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How Dare You Last Emancipation? We Must Not Support Buffoonery

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I just returned from a trip on the Underground Railroad where we learned about the great individuals who made America great. The story of our people is the story of tenacity, overcoming adversity, and recognizing that this history is the foundation of all American History.

Last week, I went from anger to hurt back to anger again as I reflected on the latest entertainment event to hit the Inland Empire, "The Last Emancipation". The play written by Richard O. Jones was full of inaccuracies, lies and just downright self loathing.

The main premise of the play was that Aunt Jemima, Uncle Remus and Uncle Ben's likeness were used for 100 years, they are now updated characters and they still are using their likeness without paying into the estates of these real life people.

That premise could have worked to show the historical inequities in every part of American life but it sorely missed the mark. It instead turned on the victim once again. This time victimizing ourselves which truly offended me.

First they had a trial. Traditionally Blacks were not allowed to testify in court on their own behalf or for/against anyone else. But The Last Emancipation had a trial. Then the cast of characters who testified included Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Josiah Henson (aka Uncle Tom) and to top it off W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington were added, playing stereotypical lawyers.

Booker T. Washington was made to look like he was against his own people. The difference in the philosophies of Washington and W. E. B. Dubois were not articulated.

Washington was the original founder of the Negro Business League, he not only founded Tuskegee University but every summer he went south to teach reading. Over 100 years later Tuskegee stands as a testament to his genius. Washington focused on uplifting the masses of Blacks who were just one generation out of slavery or who, like him, had been former slaves. W.E.B. Dubois, instead, believed in focusing on the top ten percent of African- Americans. That “talented tenth” would then become the leaders who would uplift African Americans right after emancipation.

As Washington's late granddaughter, Margaret Washington said in a speech given at the annual Booker T. Washington luncheon at the Mission Inn, a few years ago: “they were both right!” This was lost to showing Booker T. Washington as a buffoon. No it is not alright.

Mary McLeod Bethune was a brilliant lady not a caricature.

Frederick Douglass looked unkempt and not at all like the giant that he was. Want to know more about him ask his great great grandson, Kenny Morris, who also is Booker Washington's great great grandson.

He lives in our community, and is founder of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, an organization committed to not only preserving the history of Douglass but to eradicating modern day slavery around the globe. He would have been more disappointed than me.

I left Uncle Tom for last. Josiah Henson was the character that Harriet Beecher Stowe used to help to shine a light on the horrors of enslavement of Black Americans in his famous novel,, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

There is no way with the portrayal of her book that the playwright ever read it.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written to help abolitionists in their efforts to end slavery, was sparked by Stowe’s visit to Old Washington, Kentucky after she witnessed a slave auction on the town’s courthouse steps.

She was horrified at seeing families sold off, mothers torn from their children, the degradation of their bodies being inspected and then to hear, SOLD for $50, $100, even $1000 or more. She was told that slavery wasn't that bad so she wrote a fictional story based on the lives of real characters.

She started her research and she came across the narrative of Josiah Henson. In her book she named him Uncle Tom. His autobiography (dictated by himself) tells the story of how dedicated he was to his master. He was trusted with the management of the farm, he doubled crops and was trusted as a man who kept his word.

Unfortunately, his enslaver did not keep his word, and because he could not read he was tricked by a slave owner and kept in enslavement. But when he had enough, he lost trust in his enslaver, he decided to emancipate himself and took his family with him to Canada.

Henson, a minister, with years of experience in management became a leader among the freedom seekers. He soon founded the British American Institute in the Dawn Settlement near Dresden, Ontario Canada, where his third home is preserved by the Canadian government. He additionally saved hundreds on the Underground Railroad, went to England three times and met with Queen Victoria on his last visit. His great great granddaughter Barbara Carter has dedicated her life to tell the true Uncle Tom story. She asked me to tell the real story of Uncle Tom and tell the people that for 85 years white minstrels in blackface traveled the world making fun of and distorting our history. Barbara said that she hopes in her lifetime to set the record straight. It’s so sad a full audience of people saw how we destroyed our own history.

