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CBC Members Visit Ferguson, Mo.

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(NNPA) “Where do I start? How about undefinable frustration? It seems we can’t even catch our breath from our first tragedy before being hit by another gut-punch from a second, third, and fourth. The names Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice – and countless more. Too many more. That is the brutal truth – as brutal as the tactics employed with stunning regularity by some who are sworn to protect us.”

Those were the words delivered by Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) in Ferguson on January 18 at Wellspring United Methodist Church. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) had traveled to the hotspot in Missouri and Carson, who at 40 is the second youngest member of the CBC, took center stage as the keynote speaker.

“I come today with the Congressional Black Caucus because you ignited a flame,” he told the crowd. “You showed the world the cancer in Ferguson that continues to plague so many communities across our country.”

In addition to Carson, two other members of the Black Caucus spoke in Ferguson the day before the MLK Holiday: Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), and Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) whose district includes Ferguson. In all, 10 CBC members were in attendance. While the service was underway, a group of Ferguson activists were protesting at restaurants for their #BlackBrunchSTL direct action. In all, 1 young activists met with the Black Caucus members.

“I talked to some brilliant young activists. They expressed their frustration with the challenges with the older generation. It’s a universal gripe that everyone has when we’re younger. They say: ‘The old people should step aside and let us take over.’ But where are you taking us? What is the action plan? Where are we going? Yes, we see your brilliance but do you have the heart of a surgeon,” Carson told the packed church.

That question has become the million-dollar question: What is the plan? What do the leaders who have come out of the Ferguson movement want to push in terms of police and what is their strategy? So, far many of the new groups formed in the wake of Ferguson have been detailed about their demands. However, there has been less detail on how to get those demands implemented.

Carson also focused on the key issue of getting out the vote in a town where voting participation is down.

He said, “There are many ways that we can serve and contribute to society. But in Ferguson I humbly submit to you that there is one act that stands out clearly at this time and that is us leveraging out voting block and exercising our right to vote.”

That the message in Ferguson was delivered by one of the Black Caucus’ youngest members was noteworthy. The Black Caucus often operates on seniority. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is now the oldest member of the U.S. House. He will turn 86 in May. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) will turn 85 on June 11. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who is a member of the House leadership, is 74. The Black Caucus has 12 members over the age of 69.

The CBC has five members who were born in the 1970s: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 44, Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas), 43, Rep Cedric Richmond (D-La), 41, and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) who is 39. Another African American member of Congress, freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), is the youngest Black member of Congress at 37.

Other members who took the trip to Ferguson were Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Don Payne (D-NJ).

With all the talk in the wake of Ferguson of “old leadership vs. new young activism,” Carson may have scored a breakthrough. Photos from the dinner meeting activists had with the Black Caucus showed the Congressman with young protesters Johnetta Elzie and Deray McKesson. Both Elzie and McKesson have been active and on the scene in Ferguson since last August after Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager was shot eight times by Darren Wilson, a White Ferguson police officer.

A St. Louis County grand jury refused to indict Wilson in connection with Brown’s death.

“We are here to support and encourage you to continue by engaging in the political process,” Carson said. “You have the power to determine the outcome of your mayor, school board, sheriff, and city council. The world is watching Ferguson – and Ferguson will always have the full force and power of the CBC, the conscious of the U.S. Congress as allies.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a freelance writer and creator of the blog Crewof42.com, which covers African American members of Congress. She Burke appears regularly on “NewsOneNow with Roland Martin” and on WHUR FM, 900 AM WURD. She worked previously at USA Today and ABC News. She can be reached through her website, laurenvictoriaburke.com, or Twitter @Crewof42 or by e-mail at LBurke007@gmail.com.

France’s History of Violence

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(NNPA) In the aftermath of the killings of staff at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, there has been near universal outrage, and correctly so. The murders were brutal and indefensible, and whether coordinated or not with any terrorist organizations, were acts of terror. Yet, there is something very disturbing about what seems to have been forgotten in this moment. While France would like to present itself as a freedom loving country, its overseas policies are much more complicated and have led to a situation of simmering hostility within large chunks of the planet.

