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Looming Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Makes Emmett Till Tree Planting Ceremony a Bitter Sweet Reminder

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The word conundrum should probably never apply to a historic day like Monday, Nov. 17 when a Sycamore tree was planted at the Capitol, dedicated to the memory of Emmett Till. Till is remembered as the young black teenager from Chicago who was brutally murdered by a group of white men in 1955 while visiting relatives in Mississippi. The racially-tinged circumstances surrounding his death are a permanent scar in America’s history of civil rights – and unfortunately, more of these racially-divisive moments are taking place 60 years later.

Under gray skies, outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder braved rain at the ceremony to share a few words about what Till’s death represented in the fight for civil rights and equality. The same day Holder was reminding America of Till’s tragedy, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon delivered his own speech, in which he called a state of emergency for Missouri in anticipation of a grand jury decision that would either indict or acquit Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown in August, allegedly in self-defense, which has left many protestors in Missouri skeptical.

I have no doubt that Gov. Nixon’s state of emergency was intended to protect the people of Missouri, but it’s remiss to not emphasize that the protestors, peaceful or violent, are citizens of Missouri themselves. It’s arguably more disconcerting to not look at the overwhelming displays of flagrant disrespect and tension sparked by officers who are meant to protect all Missourians since demonstrations began in August. And most importantly, let's not forget the simple and central issue behind this disruption: another young black man lost his life in a town that has a history of strife with law enforcement. The people most vulnerable to this issue are upset. The bedrock of leadership should be equality and justice for all, and ensuring that the well being and interests of all people are considered, including protestors.

Till and Brown’s individual deaths have important differences, this cannot be denied, but the question of whether justice will be served had too many African-Americans pessimistic of the outcome before a grand jury trial ever began. The timing of Till’s tree planting ceremony is a stark reminder that “the struggle” is real and that the shadow of Till’s death continues to follow young black men like Brown every day.

Corey Arvin is a Contributing Editor for Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every week on blackvoicenews.com. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com and followed on Twitter @coreyarvin.

The Question Black Conservatives Always Avoid

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(NNPA) Like everyone else, I am processing the November election results.  I will write more about that later, but there was a radio exchange that I heard the night prior to the election that really got me thinking.

On my way home from Baltimore, where I had been doing some electoral work, I found myself listening to a radio program that was addressing the upcoming election.  The focus of the program was the Maryland governor’s race, which pitted African American, Democrat Lt. Gov.  Anthony Brown against Larry Hogan, a White Republican who eventually won  the race.

This program appeared to be oriented towards African Americans.  A good deal of the air time was consumed with criticisms of the Brown campaign; mainly correct criticisms I might add.  Yet, on the program there was an African American who had served in the administration of former Maryland Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich.  She was making the case for voting for Hogan and dismissing anything positive that had taken place under current Gov. Martin  O’Malley and his Lt. Gov. Brown.

At one point in the discussion, this Hogan supporter did something very interesting.  She quickly made reference to mistakes that Republicans had committed around the country (she did not say what mistakes); made reference to racism existing in both parties (of course!); and then went on to say that all politics is local and that people should give Hogan a look.

I was amazed that no one else on this radio program, at least while I was listening, pursued this issue.  No one asked the obvious question:  “Why should African Americans support someone from a political party that has carried out an orchestrated strategy to deny African Americans the vote?”

I have yet to hear a Black conservative address this and I ask myself, “Why?”  How can someone who is Black ignore the fact that race is central in the Republican Party’s messages?  How can someone ignore the fact that in Republican dominated state legislatures, statutes have been advanced that make it more difficult rather than less difficult for minorities, youth and senior citizens to vote?

No one asked this sister anything like that.  They acted as if now governor-elect Hogan exists in some sort of bubble and does not have to address the well-planned, and orchestrated efforts to narrow the electorate rather than expand it.

So, to my Black conservative friends, would you please take a moment and respond to this simple question:  How can you remain silent on voter suppression and, worse, endorse a party that has made that part of their strategy?

Thanks in advance.

Bill Fletcher. Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English.  He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer.  Follow him on Facebook and www.billfletcherjr.com.

Why Democrats Lost the Midterms

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By Wellington E. Webb
NNPA Guest Columnist


(NNPA) Now that the dust has settled after our nation’s 2014 elections across the country, here is my two cents worth on what has happened during the last couple of years, and what it means now.

First and foremost, congratulations to the National Republican Committee. They had a 50-state plan, and they implemented their plan with dogmatic discipline and with little or no deviation by candidates, or state strategists’ preferences.

