Black Votes Matter!

The interlocking fingers of Nube and Malik represent the unity and solidarity needed amongst the entire Black community during this voting cycle. Malik is fond of saying, “A finger that stands alone is easy to break but a fist is hard to crush!” ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE. – Photo: John Corcoran

by Nube Brown and Malik Washington

Disenfranchisement, voter suppression and white supremacy are issues I became intimately familiar with during my 13 years in prison. I thought numerous times about how, year after year, legislation is passed that affects me and my fellow prisoners directly, yet we had no say whatsoever in what gets voted for or not by members of the legislature.

When you are a prisoner in Amerika, you are relegated to a subhuman status. Your life doesn’t matter. 

For years, I struggled to discover a way to amplify my voice in such a manner that I could use it to aid those who had no voice. It wasn’t an easy path that I chose.

For years, I felt abandoned and forgotten about – that is, until my close friend and comrade Kevin “Rashid” Johnson introduced me to Dr. Willie Ratcliff and Sis. Mary Ratcliff of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. My life was immediately changed.

The Bay View has a history of providing a platform to those who have been thrown away and forgotten about by society. As the new assistant and managing editors of the Bay View, Nube and I have a message for our incarcerated comrades and friends: You are not alone and we will not forget about you! For those who are beaten, degraded, dehumanized, tortured and abused – we will be your champions. There is no way that I will forget where I came from.

The Bay View also has a rich history of supporting and reporting on issues of concern that take place within the Bayview Hunters Point community. Due to Dr. Willie and Sis. Mary’s age and health concerns, they can’t get out as much as they used to back in the day. 

Today, Nube and I want to let every resident in every neighborhood of Bayview Hunters Point know that we are here for you. We will show ourselves in the community regularly. We will be accessible to all and eager to report on the topics and the issues that reflect the concerns of the people. We also are willing and able to get involved and lend a helping hand when necessary.

Right now, as this article is going to print, the Bay View is in the process of transitioning from a corporate model to a co-op model. That’s right! The Bay View is working with some wonderful attorneys from the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland and soon this historic national Black newspaper will be owned by the people – we will be offering our readers and subscribers an opportunity to actually own a share in our wonderful Black newspaper.

This year is unlike any year that Nube and I have ever experienced. As we get closer to the November 2020 election, we want all Black and oppressed people to be informed and educated before going to the polls. 

There are so many pieces of legislation and propositions that will have a significant impact on the Black community. This is why this issue of the paper includes an amazing voters guide by trusted SFUSD educator and activist Jeremiah Jeffries. 

The people we “elect” cannot save us. They cannot solve our problems. That is on us, the people. WE employ THEM.

If we at the Bayview say that we want the people to be informed and educated, but then do nothing to inform and educate you, we are not doing our jobs. We want the people of Bayview Hunters Point to know without a shadow of a doubt that our mission at the Bay View is to be the people’s newspaper, and our mantra will be: “Serve the people! All power to the people, then and now!”

For the past four years we, Managing Editor Nube Brown and Assistant Editor Malik Washington have observed state officials from all over the United States of Amerika attempting to sabotage or obstruct the people’s right to vote. We advocate strongly for Black people and all oppressed peoples to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential for a plethora of salient and crucial reasons.

For one: We Black people have sacrificed our blood, sweat, tears and precious lives in order to secure our right to vote. Do we ever really want to relinquish our rights while they are under constant assault? No! We encourage you to vote and assert the power of the people! These elected officials work for us – don’t ever forget that.

The people we “elect” cannot save us. They cannot solve our problems. That is on us, the people. WE employ THEM. 

Our politics may be more radical than most and we believe that one day there will be a revolution that will create a system here in Amerika that serves the interests of all the people and not just a privileged few. Until then, it is imperative that we acknowledge that there will be no revolution without a planet.

Are these officials, elected by us, thinking about the climate crisis while we’re being assaulted by environmental racism? Not if we don’t make them.

With that said, this is Nube. I’d like to share something personal with all of you. Since 2016, my belief in the vote has been shaken. I could not, and did not, in good conscience, vote for 45 or Clinton. 

