from the Brown and Garner grand jury rulings, police officers were also not indicted in grand jury cases for Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Jonathan Baker, and Keyarika Diggles.  Yes – the protests have continued…and for good reason.

  

See The Blackboard's posts about the death of Eric Garner, Part I and Part II, and the death Michael Brown.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

2014 Elections: The Democratic Party's problem with white Democrats

By Charles Brooks
While the 2014 elections showed Democrats their difficulties in defeating Republicans, the elections also revealed the problem the Democratic Party has in appealing to their white constituents. The Democrats now find themselves in a very precarious position as they find a way to put together a message that resonates with the white as well as the black voter. Let’s consider for a moment the 2014 exit poll, particularly the questions about race relations. For example, 40% said race relations in the country had stayed about the same in the last few years. 38% said they had gotten worse while 20% said they’ve gotten better. Certainly no surprise here but let’s consider remarks made by the Congressional Black Caucus Chairperson, Marcia Fudge (D-OH) when she stated that Democrats lost the white Southerners due in part to racism. “Democrats lost Senate control because we failed to mobilize young voters across racial and regional spectrums. We failed to persuade Southern voters to hold true to core Democratic values. We lost because the Hispanic community was insufficiently motivated. We lost because of ideological differences within the Democratic Party and with our Administration. We lost because our party has, to some extent, lost white Southerners due in part to the race of our President. We lost because the Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon allowed a select few to subvert the political process with secret, unlimited money.  We lost because of gerrymandering in our state redistricting processes. We lost because of our continuing problem with a clear and compelling message that would encourage voters to stay with us.  Let the talking heads do what they do best: talk. But let’s be very clear in our analyses of the 2014 midterm elections. African Americans showed up. So don’t blame us! A review of the 2014 exit poll data verifies Rep. Fudge’s statement as the data indicates that while voter turnout for Hispanics and Blacks increased, the voter turnout for Whites went down, and overall turnout was quite low. 

2014 Elections: Did Democrats run against Republicans or President Obama?

By Charles Brooks
The nation’s political landscape is remarkably more Republican now with their decisive victories a couple of weeks ago during the 2014 elections. Just in case you forgot – not only did Democrats lose on the national level but they suffered losses on the state level as well. For example, Democrats lost their only majority in the US Congress – in the Senate and they lost seats in the House of Representatives. Now bear in mind Democrats lost seats in state legislatures all across the country and a few key governorships in Democratic Party territory – like in Illinois, Massachusetts, and the biggest surprise in Maryland.  This is what the National Conference of State Legislature had to say: “It appears that Republicans will have a net gain of between 300 and 350 seats and control over 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 legislative seats. That is their highest number of legislators since 1920. Republicans gained seats in every region of the country and in all but about a dozen legislative chambers that were up this year. It appears that Republicans will have a net gain of between 300 and 350 seats and control over 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 legislative seats. That is their highest number of legislators since 1920. Republicans gained seats in every region of the country and in all but about a dozen legislative chambers that were up this year.”  So what does that mean – what does the current political landscape look like – Republicans now control 23 out of 50 state governments, that means both chambers of the state legislature and the  Governor are all Republican.  They are Republican majorities in 30 state legislatures as well as in 68 legislative chambers (one of the two houses that typically makes up state government).  Lastly, there are 31 Republican governors sitting in state capitols across the country.  Clearly the 2014 elections has empowered the Republicans as the lines of battle are redrawn...at least until the 2016 elections. You can already sense the tension quickly building as President Obama spoke of his intention to take executive action to address immigration reform while Republicans counter by suing the president over the Affordable Care Act. The first of many battles to come over the next two years...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Elections: Can Black America rescue the Democrats?