France had an overseas empire that it achieved through indisputable acts of violence. It retained its colonial possessions – until it could no longer do so – through open repression. In 1947, in the face of an anti-colonial uprising, France conducted a legendary and ignominious assault on the people of Madagascar, killing upwards of 100,000 people, as well as engaging in other brutal acts, such as rape. In the 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence, at least 2 million Algerians were killed in their quest for freedom. In both cases France faced no consequences. The lives of the colonial people simply did not amount to much, and outside of the French-speaking world, little attention was focused on either of these massive atrocities.

Understanding history in no way excuses acts of terror. What it does do, however, is to put it in a much larger context. The demand for a cessation of terror must involve a recognition that terror did not start with the Parisian killings. Whether it was historic cases, such as the Madagascar massacres or the repression of the Algerians, or more recently the French involvement in the overthrow of Libyan President Qaddafi, violence has been used as an instrument of intimidation by the land of the tri-color flag.

While in no uncertain terms condemning the murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, people of conscience in France – and around the world – must also examine carefully the policies of their own nations. The extent of hypocrisy, whether regarding freedom of the press, freedom of movement, or freedom from terror, that we have seen displayed in the days since the Parisian killings is more than unsettling. Parisians were killed; the French government declared its own war against terror, yet remains silent about terror and repression committed by its allies and by its own forces, thereby reinforcing the cynical view that might makes right. Such a view does not terminate terror. Rather, it gives a potent excuse for even more deadly terror in order to take on the mighty. That is not the 21st century for which we should be fighting.

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

Obama is Soft on Islamic Extremism

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(NNPA) President Barack Obama has been catching hell from all sides lately because of his refusal to utter the words “Islamic extremism.” All of the unrest, tyranny, mayhem and atrocities that are being performed by jihadists or Muslim zealots are definitely based on Islamic extremism. Women and children are dying by the thousands and the White House seems to be more worried of the mainstream image of Islam than the health and welfare of innocent people from every continent on this earth.

It seems so juvenile how spokespersons for this administration dodge the use of “Islamic extremism” when pressured by the press. Some reporters have shouted at them, “Say it! Say Islamic Extremism,” but they maintain their naïve position. This denial strategy is feeding the evil doers and helping them to recruit young and impressionable youth – our youth.

Why is the president of the United States so soft on Islamic terrorism? Why didn’t he go to Paris for the leadership summit? I believe this is the result of a long process. President Obama has a strong affinity to Islam that started forming almost from his birth.

His father was a multi-generational Muslim. His step-father was a life-long Muslim. He spent years in Indonesia living as an Indonesian. His formative years had three prongs of influence: One, Islam from Kenya Two, Islam from Indonesia and Three, no emphasis on any particular religion. Islam is in his “bones.” His brothers, sisters and step-siblings are all Muslims. In his early adulthood he took voluntary vacations to Pakistan and India to visit his Muslim buddies. His most trusted adviser, Valerie Jarrett, was born in the Shite Islamic nation of Iran and spoke Farsi as a child. Her parents were committed to service in this Islamic nation. The affinity is there – “cut and dried” – documented.

We have a growing and fearsome enemy right now. It is Islamic extremism. A strong leader must first recognize the enemy. A great example of strong leadership is General Colin Powell. As we were about to invade Iraq for the first time, he gave a full blown press conference. “The enemy is called the Iraqi Republican Guards. We will move them to the northeast. After we have them cut off – we will kill it!”

That is just what he did – all 80,000 of them. The rest of the Iraqi military turned around and started running away. That is how you handle physical conflict. You don’t try to ignore it or explain it away. You don’t call a murderous army such as ISIS a JV team and expect them to get their feelings hurt and turn around. We control the strongest military on earth and he is acting like some silly boy trying psychology on the school yard bully. That is cruising for a bruising.

