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It’s impossible to turn a blind eye to murder

October 2, 2009


Cynthia McKinney speaks on Palestine, poverty and politics on a tour to support the SF Bay View newspaper

Review by Jasmine Hain, Youth Poverty Scholar, Poor News Network

After speaking at the Lunacy Theater at an event that the Poor News Network staff helped to organize, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is interviewed by writer Jasmine Hain and her mother, Vivian Hain, for PNN TV in Poor’s office above the theater. – Photo: Poor News Network
After speaking at the Lunacy Theater at an event that the Poor News Network staff helped to organize, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is interviewed by writer Jasmine Hain and her mother, Vivian Hain, for PNN TV in Poor’s office above the theater. – Photo: Poor News Network
“I am my father’s daughter,” said former Georgia Congressperson Cynthia McKinney to a standing-room-only crowd on a warm Sunday in August.

She was at the theatre below POOR Magazine’s offices in the Redstone Building speaking as part of a benefit tour organized by POCC Block Report Radio in support of the Bay View newspaper.

McKinney spoke on a wide range of topics from Hurricane Katrina to the murder of Oscar Grant and her own struggles with the Israeli government in support of Palestine. She spoke of her early life as the daughter of a Georgia politician who spoke the truth and how he inspired her to begin her political journey.

There were many parts of her speech that evoked strong feelings of agreement and understanding in me.

When the interviewer, Marcel Diallo, from Black New World in the West Oakland Bottoms asked her what or who had inspired her to venture into the world of public policy and social justice through politics, she said that her father, ex-Georgia House of Representatives member, was her driving force.

When she mentioned this, I couldn’t help but make the connection between my mother and me – I have fought alongside my mother in the political field of battle over welfare reform and social justice for welfare families and children.

McKinney mentioned that her many attempts to reach out to white farmers’ communities in Georgia were fraught with racial tension, because she was of African descent.

This reminded me of when my mother and I spoke in legislative meetings in the Statehouse and Republican legislators would try to avoid our topic or to control how many representatives spoke on welfare policy. It reminded me of the struggles of trying to get through to a group of people who are on the other side of the spectrum and how at times my mother and I felt very outnumbered.

Later in her speech, as I was thinking this, McKinney said, “Politics changing public policy changes those statistics.” By this point in the speech, she had fully captured my attention.

McKinney also spoke about the struggles she had faced in Gaza and the controversy and opposition she has faced from the Israeli government.

About the Israeli bombing of Gaza last winter paid for by U.S. taxpayers and condoned by former President Bush, she said, “For me this was just another example of the U.S. bombing another country where the people look like me.”

She addressed the fear of conflict the U.S. government has about its policy concerning the Israeli government and how ultimately this fear is costing peoples’ lives. McKinney said, “Many congressmen live by fear. They are afraid of the pro-Israel lobby and wait for the people to counteract them.”

She was able to speak as a person who was formerly incarcerated by the Israeli government in an Israeli prison. Her opinion on the government’s neglect to change is that it is impossible to turn a blind eye to murder and genocide that U.S. citizens are paying for and the U.S. government is responsible for.

In my opinion, she addressed a problem that is local as well as international – people in office are afraid of change and conflict and they sacrifice the well-being of their constituents to preserve the peace among the higher-ups.

This idea also played into the section of her interview that touched on the subject of Hurricane Katrina. She was asked what she thinks the people should do to address the neglect in New Orleans.

Her response was that we need to let the people tell their stories and struggles from their own mouths and to expose the hardship for what it really is. She said we can tell the story of what happened and we can recommend policy.

This idea comes from the “radical” idea that the people who are directly affected by public policy should be the ones creating that policy – after all, who could represent the people better than the victims of the hurricane.

I thought McKinney put a very new and revolutionary idea across to people – especially people in the political field.

McKinney was asked about her opinion on the murder of Oscar Grant and what her feelings were on how it was being handled by the youth, who are the primary leaders of the movement against police brutality. She said, “I can’t thank the youth enough for bringing to life the murder of Oscar Grant.” She spoke about how important it is for youth to rise up and take a stand and create social change.

“The most effective way to change policy is to become an elected official and create policy.” When Cynthia McKinney made this comment, it hit very close to home.

As a youth activist, I find that it is essential for youth to create positions within the government and the community that can create change. As youth, we need to bring back the roots of our communities and create more grass-roots-originated policy and change.

“We have to find a point of commonality,” McKinney said when the topic of non-native organizations outnumbering native-run organizations in Oakland and throughout the Bay Area is addressed.

I feel that the youth movement and the efforts to generate more of a community effort can be combined.

McKinney’s words about her struggle with her father trying to create political change, her opinions about what is wrong with policy change today and how the youth can change those problems struck me profoundly.

I hope McKinney continues being a revolutionary thinker in the political field.

Jasmine Hain is a youth poverty scholar and writer at Poor News Network. Read more about issues of poverty and race written by the people who face them daily at www.poormagazine.org.

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