 By Charles Brooks


The many months of political posturing and rhetoric will finally come to an end on Election night when we learn who’s hand will be raised in victory in this year’s battle between the Democrats and Republicans.  Reading the recent news accounts, polls and analyses about this year’s mid-term elections, is almost like reading a political obituary for the Democratic Party – the forecast just doesn’t look good for Democrats. Simply put, Democrats are faced with daunting odds to win elections and will probably suffer more than just a few defeats. To make matters worse, this year’s election cycle is taking place during an off presidential election year when people typically don’t vote.  Meanwhile the 2014 mid-term elections are framed for public consumption as one where there’s a lot at stake – how many times have you heard that during this year’s election cycle?  Typically during these election cycles you will find news stories about the significance of the black vote as well as contrasting stories about the black vote being taken for granted by the Democratic Party.  But what appears to be different with the 2014 elections is the degree of just how important, how significant the black vote will be for the DemocraticParty.

The issue, however, is that while President Obama is not running in this year’s election – his legacy certainly is in the running. Consider for a moment just two items and how they would impact the President’s legacy - the Republican’s incessant chatter about impeachment along with the repeal of President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  With 36 Senate seats up for election: 21 belonging to Democrats versus 15 for Republicans, Black America’s vote is under heavy pursuit to help the Democrats retain their majority in the Senate. The Democratic Party is looking for Black America to shield and protect the President’s legacy from GOP obstructionism. The chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) recently told the New York Times: “Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” Ms. Fudge went on to say: “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.” African-Americans could help swing elections in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and possibly Arkansas, a New York Times analysis of voter data shows, but only if they turn out at higher-than-forecast rates. 

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report entitled, “Black Turnout & The 2014 Midterms” where they concluded: “The analysis of voter turnout data corroborates the suspicion that this will be a challenging year for Democrats.  Assuming black turnout consistent with recent midterm elections and current polling data, Democrats will find it hard to put together winning coalitions, even with overwhelming African American support. Democratic candidates with the best prospects of winning include those running in states with relatively strong third party candidates who can serve as spoilers and states with small black populations where Democrats (or, in the case of Kansas, Independents) are performing strongly among white voters.”  Wow! So basically the Joint Center report is saying that while the Black vote is being heavily pursued, the black vote still needs the presence of third party candidates to make a difference in the elections.

Yet this pursuit of the black vote presents a bit of a dilemma for Black America; on one hand there’s the sentiment that the Democratic Party routinely takes the black vote for granted while on the other hand, the failure to vote Democratic will compel Republicans to advance a conservative agenda that is in direct contrast to Black America’s political interests.  But there’s another motivating factor to consider here… the relentless campaign waged by Republicans, who took a legislative approach to shrinking the pool of voters.  The stench of 19th century Jim Crow slowly rises from the graveyard of American racism as Republicans justify their actions with claims of addressing voter fraud.  In essence, they’ve proposed and passed legislation to address a nonexistent issue – incredible don’t you think? These voter suppression measures include requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register, cutting back on early voting, eliminating Election Day registration, new restrictions on voter registration drives as well as additional barriers to voting for people with criminal convictions.

Subsequently, there’s a political battle setting the Get Out The Vote activities versus stringent voter suppression measures.  Now these measures have been passed – for the most part - by several state legislatures since the election of the nation’s first African American president. So now, you can get a better sense of the significance of the 2014 election when you begin to understand how these voter suppression measures may possibly affect one’s ability to cast a vote. Bear in mind that the Brennan Center for Justice reported that of the 11 states with the highest African American turnout in 2008, seven passed laws making it harder to vote. In addition, of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth in the 2010 Census, nine have new restrictions in place. And of the 15 states that used to be monitored closely under the Voting Rights Act because of a history of racial discrimination in elections, nine passed new restrictions. These reasons alone will almost certainly compel the public’s attention…and their scrutiny on November 4th.

If nothing else, a review of the exit polls for the 2014 mid-terms can begin to answer at least two critical questions: First, how will Black America respond to the SOS call sent out by Democrats – particularly after revelations of Democrats refusing to stand up in support of President Obama? And the second question - how much did the various voter suppression measures impact black voter turnout and what role, if any, did this have on the many elections held across the nation?







https://www.aclu.org/maps/battle-protect-ballot-voter-suppression-measures-passed-2013

Monday, August 25, 2014

Where will the next Ferguson uprising take place?

