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Big Man: Reflections of my life experiences, today’s conditions

August 10, 2016

by Elbert ‘Big Man’ Howard

My thoughts are the reflections of my life experiences. As to whether that is a life lived well or poorly, I will leave those questions and answers up to historians, critics, the general public and you, the reader.

Protesters in Washington, D.C., last year proclaim, “Black lives matter”! – Photo: Mladen Antonov, AFP

Protesters in Washington, D.C., last year proclaim, “Black lives matter”! – Photo: Mladen Antonov, AFP

In that respect, while time permits, I will express some of my opinions. I think that 78 years in the game we call “life” grants me that privilege. Current events and conditions demand this of me.

To jump right in, take “Black Lives Matter.” This was originally just a statement of how the victims of America’s system of racism feel, which then turned into an entire movement. This movement was created by the continuing mistreatment, persecution and killings of the victims, mostly young people of color, by law enforcement officers.

As usual, the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity utilize the media to try to control the thinking of the public, many of whom are confused and clueless. The public is fed garbage such as, “Black Lives Matter” means we Black people hate white people to the extent that no other lives matter but Black people’s lives.

Just a few decades ago, while the Black Panthers and others chanted, “Black is beautiful,” the corporate media spread the misinformation that this message meant that all white people should be killed. This created hysteria and led to many white Americans rushing to buy guns and ammo.

What a great deal for the gun dealers and for the economy! I say that this was an opportune time for the scum of the earth politicians to crawl out from under their rocks, proclaiming that they were going to save the white race by creating new laws, and then they began building more prisons and locking up more Black and Brown men.

Take “Black Lives Matter.” This movement was created by the continuing mistreatment, persecution and killings of the victims, mostly young people of color, by law enforcement officers.

As prisons become increasingly overcrowded, police are given unlimited power and arms to render the Final Solution on the streets: “shoot to kill.” There will be no questions asked or explanations required. Make no mistake – the police are not out of control; they are in control, complete control.

The taxpayers have been fooled once again by the concept of body cameras for law enforcement. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to equip police with body cameras, yet police are never found in violation of any civil or criminal code which has occurred during a stop or arrest, regardless of the footage.

Officers are free to use and misuse this footage, to turn the cameras on and off and any number of other such acts. Who truly believes that a police officer would turn in evidence against him or herself? Wake up, everyone; the courts of our injustice system don’t expect that or demand it.

Some thoughts on the political process in America

Will the November 2016 election bring about democracy or a dictatorship? In the recent campaigns for president, democracy is definitely not being practiced by either of the major political parties.

After Donald Trump accepts the Republican presidential nomination comes the balloon drop that has become a standard highlight of both major parties’ conventions – the conventions as empty as the balloons. – Photo: Jim Watson, AFP

After Donald Trump accepts the Republican presidential nomination comes the balloon drop that has become a standard highlight of both major parties’ conventions – the conventions as empty as the balloons. – Photo: Jim Watson, AFP

Both are heavily “owned” or influenced by the wealthy corporate 1 percent and their lobbies, such as the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the large pharmaceutical companies. The other 99 percent of us have almost no power or voice, which means that a small minority of wealthy individuals have both political and social control of America.

Just watching those conventions demonstrates the overwhelming need for immediate reform to this absurd institution we have for choosing the candidates who run for president. The American people have in reality little or no control of who actually becomes president. Voting is little more than a ritual in many ways.

The person who gets elected – male or female – and who has power over this nation’s citizenry and huge accumulations of wealth and arsenals, who makes vital decisions in matters of war and peace, life and death and our social and medical programs, ultimately has power and control that affects the world. It is stunning the amount of power which is placed in the hands of the president of the United States and a small band of cohorts and advisers.

Will the November 2016 election bring about democracy or a dictatorship? In the recent campaigns for president, democracy is definitely not being practiced by either of the major political parties.

I re-iterate here: What this boils down to is economic decision-making power which is not in the hands of the American people but in the hands of the large and wealthy corporations. Corporations are solely interested in what produces a profit and by any means necessary. The corporate media controls the advertising industry and persuades the public to purchase what is produced by the corporations, of course.

Due to an almost complete lack of standards and regulations, dangerous commodities are produced and sold, which destroy cities, beaches, forests, parks and other natural habitats, wildlife, the food we consume and the air we breathe. I am saying that democracy in the United States appears to me to be a complete failure.

Equality before the law

In my opinion, equality before the law here in the United States has little or no meaning. In reality, if a Black child steals a 10-cent piece of candy and runs from the scene, he or she may be shot and killed by a police officer.

Elbert “Big Man” Howard testifies for justice for Andy Lopez at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 7, 2014. – Photo: Vesta Copestakes

Elbert “Big Man” Howard testifies for justice for Andy Lopez at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 7, 2014. – Photo: Vesta Copestakes

However, a wealthy man, particularly a wealthy white man, can pull off a million-dollar swindle, run to another country, but when captured, does not have to fear any kind of abuse at the hands of law enforcement. American courts, the system in place and district attorneys protect law enforcement officers, no matter what crimes against human beings have been committed.

The Andy Lopez shooting at the hands of law enforcement here in Sonoma County is a good example. Communities and attorneys have few means to combat these violations against humanity without large amounts of money.

Even then, these cases against an officer are usually lost or settled with no change in the officer’s position or income. Members of the communities who protest loudly must remember they are always in danger of being arrested.

In closing, I feel that we, the people, in order to begin to address the huge catastrophes we face, must unite – the need for this is appallingly urgent. In order to accomplish change, we must be dedicated to the ideas of freedom and justice for all, to the end of brutality and murder of people of color, an end to the militarization of police and to insist on the institution of nationwide, true community control of police.

In my opinion, equality before the law here in the United States has little or no meaning.

Although we must remember that any movement for self-empowerment is regarded as a threat by the ruling class, we have to recognize that we have to overcome our fears which prevent our actions and create disunity.

We must join each other with heart-felt determination, focus, commitment, dedication and a feel for the urgent need for change and take a giant, evolutionary leap into consciousness. We must recognize the need to commit to each other as human beings, for the need to fight against racism and injustice is urgent, as is the need for freedom and justice for all. Our children and our grandchildren’s lives depend on it and we owe this to them and to ourselves.

We must join each other with heart-felt determination, focus, commitment, dedication and a feel for the urgent need for change and take a giant, evolutionary leap into consciousness.

Elbert “Big Man” Howard is one of the original six founding members of the Black Panther Party; he served as the first editor of the Black Panther newspaper and as the party’s deputy minister of information, central committee member, coordinator of national and international support committees and spokesperson. He is also a founding member of the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline (PACH). An activist, author and lecturer, he resides in Sonoma County and can be reached at bigman0138@aol.com.

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