Friday, June 23, 2017

What exactly does the CBC want?

By Charles Brooks 

Less than two weeks left with the Obama presidency, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) discussed their plans to be more aggressive with the incoming president, Donald Trump. Well, after just six months of Trump being in office the CBC has seen enough as CBC Chairman Rep.Cedric Richmond (D-LA) rejected the president’s invitation to meet with him at the White House. In his letter to the president and in subsequent media interviews, Rep. Richmond outlined specific concerns around the Trump administration’s plans to dismantle healthcare, resurrect the drug war, disregard consent decrees, and implement billion dollars in cuts to Pell Grants.  The CBC Chair also reminded the president of his failure to respond to outreach to him of eight letters and a policy report submitted during their first meeting back in March.  “Through an objective assessment, we have seen no evidence that your administration acted on our calls for action, and we have in fact witnessed steps that will affirmatively hurt black communities,” wrote Rep. Richmond. In the letter as well as in a number of media interviews explaining their decision, the CBC Chair dismissed the would-be meeting as a “social gathering”.

I think we are clear on what the CBC does not want but what they do want and the path to get there is not as equally clear.  This is disturbing particularly considering their first meeting with the president back in March was viewed as “productive” and “frank” with a commitment for more regularly scheduled meetings to discuss policy issues.  So the first – if not, obvious – question is what exactly is being accomplished by not sitting with the president to address the issues and concerns they’ve outlined in their letters and policy paper? Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to meet with the president to discuss these critical issues?  Which brings us to the next question, what is their next move - or in other words what is their Plan B? Well they did submit an alternative federal budget for the FY2018 as they’ve always done since 1981 with little fanfare. But realistically, what are the chances that a Republican majority in Congress will act or much less debate the merits of the CBC’s alternative budget?

This apparent public display of defiance by the CBC actually raises more concerns about their effectiveness and, yes their relevance. For eight years, they served with a muted voice while providing a protective shield against Republican attacks on President Obama. Equally troubling was their refusal to endorse one of their own, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md) for the open Senate seat in Maryland. And then we learned about their ties to corporate interests during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Authors of the CBC Report Card 2016, Glen Ford and Patrice Johnson brings into question the CBC’s leadership with an extensive analysis of ten key votes between September 2015 and September 2016.  Their report states the following: “What the CBC Monitor Report Cards bring into focus is that the Black Caucus is simply an appendage of Democratic leadership in the House. It has no independent existence or policy, and is therefore not a leadership institution for Black America. Rather, it is the Black face of the Democratic Party. Only about one-third of its members (the 14 that voted against the internet “terror” bill, last December, for example) are willing to break with their party on occasion.”
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In his letter to the president, Rep. Richmond left the door open for the President to invite individual CBC members for future meetings with him and cabinet officials. 

Discussion Question: 
Should individual members of the CBC pursue individual meetings with the president? What plan of action should the CBC pursue in this age of Trump?

Further Reading:



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Big Business of Poverty pimps the poor


Two years ago, during the aftermath of police violence and protest demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, the nation witnessed a militarized police force, and learned of dismal police-community relations, as well as a scheme resembling debtor prisons.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated and issued their report, "Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department". 

They found practices that were unlawful, deeply-entrenched and unconstitutional: “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community.” While the report shows a link between debtor prisons and the prison industrial complex – there’s also strong link to the growing poverty industry as well too.
  
Daniel L. Hatcher has written a new book on this topic called, The Poverty Industry: The exploitation of America’s most vulnerable citizens.  Mr. Hatcher recently visited the Busboys and Poets Bookstore and CafĂ© in Washington D. C., on June 29th, to talk about his new book.  For roughly thirty minutes before a question/answer session, Mr. Hatcher provided a glimpse into the poverty industrial complex and how this massive network manages to divert funds from, who Mr. Hatcher appropriately characterizes as America’s most vulnerable citizens – impoverished families, abused and neglected children, and the disabled and elderly poor. “My hope to getting this book out is to provide awareness because with awareness you have the potential for change.  So in the poverty industry, I’m hoping to expose and explain several of these revenue maximizing practices that states and state agencies to use on the most vulnerable populations,” explains Mr. Hatcher.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Hillary wins...and the black vote loses

By Charles Brooks


The South Carolina primary was to be a test of black vote for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – and the black vote lost.  Despite Hillary Clinton’s commanding win in South Carolina with record turnout from black voters, the 2016 election cycle is slowly shaping up to be yet another lost opportunity – another disappointment. Exit poll data shows blacks made up 61% of the electorate, voted for Clinton 84%-16% while 82% came from black men and 89% from black women.