By Charles Brooks

Michael Brown has finally been laid to rest after he was gunned down two weeks ago by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th.  You can only imagine what Mr. Brown’s parents, family, friends and those who knew him – have gone through in the last two weeks since that fateful day on August 9th.  Just like that - after their son's fate encounter with the police - Mr. Brown's parents now have to deal with the grief and numbing sadness that comes with having to bury their 18 year old son.

Who would have thought or even have the foresight to see Michael Brown's murder – the death of yet another unarmed black youth by the hands of a police officer – as the trigger to a rebellious uprising in Ferguson? Who would have believed Mr. Brown’s death would peel back the scab of American hypocrisy for all to witness the bubbling infectious sore of American apartheid, racism, and social inequality?  Ferguson has clearly become a flashpoint - a hotspot where racial frustrations and deep seated tensions were unleashed in the face of aggressive and provocative policing.  Within hours after Mr. Brown’s murder, the response to the rebellious uprising quickly escalated into a domestic military operation – complete with the deployment of the National Guard.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Eric Garner: Resisting arrest or Resisting harassment (Part II)


The tragic death of Mr. Eric Garner that came as a result of the choke hold – an illegal police maneuver banned since 1994 – continues to provoke nationwide outrage, particularly in black communities.  Consider for a moment, the reasons igniting this outrage – the excessive use of force leading to yet another death of an unarmed black man, and the political support for police in the face of a blatant lack of accountability to these seemingly routine acts of police misconduct and murder.  But there’s deeper factor to consider here – the historical roots that branches out to the limbs of indifference afforded to black life.

Mr. Garner’s death continues to spark outrage because of the many people who can relate and connect through personal experience – the thousands who have been stopped and harassed by the police - and lived to talk about it. The thousands of stories about controlling that feeling that just grips you when you see the bright flash of the red and blue lights in your rear view mirror. Or the harassment that comes with being repeatedly stopped and frisked.  Or the feeling of being fully aware that even the slightest encounter with the police can turn bad…and sometimes fatal.  This connection was played out when the video was being played over and over again to the collective nods of approval. People are outraged because they connected with Mr. Garner when he crossed his arms in front of him and told the police officers that it stops today…we all knew what he meant by ‘it’. Mr. Garner said to the officers: "...Every time you see me you want to wrestle with me.  I'm tired of it...it stops today...I'm minding my own business officer. Please leave me alone...I told you for the last time, please leave me alone."

This is why Mr. Garner’s death continues to resonate with the public consciousness - because of their connection to a shared experience.  The outrage grew in the aftermath of Mr. Garner’s death when more videos displaying similar criminal acts by NYPD were released as well as chokehold statistics – 1022 chokehold incidents between 2009-1013.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The tragic death of Eric Garner: Resisting arrest or resisting harassment?

By Charles Brooks

Last week, the body of Mr. Eric Garner was laid to rest after funeral services were held in Brooklyn, New York – Mr. Garner was the latest victim of NYPD use of excessive force…that led to Mr. Garner’s tragic death. Mr. Garner’s death has attracted international attention and considerable outrage for several reasons – Mr. Garner was an African American, unarmed,  accused for selling cigarettes individually out of the pack – a long time practice called selling “loosies” – or as media reports state – selling untaxed cigarettes – and for that he was placed in an illegal police maneuver – the notorious chokehold.  Although Mr. Garner lost his life after NYPD says he “resisted arrest” …was Mr. Garner actually resisting repeated police harassment?   