During the election, I was in four different states and heard the same theme uttered from Republican candidate to Republican candidate in all four of them:  “This Democratic candidate “X” voted 99 percent of the time with Obama. This Democratic candidate “Y” voted with Obama 92 percent of the time.”  This theme resonated in every state that I visited. It was clear that this strategy was initiated at the highest levels of the Republican Party and was expected to be carried out in every race in the country where there was a Republican candidate who had served in an elected position and there was an opportunity to line up on the “Republican side” of issues or on the “Obama side” of issues in the forefront of the American people.

In my home state of Colorado, I was afraid that we Democrats were going to lose the U.S. Senate race, the governor’s race, and the majority hold to both chambers of the Colorado legislature.  My having served on the most recent Colorado Reapportionment Commission in 2010, where we crafted the districts based upon access to a fair process for candidates from each predominant party, I thought that the House and the Senate of Colorado were competitive but with a positive edge of advantage to Democrats in that Democrats had been at a disadvantage up to 2010.

However, given the lack of passion for the principles for which many Democratic elected officials coupled with victories on other issues over the past six years, two days before the 2014 midterm election, I was fearful that we were going to lose it all in Colorado. Our Democratic base did not vote its winning capacity, and the Republican ground game was also better than ours. Of the political consultants the Democratic Party had hired very few, if any, minority consultants were contracted to fill in their blind spots on data mining for voters.  This same unsuccessful strategy model was applied on Amendment 66 in Colorado as well.

Unfortunately, we Democrats had little to no respect for, and therefore almost invisible identification with, the accomplishments of President Obama, who had accumulated a litany of successes. We, as Democrats, should have been proud of and owned up to our record of sterling accomplishments from 2008 to 2014:  Gasoline prices are down, unemployment is down, health care accessibility is available to all, and, we even justifiably assassinated Osama Bin Laden.  Not once, did we mention one Democratic success. This omission was the most shameful outcome of this 2014 election.

We ran away from our successes – and Republicans fought against them, even though our efforts improved the lives of Americans.  We should have been talking about everything from increasing the minimum wage across the nation to fighting to protect Medicare and Social Security and providing a national security plan to protect America. But we didn’t.  Shame on us Democrats for not amplifying our improvements to the country.

Elections are cyclical, and if we don’t have a message that resonates at the national level, the state level, and to the legislative level, we Democrats, will be a minority party and our nation’s minorities will be shoved back into the shadows of not mattering once again.  The Democratic Party’s national leaders are going to have to broaden their consultant base to include younger pundits and more minorities into their think tanks for successful elections in the future.

Lastly, mail ballots work better for higher income level voters than for middle and lower level income voters.  As columnist George Will once asked, “In our democracy, is it too much to ask for voters to go to the polls to vote in person?”  I think not.

Wellington Webb served as mayor of Denver from 1991-2003.  He is the only mayor in U.S. who has served as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, president of the National Conference of Black Mayors, and president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors.

Ebola Tracks Outbreak of HIV/AIDS Pandemic

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(NNPA) A high school friend of my wife was one of the earliest victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He was a flight attendant, who was stricken and died quickly. When he died they still had not come up with a name for the pandemic. But then others became sick and died and suddenly the public knew that something deadly was unfolding.

In the beginning of the pandemic there were different ways that it was characterized. The media and the “street” would talk about the “gay cancer” or the “disease” that afflicted Haitians, homosexuals and hemophiliacs. There were those who suggested locking up entire populations. No one seemed to know whether you could hug and kiss someone with what later came to be called HIV/AIDS. There was panic. While the science was ignored, there was a demand for a cure. All sorts of theories circulated as to how and why HIV/AIDS emerged.

It was through the work of groups such as Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP and others that the crisis was confronted at the level of public health and justice. They and similar such formations mobilized against the demonization of the HIV/AIDS infected. Slowly the tide began to turn and attitudes started to shift.
That said, it feels, in the midst of the Ebola crisis, that we are back to ground zero. Science is being ignored. The Australian government has cut off visas to West African countries afflicted by the outbreak and has refused to deploy medical personnel to help to confront the tragedy. They seem to think that they can put Australia in some sort of bubble and keep it healthy. I hate to break it to them but in this age of globalization, it does not work that way.

