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 forward – 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.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Brother Minister!

By Charles Brooks

We celebrate the birthday of Malcolm X, who would have been 89 years old today. With May 19th quickly approaching, the question for me, was a typical one for any writer – what can I write about Malcolm X that has not been written before?  But after a few short moments of reflection and thinking about his significance, his legacy, I realized 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 re-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.  The significance of Malcolm X, that is his legacy deepens as his words carries the heavy weight of relevance to the current issues of the day. Malcolm X was a teacher but he was also an organizer, a builder.  He was unflinching. Uncompromising.  Courageous. He confronted the face of American apartheid and the body 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 human rights activist and organizer. He was a Black Nationalist and a Pan Africanist, who believed in and was committed to building a movement where Black people controlled their community and one 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, 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 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 the MOVE-9 and call the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole at 717-772-4343.  


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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 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

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…

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.
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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Clinton confidential papers released...

By Charles Brooks

“Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library.”
A fourth batch of confidential documents from the Clinton days in the White House was recently released for public view on April 18th.  This release of documents contains over 100 files totaling approximately 7,500 pages - the largest set of documents released thus far. As noted in The Blackboard’s previous posts on the Clinton Papers, these confidential documents contain items such as email correspondence, presidential meeting schedules, handwritten notes, internal memorandums, transcripts, letters, and speech drafts.  This stream of confidential correspondence – hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents provides the public with a peek to the world inside the White House where candid thoughts and hard-line positions are debated and captured on paper. 

These confidential documents delve into a wide range of issues that do well to remind the public of the hot-button policy issues as well as the tabloid scandals and political crises. The public can now view these internal memos that can provide some insight into the administrations’ thinking and approach to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the genocide in Rwanda, the aftermath of the horrific Oklahoma City bombing, and contentious relations with the Republicans.  In reviewing several of the released files, The Blackboard uncovered a few rather revealing items.  For instance, the White House relationship with the press: “We are really caught in a pull and tug with the magazine, I agree with some of LIFE's comments, but strongly disagree on others.  I agree with their reordering of the text, and I think it comes close to my first draft: opening with the personal Boys Nation anecdote, moving to the timeless lessons to be drawn from Kennedy's administration. My argument is not with the story they want, but the way they want the story told. The tone they seek from the President is so self-centered, it's actually solipsistic.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Blackboard Weekly Report - 4/21/14

  • Zimbabwe celebrated the 34th anniversary of their independence. See here for the press statement released by Secretary of State John Kerry and a brief summary of their history here from the Government of Zimbabwe.  
  • Professor Hilary Beckles, Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, is urging young people across the Caribbean to play a role in their reparation struggle. The Jamaican Observer reported Prof. Beckles comments during a lecture: "There are many people in the world who believe that all they have to do is sit quiet and allow the older leaders of this campaign to pass away," he said. "You are the descendants of those who have survived and that gives you, the younger generation, a special responsibility to honour this history."
 White House
  • President Obama: The President held a press conference last week, responding to questions about the Affordable Care Act and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.   During the press conference, President Obama tells Democrats not to run from health care issue with 2014 mid-term elections approaching. “I think the Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people (have insurance)…I don't think we should apologize for it. I don't think we should be defensive about it…” 
  • Affordable Care Act Update:  The White House announces 8 million have signed up for health insurance via the market exchanges.   
  • Ukraine Crisis Update:  The Guardian reports that US secretary of state John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to defuse the crisis. See coverage of the ongoing Ukraine crisis by CNN, The Guardian, and the BBC.
  • Justice Department:  Attorney General Holder announced the Justice Department’s initiative to reduce sentencing disparities for drug offenders in the federal prison system by expanding the criteria for clemency.  “The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety.  The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.  
  • First Lady: The Washington Post reports that last Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama  and entertainer Bow Wow joined 37 students from Chicago public high schools for a tour of Howard University.  But the First Lady’s scheduled graduation address in Kansas is causing a stir   - Parents and students alike have expressed anguish that the first lady’s speech and limited seating for families detract from a day that should center on the graduating students and their loved ones.
  • Restoring the right for convicted felons to vote appeared in Virginia and in Iowa. In Virginia, the Governor has signed an executive order enabling an easier process to gain voting rights; drug offenses will no longer be on the list of crimes that need a waiting period, and the waiting period for violent offenders will decrease from 5 years to 3 year.  
  • Meanwhile in Iowa, felons will continue to be disqualified despite a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling, 5-1 that some felonies may not rise to the level of barring voting rights.
  • New York politico Basil Paterson passed away.  See obituary by Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein – the firm Mr. Paterson joined in the early 1980’s. See additional coverage in the New York Amsterdam News.  
  • The New York Police Department (NYPD) had dismantled the unit that spied on Muslim communities. The ACLU noted that NYPD spied on their places of worship, and businesses they frequent – based on nothing but their religious beliefs and associations. For additional information see the ACLU’s fact sheet and the Associated Press investigation into NYPD intelligence.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Blackboard Report - 4/14/14

By Charles Brooks 

White House
·       In the last week, remarks by both the President and Attorney General at the National Action Network annual convention have placed a spotlight on the issue of race.  The Attorney General’s comments at the National Action Network were in part, in response to an contentious exchange between Mr. Holder and Mr. Gohmert during a House Judicary Committee hearing.
·     The President speaks at the Civil Rights Summit, a 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Bill signed in July 1964.  Joining President Obama was former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
·      Affordable Care Act Update:  Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigns after months of criticism and days after news reports of 7.5 million signups for  health insurance through the marketplace exchanges.

·       Archived Rosa Parks memorabilia will be put up for auction for a reported $10 million.
·       Fox News is reporting that Ben Carson raised $4 million for the 2016 presidential race.
·       Reverend Al Sharpton’s past as an FBI informant has been republished as the National Action Network convention opens.   

·      Chokwe Lumumba’s son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba wins mayoral primary in Jackson, Mississippi.
·      Florida’s Republican legislators are pushing gun bills to expand gun rights in Florida.
·      Missouri lawmakers seek to expand their self-defense laws.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Highlights from the Clinton Papers - March 28, 2014 release

By Charles Brooks

In a recent post, I wrote about the March 28th release of the Clinton papers from the Clinton Presidential Library - the third such release since February 14th.  Below you will find highlights from selected correspondence on various topics from corporate responsibility to Clinton's Race Initiative.

Highlights from selected correspondence (letters, memos, emails, etc)

 “Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library.”

An internal memo on corporate responsibility
The program we're discussing is sponsored by Procter and Gamble, which, as one of the Labor Dept. people pointed out yesterday, MAY NOT BE A GOOD CORPORATE CITIZEN.

By giving the President a speech about corporate responsibility in Ohio, we are potentially involving him in the GM strike. Even if he "no comments" or says we don't involve ourselves in these matters when talks are underway, he's going to look out of touch with the very issues-- .how companies treat their workers-- that he's coming to Ohio to address. Is a Catholic University the best venue for this sort of speech? It should be held somewhere like the Detroit Economic Club.