Sunday, July 13, 2014

BlackboardBlog Interview: NBUF Chairman Kofi Taharka



The National Black United Front (NBUF) has just held their 35th annual convention in Washington D.C. at Howard University between July 10th and July 12th. They opened their convention with two inspiring presentations, the first, a panel discussion entitled “Gentrification & Discrimination in Housing and Education: Why we need Reparations”.  There were four panelists provided their analysis around the critical question of reparations and gentrification.  The panel discussion was followed by a presentation, “African History: A Tool for Liberation” delivered by Dr. Leonard Jeffries, who was recently named the International Director of the Organization of African American Unity.  See my article on the panel discussion published by The Black Star News here.  

 
 
 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

...and the Republicans chose race

By Charles Brooks


LBJ Library photo

LBJ Library photo
A nation still divided on race celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights law.  As you read and/or listen to the various social commentary and analysis, there's a particular focus on how the 1964 civil rights law transformed the nation by dismantling American apartheid.  Consider for a moment how Jim Crow and states rights shackled black life in America where entry onto public spaces were severely restricted or just simply denied. Swimming pools, movie theaters, hotels. motels, restaurants, public transportation, libraries, hospitals and even cemeteries are just a few examples of  just how deep the racial divide was before the 1964 Civil Rrights bill was passed. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Blackboard remembers Kwame Ture - June 29, 1941 - November 15 1998


Today we celebrate Kwame Ture day of birth, June 29th, 1941.  The following is a reprint of an article that I wrote for The Black World Today back in February 1997 when the late Kwame Ture has honored by the United African Movement in Brooklyn, New York.  


By Charles Brooks
His fiery spirit still burns strong! The scene was a perfect setting for what was about to occur.  The sweet smell of incense filled the air, giving way to the flags of various African nations that were displayed overhead. As always there was a mood of fellowship and spirituality - joined by the common goal that brought the audience together to learn from the honoree, Kwame Ture.

The air was filled with electricity and anticipation as the packed audience waited to hear the words of the self-proclaimed revolutionary.  The silence that filled the room as Alton Maddox, chairman of the United African Movement completed his introduction, quickly turned to a standing ovation as Kwame Ture took the microphone. 

As he began to speak in strong and fiery tones, his shaven head proved to be the only reminder that this was a man who just last year suffered from prostate cancer.  He spoke for over an hour with passion and undying love for his people about what he knows best…revolution and organizing!  “There’s no greater honor than to die for your people,” said Mr. Ture.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Walter Rodney's Intellectual and Political Thought, Reviewed by L.V. Gaither

A few years back Mr. L. V. Gaither wrote an insightful book review about Rupert Charles Lewis’ book, Walter  Rodney’s Intellectual and Political Thought. In reading through Mr. Gaither’s critique of Mr. Lewis’ book as well as his own observations of the Guyanese scholar-activist, you will see how Mr. Gaither’s writing clearly highlights the significance of Dr. Walter Rodney’s legacy.   The fact that there are just a handful of books about Dr. Rodney simply raises the value of both Mr. Lewis’ important book as well as Mr. Gaither’s review of it.  Although Mr. Gaither’s book review was published in 1998 – nearly sixteen years ago – it is plain to see why Dr. Rodney’s legacy has grown even stronger as the years go by.

L. V. Gaither is the publisher of The Gaither Reporter, and author of Loss of Empire: Legal Lynching, Vigilantism, and African American Intellectualism in the 21st Century. Mr. Gaither has written many essays and articles published in several publications.

WALTER RODNEY’S INTELLECTUAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT
Reviewed by L.V. Gaither
Walter Rodney, born in British Guiana in 1942, was one of the most outstanding historians within the radical, international Caribbean tradition. Largely remembered for his Marxist reading of the underdevelopment of Africa, Rodney possessed that rare capacity to take theory and situate it into practical politics; to push liberating ideas beyond the limits of one’s imagination into concrete reality. Although Rodney’s life, and correspondingly his course of revolutionary activity, ended when he was assassinated at the young age of 38, his intellectual production continues to resonate in the international arena.