Yet, in the U.S. there are many people with the same impulses. In a country of more than 300 million people there have been nine victims of Ebola. Nine. Yet the actions by some politicians would make you think that thousands of people had crossed the Atlantic and were infecting the population. Worse, there are politicians who are pinning this crisis on President Obama as a way of motivating their base to vote for conservatives.

It is time for something akin to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP. There needs to be a broad-based discussion about Ebola and I would argue that the African American community and African immigrants must take the lead because this pandemic is painted with “race” by all sorts of charlatans. Much as HIV/AIDS became another reason to dehumanize gays, Ebola has become yet another reason to condemn the African World.

Panic and irrational responses are not stopped through pleading, and are frequently not stopped through common sense. You sometimes need a strong force that, through its actions, mobilizations, publicity, etc., shatters the panic and actually forces the larger public to consider reality.

That time has arrived.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. You can follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Government Owes Us Reparations

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(NNPA) Last week I wrote about the shocking story of how our Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) willfully brought crack cocaine into the Black neighborhoods of our nation to make cash for financing a revolution in Nicaragua. This is going down as the vilest act perpetrated against a specific race of people. An agency of our nation performed and managed the dastardly act and must be held accountable. In other words, reparations are due.

They are due but they will never come unless we start acting and demanding justice. There has been talk of reparations for the effects of slavery. That isn’t going to fly as too much time has gone by to calculate just how much damage was done and who deserves what. This atrocity here, the Crack Invasion of Black America, is very fresh and many of the ills are still taking place. Reparations must be placed on the table.

As the CIA started spreading truckloads of crack through our neighborhoods via street gangs such as the Bloods and Crips, they started forming all of the bad ingredients for chaos and decay. As the crack hit the streets, weapons started to flow. Weapons and drugs are the main ingredients for urban warfare. AK-47’s was the weapon of choice. Funny, you can’t buy an AK-47 in this nation (it’s made in Russia), but thousands of them started appearing in gang fights, robberies, etc. It would take the sophistication and power like a CIA operation to pull this off. Local police departments would assign manpower to assist the agents in this onshore invasion.

The fast cash started flowing, making the gangs more aggressive. Some were downright vicious. An example is when a gang leader was murdered in St. Louis, it proved to not be enough vengeance for the perpetrators. After the funeral, the rivals went to the cemetery, dug up his coffin and took the body to the victim’s grandmother’s home and tossed it on her porch. That’s how vicious our youth were becoming. That’s how dangerous our beautiful neighborhoods were becoming. Hope started fading fast.

Oh, about that revolution in Nicaragua. The Contras, who were being supported by the CIA’s profits from the drug running, were defeated. Today, Daniel Ortega is still president of the nation of Nicaragua. They wanted him out although his people have repeatedly reelected him to office. The United States now has a free trade agreement with the nation via the Central American Free Trade Agreement – CAFTA. Was it just a rouse? That failed, but the drug smuggling continued. Maybe this was about applying harm to a particular segment of our population i.e. Blacks and especially Black males.

Drug dealing was everywhere and in plain sight. I remember driving down 79th street in south Chicago in 1990 and observing a “bank” of about 20 pay phones. Each phone had a line of 10 or more people waiting to place their drug order. I thought obviously the police condoned it. My friend owned a Shell gas station in Indianapolis and he installed a pay phone to see if it would draw business. His sales skyrocketed as dealers and buyers would drive up to his station and communicate on that pay phone. He would make $500 – $700 dollars a day off the quarters dropping into that busy phone booth.

At the same time, our federal government launched the “War on Drugs,” which turned out to be a war on Blacks. Before the crack invasion there were 40,000 people incarcerated for drugs. Now, 30 years later, there are more than 500,000. Sentencing guidelines became wicked and mandatory. Three strikes/you’re out started in California. Many states, including, California began building more prisons than colleges. The “Prison Industrial Complex” was officially opened for business.

As the property values of our neighborhoods started sinking and the deaths/incarcerations started climbing, the idea of rehabilitation started fading. Once a Black youth goes into the system he/she may never get out. A person lives in the “hood” and is drafted by drug gangs (he will be murdered for refusing) his life becomes miserable. After the first incarceration he finds the rules of parole or probation to be impossible to adhere to. No decent job is available to a felon. He cannot associate with other felons and that rule is impossible to follow. His family, neighbors, and everyone else in his environment is a felon. He is discriminated from equal housing opportunity and there is no other road to choose from other than the same one he came out of.

Our poverty levels and quality of life are worse now than they were 40 years ago. This is mainly due to the above. It was government-sponsored and the government should be held accountable.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

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