The Last Emancipation made a mockery of the memory of the great heroes. We stand on their shoulders, if they had not fought the fight then we would not enjoy the lives we enjoy today We are the dream of the enslaved Africans. Our ancestors would be devastated that their memories have been bastardized by some of their own.

The other sad thing about this play is that a full audience laughed and as Richard Jones commented “they liked the minstrel part the most.” We have work to do in our community and I thank him for this sorely needed teachable moment. I hope he either scraps the play and never does it again or gets help from some of our accomplished professionals at California State University San Bernardino or University of California Riverside to do it right.

Full Employment is Needed Fast

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(NNPA) - While most of the media nation was transfixed by a diversionary-racist smear campaign against United States Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod on the issue of perceived racial animus—an issue deserving full attention on another day—President signed legislation to extend unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed. By the president’s signature, the jobless were given a little relief to their lack of financial resources in a critically depressing economic period many refer to as the Great Recession.

The legislation extended unemployment benefits for 99 weeks. Prior to the extension unemployed Americans who receive federal benefits had been waiting for 7 weeks without money while Republican members of Congress held up legislation because “extending benefits would hurt the national debt unless cuts could be made in other areas of the federal budget (mostly programs helping the poor and the elderly). Congressional filibusters (deliberate blockage of legislation) were used by national Republicans for the flimsiest of reasons in opposing benefit extension. Among them, unemployment benefits:

Do not help economic recovery; only the private sector can solve economic issues affecting the poor; benefits reduce people’s desire to look for work; and the fixing the national debt is more important than feeding the poor. However, the issue of how to address unemployment benefits belies the thirty-year war on the poor. In 1980, President Ronald Reagan, the actor-turned politician, played the role of a reverse Robin Hood by stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. Reagan’s rationale was the economic recovery “trickles down” to the less fortunate.

Most recently, President George W. Bush in his 8-year term of office cut taxes for the top 2 percent of Americans (who did not need or ask for tax break) while cutting programs for the poor such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), not to mention allowing American companies tax breaks while exporting jobs to cheaper labor markets.

The result of the war on the poor is that most Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Officially, according to a recent Duke University study, national poverty has increased 5% in the past four years. Therefore, putting America back to work is the nation’s highest need. Yes, president Obama and Congress have passed modest legislation around health care reform, financial reform, and an extension of unemployment insurance, but job creation is paramount.Of the most viable short-term possible legislative solutions has been offered by Congressman John Conyers (MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act” (House Resolution 5204) seeks to create a full employment society by 2020. The legislation is modeled after full employment legislation offered by Senator Hubert Humphrey (MN) and Representative Augustus Hawkins (CA) that was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

Under the proposed legislation a trust fund would be established with two separate funds: one for job creation, and the other for job training. Job creation money would be modeled on the Community Development Block Grant formula and be administered by local elected officials. The second account would be based on the Workforce Investment Act and resemble the Jobs Corps. After all, local elected officials who are members of the National Black Caucus of State Elected Officials, National Association of Black County Officials, National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, and the National Conference of Black Mayors are best suited to know where job funds should be allocated. Full employment is needed fast.

Gary L. Flowers is executive director & CEO Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

 

Introspection

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By James Clingman, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) - What has this country become since Barack Obama was elected President? Or, has it always been this way? Where have all the evil, vicious, malcontents been hiding for 100 years? Or, have they been here all the time? How is it that we have not achieved that state of nirvana so many talked about on January 20, 2009? Or, is it really unreachable?

Do you remember the column I wrote during inauguration week? It was titled, The Morning After, which alluded to the state of this country, especially Black people, after the dust had settled, the hoopla had died down, and the euphoria had dissipated. Now that we can take a real honest look at ourselves, do we like what we see?

Politically speaking, I am not surprised by the shenanigans of the so-called “far right” and “far left” wings; but it is a bit disconcerting to see some of the so-called progressives and centrists getting their shots in as well. It simply begs the question: Have we really come as far as we say we have? And, brothers and sisters, that answer is a resounding “NO!”

On the economic side of the coin, Black folks are still fighting for survival, now along with many others in this country, for employment, inclusion, and business support. We are still being “dissed” by the banks when it comes to loans, interest rates, and credit card fees. Our bailout, long overdue, has yet to come and probably never will come.