 Rupert Lewis’s new book delves deeply into the impressive and wide-ranging panorama of Rodney’s political and intellectual thought. As I read it, I was reminded over and over again that at a time when a reassessment of Rodney’s ideas could benefit us most, his contributions to Caribbean and African political thought are unfamiliar to the present generation. Popular awareness of his contributions to the intellectual formation of black radicalism in North America is limited mostly to his book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. But even here, as the next generation emerges to take the reins of political, social, and intellectual leadership, prospects for understanding the importance of this major work are fading.

Monday, June 16, 2014

We remember Dr. Walter Rodney (1942-1980)


PART I

Last Friday, June 13th marked 34 years since the Dr. Walter Rodney was killed on that fateful day in 1980 – on Friday the 13th. Dr. Rodney was a revolutionary and noted Guyanese scholar-activist - particularly for his work in Caribbean and African history and politics. Due to the still unanswered questions regarding Dr. Rodney’s death, his wife, Dr. Pat Rodney waged a relentless campaign for over 30 years - pressuring the Guyanese government to investigate her husband’s death. You see, Dr. Rodney was killed by a bomb, apparently planted in a walkie-talkie, given to him by one, Gregory Smith, a former officer in the Guyanese Defense Force (GDF). Dr. Rodney paid the ultimate price for his political views and for his subsequent political activism - death - death by political assassination.

Dr. Pat Rodney’s efforts paid off when last year, the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate Dr. Rodney’s murder. President Donal Ramotar said that convening the commission was “in response to a direct request from Ms. Patricia Rodney.” The President told the Guyana Chronicle: “At no time did we discuss the Commission at any level of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). This is purely a Presidential Commission; I responded to the heartfelt cry of Ms. Rodney, who is advancing in age, and who wants to get some answers.”

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Tribute to the People's Scholar - Elombe Brath (1936 - 2014)

By Charles Brooks


On May 31st, Elombe Brath was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery after services were held at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  The day started with a mass community tribute to Mr. Brath – a walking procession through the streets of Harlem in honor of his incredible body of work with: “Morning Walk Through Harlem Retracing Our Brother’s History.” The people walked freely in the streets of Harlem, sharing stories and their memories of Mr. Brath who was active in so many struggles within the movement: against the oppressive South African apartheid, African nationalist movements, the movement to free Mumia-Abu Jamal, and all political prisoners, the reparations movement, the Hands off Assata Shakur campaign, and the Central Park 5 case to name a few.

Mr. Elombe Brath, made the transition to join the ancestors on May 19th – He was 77 years old and was born on September 30th, 1936.  Over two thousand people came out to pay their respects to Mr. Brath and his legacy in the Pan African and Black Liberation Movements.  Mr. Brath stood tall in Black activist circles not just in New York City but in the Caribbean and Africa as well.  Mr. Brath was indeed a revolutionary – a committed activist in the Pan African and Black Liberation Movements. There is no doubt about Mr. Brath’s legacy solidified in the annals of Pan African and Black Liberation history - branded with his reputation as a tireless and relentless activist in pursuit of Black Liberation.  For a moment or two, take a collective breath and slowly consider some of Mr. Brath’s work that his legacy is built upon: There was his work with the Federation of Pan-African Nationalist Organizations or FOPANO that eventually led to the formation of African Liberation Support Committee and to what we know today as African Liberation Day.                                                                               

Monday, May 26, 2014

African Liberation Day 2014: worldwide solidarity with African Independence

By Charles Brooks

May 25th marks the worldwide celebration of African Liberation Day. Yes – African Liberation Day and although you will not find no mention of this in any of the American mainstream press – nevertheless, African Liberation Day is indeed a worldwide celebration. In addition to a continent wide celebration in Africa, there are also celebrations taking in France, Martinque, Trindad, Ireland, Melborne, Australia, Norway, and Sweden. In Africa, The Congress of South Africa Trade Unions in Limpopo will host a joint Africa Day with the Labour Federation from Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, jazz concerts taking place in South Africa and Malawi, a workshop on African Unity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many more events planned.  May 25th is indeed a significant day to remember the African nationalist movements that demanded and then wrested independence from their colonial masters. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Advancing Malcolm's work...