There is a growing problem very lethal to the well-being of everyone on this earth. We can’t get along with the head chopping, blood dripping Islamic extremists. The only option is to kill enough of them until they stop their evil ways. In some places it will take “boots on the ground.” Other venues may just need a good dose of carpet bombing. Whatever the need, it will be deadly and must be permanent.

He should seek counsel from the top religious leaders around the world. The Pope and his equivalents from all major bona-fide religions should provide moral input. Maybe he can get an understanding of what real Islam is. This jihad mess that is popping up in so many nations because his refusal to address it head-on needs to end immediately.

No, the Underwear Bomber was not a misguided kid. He was formally trained in Yemen in the same terrorist school that trained the recent Paris shooters. Call him a terrorist! Everyone coming out of that Al Qaeda produced school is a terrorist. Treat them like it – kill or imprison them forever.

Mr. President, please don’t think that Iraq and Afghanistan are done with. The Islamic extremists are coming back exponentially and that is your fault. History will show that. Sooner or later, true leaders of the world will have to go in and exterminate the bad guys.

Oh yes, there is a place known as Nigeria. It is the largest Black population in the world. It is slowly bleeding with no end in sight. That end won’t come until you rise up like a true leader and do what is good for our brothers and sisters. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? If you pray, please request strength, courage and the faith of David. Yes, David was Jewish but there are many great leaders who are or have been Jewish. It is all right.

Mr. President, the longer you wait the more innocents will be murdered. Also, the more Islamic extremists you will have to kill. Happy Hunting!

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

A Question of 21 Times

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(NNPA) I find it very unsettling to hear police officers discuss how they believe that BlackLivesMatter protesters and certain politicians, e.g., NYC Mayor de Blasio, are either unsympathetic to their plight or, worse, provoking violence. Ever since the murder of two NYC police officers there has been a concerted effort to shift the entire focus of the discussion regarding police abuse and lynching and turn it on its head, suggesting that the police are the victims of inexplicable anger.

When NYC police officers turned their back on Mayor de Blasio during the funerals of the officers, or when they suggest that Rev. Al Sharpton is a demagogue for supporting and encouraging mass protests against police abuse, interestingly I never hear them discuss the question of “21 times.” Just in case you missed this, an analysis of the data on police killings noted that African American youth are 21 times more likely than White youth of being shot dead by the police. [See: http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white]

This is an astounding ratio. With a figure like this, why should it surprise anyone, let alone be a source of controversy, that Mayor de Blasio cautions his bi-racial son about how to interact with the NYPD? Why should the anger of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans regarding our dealings with the police be difficult for anyone else to fathom?

Those who are suggesting that the BlackLivesMatter protests have gone too far need to come to grips with the “21 times” question. How does one explain such a phenomenon? Clearly, there is crime in other communities. As I regularly note, Charlestown, Mass. has a reputation as being the bank robbery capital of the U.S.A. Given this, how would one explain that White youth of that segregated segment of Boston are not facing the same level of threat as Black youth a few miles away?

The response by many police to the killings of the two NYPD officers has been to turn the tables. There is a desire, such as articulated by Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association leader Pat Lynch, to shift the discussion away from an examination of police violence and instead to focus on those who are challenging the abuse and lynching. Through incendiary suggestions, such as that Mayor de Blasio and others allegedly have blood on their hands for failing to back the police against the protesters, these demagogues are avoiding the real issue. Yes, the murder of the two NYPD officers was as inexcusable as it was tragic. That said, what does the PBA have to say about “21 times?” When they call for greater support from political officials, what do they actually mean? What it certainly sounds like is that they wish for the protests to cease and for the public and the political establishment to close ranks behind total support for any action carried out by the police.

It’s not going to happen.

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. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

CBC Chair Butterfield Vows to Work with Both Parties

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(NNPA) If you were the new chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), beginning your time tenure when the first Black president of the United States was completing his last two years in office, what would your plan be?

If you were chair at a time when Republicans held a record number of House seats – the most since 1928 – and conditions for Black Americans were getting worse, what would your plan be? If that first Black president on his way out the door wasn’t all that excited about Black agenda items and rarely connects with members of Congress, what would be the plan?