I admit I almost didn’t vote at all! I was so angry about the choice being put before me and the scheming of the DNC to sideline Bernie Sanders that I could barely hear the voice of Fannie Lou Hamer, who had always been there to drive me on when I was in doubt. 

However, I did vote: I voted for the Green Party. Now it is four horrible years later, with all the ugliness of Amerikan capitalism laid bare in our faces, and, for me, two undesirable choices put before us yet again. 

Perhaps with a bit of cynicism, but without hesitation, I am voting with three things in mind as my inspiration:  Cornel West saying he’s voting “anti-fascist”; Frederick Douglass bellowing: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress”; and Mother Earth!

I am honoring centuries of ongoing Black resistance, the people’s resistance, to this oppression, and using the vote like any other tool in my belt – to wield the power that I put behind it. While I don’t have much faith in the electoral process, I do have faith in the power of the people, who I trust implicitly. I will not be quiet.

Like many San Francisco residents, we were shocked to see the blotting out of the sun on Sept. 8, 2020. If that didn’t get your attention, it could be that we have come to accept as normal events that which should be intolerable. 

Environmental racism continues to exacerbate the economic and health issues of oppressed communities, causing even greater harm to these people in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We must take back our power as a unified movement and organize around issues that affect the daily lives of all of us. In regard to the Black and Latinx community here in the Bay Area, there are specific issues affecting oppressed populations in San Francisco.

Sisters and brothers, more than any other time in recent history, our vote, both on a national and local level, matters

This month, we have been talking to members of the community here in Bayview Hunters Point and here are just some of the things that we found out.

Black construction workers – journeymen, apprentices and laborers – need and want jobs! The people on the street are telling us that contractors in the city of San Francisco are not giving Black people a fair chance to work on many of these construction projects taking place in San Francisco. 

As we write, road repair is being done on Palou Avenue near the home of the San Francisco Bay View, and not a single Black face can be seen amongst the all white and Latinx crew. This is a form of strategic gentrification and employment discrimination in action and it must be exposed and addressed. 

We encourage you to continue to follow the Bay View because we are working on a shocking expose. This situation in particular has us thinking about the “Roadmap for the Black Community” put forth by our Mayor London Breed. Our people want to work.

Another issue of contention often ignored and understated is the plight of undocumented workers in Bayview Hunters Point. We are hearing from local business owners that members of the undocumented community are literally starving from lack of nutritious food. This is absolutely unacceptable. 

At this very moment, the Bay View is working directly with Gwendolyn Westbrook of local food and shelter provider Mother Brown’s in order to feed all the hungry children and adults in the community. We are doing our best to attract the material resources that will ensure that no child in Bayview Hunters Point will go hungry.

The last issue that we will mention here is an issue that the Bay View has publicized for years, and that is the deadly environment created by radiation and innumerable highly toxic contaminants at the Hunters Point Shipyard. We have spoken to community members who have asthma and who speak out about other serious ailments. 

Many of you who read the Bay View may know that Editor Mary Ratcliff has been diagnosed with and is being treated for breast cancer. The question presents itself: “When will these imperialist corporations and the U.S. government provide the reparations owed to the people who live and work in Bayview Hunters Point?” Inquiring minds want to know.

Sisters and brothers, more than any other time in recent history, our vote, both on a national and local level, matters. We must continue to hold our elected representatives accountable to the people long after our votes have been counted. 

Be involved! Be active! Be heard! Join, donate to or organize a community program or organization that aligns with your values. We must not allow anyone to obstruct or hinder us in November 2020. Please get to the polls and become an ambassador for change!

Malik Washington and Nube Brown are, respectively, assistant and managing editor at the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. They are abolitionists and community activists committed to serving the people who live and work in the entire Bay Area. Malik and Nube have a special interest in the Bayview Hunters Point Community and in promoting the prisoner human rights movement in California and beyond. If you see news happening or would like to contact them, please email malik@sfbayview.com and nube@sfbayview.com. Please visit our website, sfbayview.com, and share the knowledge, wisdom and understanding and Black culture contained in our one of a kind national Black newspaper.