Typically, when there are ceremonies honoring Malcolm X, there are subtle reminders about Malcolm X as an iconized mythical figure.  Dr. Peniel Joseph, Professor of History at Tufts University, recently wrote: “In death, Malcolm became larger than he had been in life. Black radicals embraced him as the revolutionary avatar of black liberation in America and around the world. His posthumously published autobiography became a best-seller, and his legacy inspired numerous books, a U.S. postage stamp, a major motion picture and a Malcolm X revival during the early 1990s,” Dr. Peniel continues, “In 2014 Malcolm X matters now more than ever. His political integrity and personal sincerity set a high bar for all future black leaders. His identification with, and love for, the black working class set an enduring standard. Malcolm didn’t just love black people—he respected them enough to challenge them, offering stinging criticism in some instances and gentle prodding in others.”

Let’s grapple with the first sentence for a moment…Malcolm became larger than he had been in life – there may be good reason for this. For example, the influence that Malcolm's work had, not only on the formation of Black Power and Black Liberation movements but on the civil rights movement as well. Organizations such as the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE),  the Black Panthers, Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), and the Republic of New Afrika to name a few were all inspired and shaped by Malcolm's Black Nationalism. 

When you can begin to understand the pivotal role these movements, organizations and individuals had in carrying this struggle foward – then you can begin to understand exactly what Malcolm X meant to so many who advanced and carried his work forward.  That would begin to explain why the Brother Minister grew larger in death.  But there’s more…

Monday, May 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Brother Minister!

By Charles Brooks

We celebrate the birthday of Malcolm X – where on this day in 1925, he would have been 89 years old. Knowing that the 19th was approaching, the question for me, was a typical one for any writer – what can I write that has not been written before?  But after a few short moments of thinking about his significance - his legacy – writing about Malcolm X would not be too difficult. When I think about Malcolm X, my first thought is how much this man is sorely missed considering today’s empty space of true leadership.  After reading through a few of his speeches, I was reminded that although he was taken much too soon - how so much material he left behind, almost a blueprint to be followed.  And that’s the significance of Malcolm X – that is his legacy – the continued and uninterrupted relevance of his words to the current issues of the day. But in addition to that – he remains a hero to so many because he was unflinching, uncompromising and courageous in the face of American apartheid in the bowels of white supremacy. That’s why it is so disturbing when revisionist history attempts to casts Malcolm as civil rights activist  - Malcolm X was always a Black Nationalist who believed in and was committed to building a movement that connected Blacks across the world from America to the Caribbean to Africa.  The words of Malcolm X continues to resonate very deeply in the Black communities all over the country because those words were delivered with such a powerful clarity coupled with a forward thinking that is unseen today amongst those who are self-called leaders.  That is why the Brother Minister means so much today – why the legacy of Malcolm X continues to grow and inspire. Its no mystery why Malcolm has such an undeniable strong connection with Black communities all over the country – he stood toe to toe against white supremacy and did not blink.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Twenty nine years later - never to be forgotten...

  

Courtesy of A Zeitgeist Films release.
Simply put - there are events that occur that must not be allowed to escape our collective memory, only to become buried and forgotten.  Such is the case back on Mother's Day in 1985 - May 13th. Twenty nine years later and the scars remain, the acrid smell still burns and lingers in memory.  On that day eleven people were killed, murdered - five were children - innocent Black children.  Over sixty homes were destroyed and over 250 people were without a place to live.  On that day the Philadelphia police department dropped a bomb - yes, that's right - they dropped a bomb on a city block.  But the  bomb was dropped after nearly 10,000 rounds of ammunition was fired by 500 police officers along with teargas.  Now the mayor at that time - Mr. Wilson Goode - a Black mayor gave the "go-ahead" to  launch an attack of sheer terror on MOVE.  For those who are well informed about the MOVE-9, well, then this is just what they say - preaching to the choir. But there are many who are not aware of what happened or more importantly  - the connection to state terror.
Why would Mayor Goode take such an extreme approach with MOVE? Well, lets first understand  MOVE...they were founded in 1972 by Vincent Leaphart renamed John Africa, whose political views and subsequent protests were in direct contrast to  the political agenda of Philadelphia's City Hall and Police Department.  As a result, there would be a number of confrontations between MOVE and the police that ultimately led to the terrorist act of bombing a city block on Mothers Day in 1985 - when mothers and children were killed.