Socially, although many pretend to be in a state of mutual respect and brotherly love, we are still at odds with one another due to inequity, suspicion, and fear. One hundred and forty-five years after Black people were so-called “freed” disparities continue to exist, institutionalized by various entities, and many are still advocating for “race dialogues” between whites and Blacks. You would think that Black folks just arrived here rather than being in this country since it started.

We know the situation that exists in the areas of education and criminal justice. So what ties it all together, this web of discontent and despair? It seems to me, based on what is taking place among the so-called leaders of our society, along with the big-wig movers and shakers, it all boils down to a scarcity rather than abundance mindset. Too many folks are out simply to get theirs and to get as much of yours as they can. The poor are competing for crumbs and, with their zero sum mindset, are afraid that if you get a dollar or a job it takes a dollar or a job away from them.

Where it all end? Will this country change before it collapses under the weight of its own greed, injustice, intolerance, and hate? I don’t know if we will make it or not, but by the looks of things I do know we have a long way to go, and we better get busy turning this battleship around.

Our representatives, those we elect to help us, are bilking us. They have the best of everything but would deny us even a smidgen of relief. They have the best healthcare, but have to debate and decide if we should have it. They have the best retirement plans but ponder cutting our Social Security, a system in which they do not even participate. They go into office in many cases, just as broke as we are but come out as millionaires by working the political system to enrich themselves rather than looking out for our interests. How is it that we, the electorate keep returning these same characters to office even after they have done absolutely nothing for “the people”?

Corruption, excess, self-indulgence, and greed rule the day, much akin to some of the great empires we read about in years past. Evil acts are being perpetrated against good people, such as Shirley Sherrod, the U.S. Department of Agriculture employee who was summarily fired for what amounted to helping a white farmer. Isn’t it strange that no one has been fired for the years of discrimination against Black farmers, which has resulted in a $2 billion punitive award (who knows when it will be paid)? Sherrod gets fired for a positive comment, and for decades other USDA employees keep their jobs while blatantly discriminating against Black farmers. What a country, huh?

We are, as they say, “In a pickle.” We are in the belly of the beast. And we had better get busy making appropriate changes before the vaunted “United” States of America goes down the proverbial tube.

 

Right Tries to Bloc NAACP Criticism of Tea Party Racism

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It was another right-on-time moment that Ben Jealous exercised at the NAACP Convention in calling out the Tea Party for coddling elements of racism within their midst. The Convention went on to passed a resolution to this effect, calling on the leadership of the party to repudiate these elements, but it will not become official until approved by the Executive Committee in October.

Right away, Mark Williams, the head of a group called the Tea Party Express and a California radio host, posted a letter to his website that was aimed at Jealous and dripping with racism. It said in part: “We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop.” With this racist letter, he made Jealous’ case and he did it so strong that, flush with sensitivity to the NAACP charges, the Tea Party Federation kicked Williams out.

This was a positive act by the Federation because the leading lights of the Republican Party still, either said nothing, or defended the movement. For instance, Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, said that he was not “interested in getting into that debate” on CNN. When asked whether he had seen the signs depicting the president as Hitler and etc. he defended it by saying that such extremism exist at the fringe of both parties. But the usual suspects, Fox people like Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, and others jumped into the fray to defend the movement. Palin, regarded as the mother of the Tea Party movement, said that the charge of racism was unfair and Glen Beck, FOX TV show host, said he would repudiate the elements of racism if he knew where they were.

What surprised me was the opposition of Cynthia Tucker, African-American editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who wrote that the NAACP had no business condemning the Tea Party. Her view was: 1) she did not know what “elements” of racism were; 2) this would confirm that the NAACP was an arm of the Democratic Party; 3) the NAACP did not purge its own ranks; and 4) the resolution just draws attention to the Tea Partiers. This is very weak stuff for the editor of a major American newspaper, especially coming an African American.

With enough space, I – or any one else -- could easily prove all of them wrong.