These are the questions that the new Black Caucus chairman, Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, has to confront over the next two years. Presidential politics have already begun to take the stage at the start of 2015 as a lame-duck president notorious for not connecting with members of his own party in Congress begins to announce policy objectives.

Butterfield got off to an aggressive start on January 6 with his first speech as Black Caucus Chairman.

“America is not working for many African Americans and we, as the Congressional Black Caucus, have an obligation to fight harder and smarter in the next Congress to help repair the damage,” he said. The speech included a devastating rundown of current statistics on where African Americans now stand.

“We are fighting generations of indifference on the part of those in power. The statistics tell the story,” Butterfield said. Then he told the audience at the Capitol:

• Twenty-five percent of Black households live below the poverty line, compared to 8 percent for White households;

• One out of three Black children lives in poverty;

• African Americans are twice as likely as Whites to be unemployed;

• African Americans earn $13,000 less per year than their White counterparts;

• The unemployment rate of African Americans has consistently been twice as high as for Whites over the past 50 years and

• For every $100 in wealth of a White household, the Black household only has $6 in wealth.

“What is this if it’s not an emergency?” the new Black Caucus chairman concluded.

In an interview on January 9, with Crewof42.com, Butterfield addressed legislative strategy.

“I think we can negotiate with the Democratic Caucus or the Republican conference or both, right now. I’m not ruling out working out any bi-partisan deals with the majority. John Boehner’s in charge. And he has 246 members,” he said.

The Black Caucus has a block 42 voting Democrats in the House, the most in history. But of the 48 African Americans who will serve in the 114th Congress over the next two years, 45 of them will be serving in the minority Democratic Party. Though there is talk of being more aggressive, legislative wins will require loads of backdoor negotiation. It will also require President Obama to be more aggressive in his negotiations with the GOP before legislation is brought to Congress for consideration. Unfortunately for Democrats, tough negotiation is not something President Obama is known for.

As Chairman Butterfield deals with the known and the unknown, he’s focused on what he can control.

“He’s indicated that he wants to be the conductor of the orchestra and give each person an individual opportunity to shine. He also wants to connect every Black organization across the country with the CBC,” noted Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)

“A plan is put in place where the previous chair [Rep. Marcia Fudge] will take some responsibility when dealing with the White House. As is widely known, she takes no prisoners, so that will be a help to him and he can spend time dealing with them on legislation and initiatives that they need us to support,” said Rep Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

Joy Reid, host of The Reid Report, was the master of ceremonies at the Congressional Black Caucus’ ceremonial swearing-in event where Butterfield spoke as CBC chair for the first time.

“I though Congressman Butterfield made it really clear that the CBC is going to be really aggressive about pushing their agenda,” Reid said. “They’re definitely not backing down in the face of the larger Republicans majority. He came out swinging.”

What the New CBC Chair said on January 6 was pointed and reflective.

“In my hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, the railroad tracks divided our town; a town where 23 miles of unpaved streets greeted Black citizens every day. They were relegated to second class citizenship. Our mothers and fathers; grandmothers and fathers; our aunts and uncles worked every day to support the Jim Crow economy,” Butterfield said.

“The CBC was formed in 1971 because its founders understood that Black lives matter. Black boys matter. Black girls matter. The Black family matters. The Black church matters. Black America in its totality matters. In 2015, we are still fighting generations of discrimination. We are fighting generations of indifference on the part of those in power.”

Clever said of the new CBC chairman: “He is methodical and does not tend to act impetuously – whether we planned it or not – he’s the right one for the season.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is freelance writer and creator of the blog Crewof42.com, which covers African American members of Congress. She Burke appears regularly on “NewsOneNow with Roland Martin” and on WHUR FM, 900 AM WURD. She worked previously at USA Today and ABC News. She can be reached through her website, laurenvictoriaburke.com, or Twitter @Crewof42 or by e-mail at LBurke007@gmail.com.

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