See this backgrounder put together by Temple University who holds archived records to what occurred on May 13th: The confrontation was the culmination of a dozen years of activity on the part of MOVE, which had emerged in the early 1970s as a small and very extreme "back to nature" radical group following the teachings of the self styled John Africa. Years of increasing trouble with police and neighbors in the Powelton area of West Philadelphia ended in a gun battle in August 1978 in which one policeman was killed and nine MOVE members arrested and eventually sentenced to jail terms. A number of the remaining MOVE members - all of whom were black - settled in 1982 and 1983 in a house on the 6200 block of Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area, a predominately middle class black neighborhood. They began to campaign for the release of the comrades and in May 1984 started day and night denunciations of their enemies through a loudspeaker.  
 
During an 2010 interview between Democracy Now and the lone surviving adult of the 1985 bombing, Ramona Africa, she explained the Mayor's motivations: "I want people to understand is that that bombing did not happen because of some complaints from neighbors. This government had never cared about black folks complaining about their neighbors or any other people complaining about their neighbors. They bombed us because of our unrelenting fight for our family members, known as the MOVE 9, who have been in prison unjustly going on thirty-two years now, as a result of the August 8th, 1978 police attack on MOVE. I just wanted to make that clear."

Less than a month after the massacre, the Mayor signed an executive order establishing the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission.  See here and here for excerpts from the Commission's Report that indicated:

"The bomb was larger and more powerful than police originally said. It weighed 4.5 pounds and included a powerful plastic explosive known as C-4. This disclosure contradicted officials` statements in May that the bomb weighed only 2 pounds and had not contained C-4."

"The Mayor abdicated his responsibilities as a leader when, after midday, he permitted a clearly failed operation to continue which posed great risk to life and property; On May 13, the key decision makers were prevented from easily and directly contacting each other because of an inadequate communications system; The plan to bomb the Move house was reckless, ill-conceived and hastily approved; Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable and should have been rejected out-of-hand."

For additional reading go to articles published in phillymag.com for an oral history and an inside account of what occurred on May 13th.  There's also the documentary website here, for "Let the Fire Burn" and an interview with the film's director here.

What happened on May 13th - on Mother's Day - should never be forgotten...support the MOVE-9 and call the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole at 717-772-4343.  Do not allow yourself to become distracted by the insignificance of events such as a mere elevator fight between Jay-Z and his sister-in-law.

ONA MOVE

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

To Friends and Supporters of The Blackboard

To the Friends of the Blackboard
If you are reading this – I want to extend my many thanks to you for taking valuable time out of your busy schedule to read my posts to my blog here and to The Blackboard’s Facebook page.  I am truly honored and remain committed to providing you with a quality product – sharp analysis and thought-provoking commentary.  I am going on vacation for two weeks and will return with new posts May 19th – maybe sooner!

What’s new to The Blackboard:
You can now enter your email address to sign up for automatic email alerts when there are new posts to The Blackboard.
There are real-time streaming news feed of four top political stories about the 2014 elections.
A new page: Multimedia – Culture, Politics and History page contains archived iconic photographs as well as links to interactive web sites related to history and culture.
You can visit and follow us on our Facebook page here at Facebook.com/TheBlackboardblog and see our posts there too.
With the executions reigniting the death penalty debate – Take THE BLACKBOARD SURVEY on the death penalty – are you FOR or AGAINST the death penalty
Updates to the Resource page – for education – see the recent report on New York’s segregated schools, and links to resources on the Common Core as well as the emerging opposition to it and the political implications. There are also links on the recent $98 million Black firefighter settlement.
We have new posts providing a critical look at the recently released Clinton Papers and, the Obama’s new initiative – My Brother’s Keeper’s.
The Blackboard publishes content every week – so check back with us on Monday and Tuesday for new posts.  If you like what you see on The Blackboard – send somebody you know a link to The Blackboard so they can be informed too.  Check out our page on Facebook for political and cultural posts – and Follow us on Facebook!  Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to connect and read what we publish on The Blackboard. 