The big push-back from the Right however (more of a political strategy) has been to raise the New Black Panther Party case from the grave. On November 4, 2008, some members of the New Black Panther party went to a polling station in downtown Philly because they had heard that white people would be trying to stop blacks from voting for Obama. It was absolutely stupid for one of the young men to go down there with a club in his hand and a McCain staffer photographed him in front of the polling station. The Bush administration Justice Department did not bring suit because although the law (intimidating voters) was potentially broken, no one had been prevented from going to the polls; in other words, there was no injured party.

Now the case is in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and Conservatives have charged that Eric Holder is covering it up and a former conservative staffer who resigned said the case was not being pursued because they only want to bring discrimination charges against whites. So, Fox news and other Right wingers have succeeded in pushing this issue up into the spotlight by arguing that the liberal fringe also has racist groups. Most important, they have charged that the left wing media wasn’t carrying the story and The Washington Post, CNN and others have slavishly fallen in line.

So, if some people want to compare the actions of the New Black Panther party to those of the Tea Party which, although it is overblown, still has thousands of adherents, it calls into question their motives.

Most likely they want to cover up the racism in the Tea Party. The Panthers have no influence in black or Democratic Party leadership circles but the Tea Party is the main influence in the Republican Party at this time. Still, I am amazed that major news organizations, so intimidated by the Right, will give credibility to this made-up story on the Panthers on equal terms to the NAACP’s criticism of Tea Party racism.

Dr. Ron Walters is a political analyst and Professor Emeritus of Gov ernment and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. One of his book s is: White Nationalism, Black Interests (Wayne State University Press).

Elections Matter: Don't Sit On Your Hands This Fall

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By Julian Bond, NNPA Columnist –

“If the teachers sit on their hands this fall, it would be a disaster for Obama and the Democrats,” said a scholar who follows educational politics last week.

And it would be a gift to an opposition which has said no to a tax on big banks, apologized to big oil, and encouraged bigotry and fanaticism at its fringes.

Teachers have a right to express disappointment in Obama– they spent millions helping to elect him in 2008.

The administration has angered teachers in a dispute over whether funds intended for them can be diverted into an educational program. This dispute may or may not be solved in a few weeks, but the teachers’ anger echoes other segments of the progressive coalition – angered that the change they hoped for hasn’t come to pass, angered that Obama seems to be just a regular politician.

That perception of the Obama Administration ignores its many accomplishments to date. In spite of an opposition marching in lockstep and pledging to make it fail, the Administration’s record to date is quite impressive.

Anyone who contributes to the defeat of Democratic members of Congress this fall will weaken Obama’s chances of adding to this record. If you want Obama to do more, you have to give him more to do it with, not less.

If progressive voters stay at home in November – as young voters have done in every election since they turned out in record numbers for Obama in 2008, we will get whacked by right-wing whackos, and the country will suffer immeasurably as a result.

In his brief tenure as President, Obama has brought us back from Bush’s precipice with a $100 billion stimulus that has begun to revive our infrastructure and transportation system and which contained tax incentives for clean energy and $60 billion for energy development, engineered passage of revolutionary health reform, and is about to get a hefty financial reform bill.

He succeeded in urging Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which insures equal pay for equal work. He did the same with the “Matthew Sheppard Act”, adding extra penalties for hate crimes.

He stopped banks from profiting from student loans which the government provided. He has urged Congress to repeal George Bush’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and has made great progress in removing discrimination against gays and lesbians by Executive Orders.

Despite having inherited the burden of two wars, one a war of choice, he kept to his promise to begin drawing down troop levels in Iraq and faced down an impertinent General in Afghanistan.

He negotiated a nuclear pact with Russia, which calls for a dramatic decrease in nuclear weapons, increasing world security. He created an initiative that would help keep nuclear weapons away from terrorists.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize! Some Senators considering whether to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court said, “Elections matter”. The election that chose Obama certainly mattered. But it will matter less if the mid-term elections this November result in a Congress --as opposed to a minority -- that just says no.

If you sit on your hands and don’t pull that voting lever down, you’re letting others who may be hostile to your interests decide what your future will be.

I resent that – because it is my future too.

(Julian Bond stepped down as Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors after 11 terms in February 2010. He is a Distinguished Scholar in the School of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and a Professor in the Department History at the University of Virginia.)

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