There continues to be an obsession with the black vote by the Democratic Party as black voters still have yet to realize the magnitude of their vote. The exit data shows a lock step approach largely driven by whether Hillary Clinton is “electable” or if she’s the “lessor of two evils”.  An approach that sidelines the black voter unable to build any leverage.  So what goes unnoticed is the spectacle the 2016 primaries have become that’s largely driven by two critical issues for the black voter.  The very public display of Clinton’s naked pursuit of the black vote on one hand and on the other hand, a base of black voters whose allegiance to the Clinton campaign shows no signs of eroding.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What really happened to Sandra Bland?

By Charles Brooks



We paid attention and took notice of the disturbing trend.  We read the stories and saw the videos of not only blatant police harassment but of vicious police violence visited not on black men – but on black and brown women.  All across the country we saw it over and over - black women pushed, punched, kicked, and at times suffering this violence while being handcuffed by the police. In those cases that did managed to reach national attention, we saw that these black women were college professors, house wives, bathing suit clad teenagers and yes – even pregnant black women felt the brunt of this police violence. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Throwaways: who are they?

 
 
Curiously, let’s start with the name of the film – The Throwaways.  What immediately comes to mind when you think of term throwaways - what comes to mind first? Items, things that you no longer want or need. An item that is no longer working or has passed its usefulness to you.  Items or things that do not meet your needs or demands any more. Spoiled food, batteries, shoes, clothes…the list can go on and on for sure. This film, The Throwaways is not about things but about people – people who are routinely dismissed, neglected, and yes – thrown away. Think about that for minute or two - the high school dropout, unemployed, the homeless, the drug addict, and yes, your convicted ex-felon are your typical throwaways.  There’s this notion that they are less than human with little or no value.  Simply put, they’re not look upon in the same way as those whose humanity is recognized. Featured in the film is Michelle Alexander, author of widely acclaimed, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Age of Colorblindness explains it this way in the film:”… That’s ultimately what The Throwaways is all about, right… groups of people who are defined as different enough that you don’t have to care and can be just thrown away…”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What really happened to Freddy Gray?



With each incident of police violence unleashed on yet another unarmed African-American – another wave of consciousness sweeps the country as new rebellious uprisings emerge.  There are black and brown communities all over the country – the constant targets of police violence – who have said no more and are actively galvanizing, mobilizing, organizing and yes, resisting.  There is something emerging in this country that can longer be contained – and we recently bore witness to that in Baltimore, Maryland. 

For the last two months there’s been relatively two burning questions asked by those in and out of Baltimore - what exactly happened to Freddy Gray and how did he die? Since Mr. Gray died from horrific spinal injuries occurring while in police custody - these questions were left unanswered only for the public to draw their own conclusions – until now.  The recent “leaking” of the autopsy report to the Baltimore Sun is supposed to finally address these questions.  The “leaked” autopsy report revealed that Mr. Gray suffered from what the report described as a “high energy” injury while making a comparison to injuries suffered from shallow-water diving accidents. The report states: The type of fracture/dislocation documented in imaging studies on admission is a high energy injury most often caused by abrupt deceleration of a rotated head on a hyperflexed neck, such as seen in shallow water diving incidents.”  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pres. Obama's Task Force: The Battle for the Public Trust begins...

By Charles Brooks

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
The interim report recently released by President Obama’s task force on policing will shed some light on their view of the public trust - a view that is not shared by those who seek more than just a laundry list of recommendations to address police violence.  The report was released just days before the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report of their investigation into the Ferguson Police Department – a flashpoint of racial frustrations and deep seated tensions unleashed in the face of aggressive and excessive policing.  A rather scathing report that detailed the apparent racist activities engaged not just by the Ferguson police officers but the Ferguson municipal government. However, the explosiveness of DOJ’s Ferguson report on the Ferguson Police Department should not be allowed to overshadow the president’s task force interim report because as the president himself said: “This time will be different,” President Obama said, regarding the effectiveness of the task force compared to prior ones, “because the President of the United States is deeply vested in making it different.”