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Since I became “woke” about the true level of racism and injustice in this country, it has become easier to recognize the proverbial “house negro.” One of them recently commented to another prisoner, “He thinks he’s Black,” referring to my constant defense of Black people and anti-racist views and loud comments about that racist pig in the White House. Of course, he didn’t say this to my face.
In the 20th century, few names, especially of Black people, ring louder than that of Martin Luther King. His life, his dedication to the civil rights movement and his martyrdom in April 1968 made him a global icon of social justice. Born in 1929, if he were not martyred, he would be enjoying his 90th year of life. But he was martyred and, too, he was considered an enemy of the state. Why?
On July 22 this year, nearly two years after Trump’s election and the rise of “The Resistance,” I tuned in to KPFA-Berkeley’s Sunday Show and heard host Philip Maldari speaking to The Nation’s national affairs correspondent John Nichols. Philip Maldari: John, just last Monday we had this fabulous press conference in Helsinki, Finland, where these two heads of state [Trump and Putin] had a chance to speak to the world. Do you want to decode what happened there? John Nichols: Do I want to what? PM: Decode – explain.
In a historic day of action, more than 800 protests on Saturday urged lawmakers to pass gun control. In Washington, D.C., alone, organizers say up to 800,000 people took part in the March for Our Lives, which was organized by students who survived the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In New York, another 150,000 people took to the streets; 85,000 rallied in Chicago; 55,000 marched in Los Angeles. Tens of thousands also rallied in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. And 20,000 people gathered in Parkland, Florida.
Trust the truth: Neither slavery nor Jim Crow is over. As you can see, the 13th Amendment perpetuates slavery through its exception clause, and Black life still don’t matter, not just personally, but by law. Jim Crow is being kept alive through systemic impunity. When you let a certain group know that they are above the law, that they can do as they please to other people and they will be protected, you create sadists, bullies and ruffians.
Happy Black History Month. Knowledge is power, something Black people from Frederick Douglass to Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks to Kamala Harris have never taken for granted. If white people would kill a Black person for teaching someone to read, not to mention knowing how to read – enough said! The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s organization, has chosen the theme: “Crisis in Education” for 2017.
I went to San Francisco’s 2017 Dr. King Day celebration riding the same wave that hounded every other participant. As I suspected, a tragic election caused crowd levels to swell significantly compared to a year ago. I’d say at least three times the number of 2016 attendees walked in this year’s march. One ugly cloud loomed: the transfer of federal powers – which finally did arrive four days later – had crept oh so dreadfully near.
Today marks the first anniversary of President Obama ending juvenile solitary in the federal prison system in response to the case of New York City teenager Kalief Browder, who committed suicide in 2015 at the age of 22. In 2010, when Kalief was just 16, he was sent to Rikers Island, without trial, on suspicion of stealing a backpack. He always maintained his innocence and demanded a trial. Instead, he spent the next nearly three years at Rikers – nearly 800 days of that time in solitary confinement.
Here are some quotes I think are apropos for today’s political reality, which shows what a revolutionary thinker Dr. King was; even better, he practiced what he preached. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
A call for a national work stoppage was issued for Sept. 9, 2016, to inmates all across America to bring an end to the “exception” – the slavery clause – in the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment upholding slavery for prisoners. Sadly, I, along with a very small sprinkle of inmates here and there on “the farm” (a reference to Angola, a former slave plantation turned into the largest prison in the country) answered the call.
Tell me, what does it mean when a white adjudicator is unmoved by the racism, oppression and police terror that Black folks in this country are subjected to but becomes unhinged when a Black man decides to demonstrate in opposition to it. Again, what does it mean? That “white adjudicator” just so happens to be United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As for that Black man, he is no other than San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepemick.
Perhaps the reason why Nat Turner is almost completely buried within documented and oral histories is connected to the fear his rebellion caused in the Southampton and by extension the Southern antebellum community. Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” visits this story as Donald Trump draws a white male constituency very much in keeping philosophically with the angry mob who tear the flesh from the iconic Prophet Nat Turner’s body.
I have been asked to write a SOLIDARITY statement to everyone about the Camp of the Sacred Stones on Standing Rock. Thank you for this great honor. I must admit it is very difficult for me to even begin this statement, as my eyes get so blurred from tears and my heart swells with pride as chills run up and down my neck and back. I’m so proud of all of you young people and others there.
We lost many loved ones this past month, from photographer extraordinaire Kamau Amen Ra to community organizer, prolific writer and longshoreman Brother Cleophus Williams to my dear Sister Monica Pree, not to mention Muhammad Ali. We reflect on Independence Day, a day marked by the blood of African Ancestors of the Middle Passage – the first to die a Black man, Crispus Attucks, on March 3, 1770, in what became known as the Boston Massacre.
International peace activist Cynthia McKinney brought a very important point to me recently when she asked me to think about the fact that every time Black people reach a moral high ground over the police, something tragic happens to the police. It drives home the subliminal point that other ethnicities should be sympathetic to police who are paid to control these Black animals, who, untrained or barely trained and armed, can kill multiple elite, trained officers. Consider the cases of Larry Davis in New York and Lovelle Mixon in Oakland.
It’s not some grand conspiracy, but it’s grand theft nonetheless. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ voters will lose their ballots, their rights, by the tens of thousands. The steal is baked into the way California handles No Party Preference – “NPP” voters – what we know as “independents.” There are a mind-blowing 4.2 million voters in California registered NPP – and they share a love for sunshine and Bernie Sanders.
I began writing a eulogy for Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores years ago, though she died only last week. Berta was assassinated by Honduran government-backed death squads on March 3. Like many who knew and worked with her, I was aware that this fighter was not destined to die of old age. She spoke too much truth to too much power. Long may Berta live, in the hearts, minds, passions and actions of all of us.
Author Akua Agusi’s children's books deal with the history of Black giants like Marcus Garvey, Madame C.J. Walker, Queen Nzinga and Imhotep. And there are many more in the works. Please support revolutionary Black art and literature with your purchasing dollars so we can continue to keep Akua in business and inspire more people to make conscious and revolutionary art and literature. Check her out in her own words.
The activism in Oakland today parallels both the activism to end police brutality in Oakland in the 1940s and 1950s and the Black Panthers’ activism beginning in 1966. A new source of activism has been added today: the victims’ families. “Policing in the 21st Century: Where Do We Go from Here,” uniting police victims’ families with Black Panther Party veterans will be held Saturday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at First AME Church, 530 37th St., Oakland; it’s free and open to the public.
Muhammad al-Kareem founded the New Bayview newspaper, later renamed San Francisco Bay View, in 1976 and turned it over to the Ratcliffs in late 1991. So in 2016, we’re excited to be celebrating the newspaper’s 40th anniversary, beginning on Sunday, Feb. 21, 1-5 p.m., at the Main Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco. You’ll hear Muhammad, a panel consisting of writers associated with the Bay View in different eras, a fashion show and musicians reminding us of the beauty and talent within our community. We’ll serve food, too – and it’s all FREE. Spread the word!