Charles Brooks

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Blackboard Weekly Report - 4/28/14

By Charles Brooks

International
Reparations: Rep. John Conyers, (D-MI) plans to re-introduce HR Bill 40 – to create a commission to study reparations. “It is the most important piece of legislation I have ever introduced, and I will re-introduce HR40 in the 113th Congress,” Rep. Conyers told an audience at the ‘Revitalizing The Reparations Movement’ Conference at Chicago State University. Sir Hilary Beckles, Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission was the key note speaker and was interviewed by The Final Call. See The Final Call’s coverage of the “Revitalizing The Reparations Movement Conference that was organized by the Institute of the Black World.
The Daily Beast acquired a recording of remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry where he told the gathering at the Trilateral Commission that Israel risks becoming apartheid state if peace talks fail.  The Guardian is reporting this may be the first time a US official of Kerry's standing used the term 'apartheid' in the context of Israel.
The State Department announced that Mr. Kerry will be visiting Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Luanda this week between April 29 and May 5th
See The Black Agenda Report’s reporting here on the IBM and Ford Motor Company’s role in South African apartheid.
White House
President Obama is wrapping up his 5th trip to Asia; Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
During the President’s weekly address last Saturday, he talked about minimum wage. You can watch the address here or read the transcript here.
The president comments on the Sterling racist statements:”The United States continues to wrestle with a legacy of race and slavery and segregation that's still there — the vestiges of discrimination. We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often…

National:
Voting Rights: Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed bills to restore the voting rights of three people convicted of felonies.
An Arkansas judge struck down the state's new voter ID law ruling that it violates the state constitution by adding a requirement that voters must meet before casting a ballot. The law "is declared void and unenforceable," Fox wrote in the ruling. Additional coverage here and here.
Local
Mayoral elections taking place in Mississippi and New Jersey. In Mississippi Tony Yarber has defeated Chokwe Antar Lumumba in a runoff election to become Jackson's new mayor, according to unofficial results. Mr. Antar Lumumba’s father, Mr. Chokwe Lumumba died in February 2014 thus creating a vacancy and forcing a runoff election. Mr. Yarber will now serve out the rest of Mr. Lumumba’s term.
In New Jersey with about two weeks to go, the Mayoral race between Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries.  According to PolitickerNJ, Mr. Baraka says: "I'm knocking on doors and talking to as many voters as possible down the stretch," Baraka, Newark's South Ward councilman, said. "The ground game is always the most important thing on Election Day. It's about how ready your organization is. Going negative shows people that you don't have any ideas. It just shows desperation. Those type of people, who are part of the old politics in this city, aren't going to be around very long." Mr. Baraka picked up another endorsement – this one from Local Talk Newspaper.
Mr. Jeffries was endorsed by the Newark Firefighters union and was the beneficiary of a judge’s decision to throw out a lawsuit filed by his opponent, Mr. Baraka, who called for the removal of two Jeffries supporters from the Essex County Board of Elections.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries comes to Newark fundraiser for Mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries: “This is a city that I feel intimately connected to because of my own family background," said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY8), whose district encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Queens. "My father was born and raised in Newark and went to Barringer High School. Shavar supported me from a very early stage, when I ran for the [New York] state Assembly. I'll never forget that. Our areas codes are different, but the issues are largely the same. When you send him to City Hall, he's going to stand up for Newark.