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Rosa Parks, Now and Forever January 31, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, History, Race, Racism.
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Published on Thursday, January 31, 2013 by TruthDig

by Amy Goodman

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Ala., thus (Photo: Alabama Dept. Archives and History)

launching the modern-day civil-rights movement. Monday, Feb. 4, is the 100th anniversary of her birth. After she died at the age of 92 in 2005, much of the media described her as a tired seamstress, no troublemaker. But the media got it wrong. Rosa Parks was a first-class troublemaker.

Professor Jeanne Theoharis debunks the myth of the quiet seamstress in her new book “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.” Theoharis told me, “This is the story of a life history of activism, a life history that she would put it, as being ‘rebellious,’ that starts decades before her famous bus stand and ends decades after.”

She was born in Tuskegee, Ala., and raised to believe that she had a right to be respected, and to demand that respect. Jim Crow laws were entrenched then, and segregation was violently enforced. In Pine Level, where she lived, white children got a bus ride to school, while African-American children walked. Rosa Parks recalled: “But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world.”

In her late teens, Rosa met Raymond Parks, and they married. Rosa described Raymond Parks as the first activist she had ever met. He was a member of the local Montgomery NAACP chapter, and, when she learned that women were welcome at the meetings, she attended. She was elected the chapter’s secretary.

It was there that Rosa met and worked with E.D. Nixon, a radical labor organizer. Rosa Parks was able to attend the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, in 1955. The school was a gathering place for activists—black and white together—committed to overcoming segregation, and for developing strategies and tactics for nonviolent resistance to it. It was there that Pete Seeger and others wrote the song “We Shall Overcome” as the enduring anthem of the civil-rights movement.

When she met Nelson Mandela after his release from prison, he told her, “You sustained me while I was in prison all those years.”

When Rosa Parks died, she was the first African-American woman to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda. I raced down to Washington, D.C., to cover her memorial service. I met a young college student and asked her why she was there standing outside with so many hundreds of people listening to the service on loudspeakers. She said proudly, “I emailed my professors and said I won’t be in class today; I’m going to get an education.”

Rosa Parks has much to teach us. In fact, she and other young women had refused to give up their seats on the bus before Dec. 1, 1955. You never know when that magic moment will come.  This Feb. 4, the U.S. Postal Service will release a Rosa Parks Forever stamp, a reminder of the enduring mark she made. Rosa Parks was no tired seamstress. As she said of that brave action she took, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2013 Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Black Leaders and Gay Advocates March in Step June 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, LGBT, Race, Racism.
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Christopher T. Gregory/The New York Times

The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, with Jeffrey Campagna, left, a national gay rights organizer, and Benjamin Todd Jealous, right, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., at a news conference in New York this month to announce a march to protest the stop-and-frisk practice by the New York police.

By KATE TAYLOR
Published: June 9, 2012
  • ·

For years, gay rights organizations and major civil rights organizations viewed each other warily. African-American leaders often saw the gay rights groups as insensitive to racial concerns, and some resented the movement’s use of civil rights language to make the case for same-sex marriage. Advocates for gay rights, in turn, sometimes blamed socially conservative African-Americans for their defeat in crucial electoral battles.

 

 

But since the relationship reached something of a crisis with the passage of Proposition 8, California’s ballot initiative against same-sex marriage, in 2008, leaders in both movements have made an effort to bring their groups closer together.

Now, conversations among leaders in the gay, black and Latino communities have borne significant fruit: On May 19, the board of the N.A.A.C.P. voted to endorse same-sex marriage.

And then, last Tuesday, representatives of several national gay rights organizations gathered at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, often described as the birthplace of their movement, to announce that they would march to protest the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practice, under which the police each year have been stopping hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, most of them black or Latino, in an effort to prevent crime.

Some of the gay rights leaders specifically cited support from the N.A.A.C.P. for same-sex marriage as a reason they decided to oppose the stop-and-frisk policy.

“We need to find ways to strengthen our alliances and really strengthen our commitment to one another,” said Jeffrey Campagna, a national gay rights organizer who is coordinating the involvement of gay rights groups in the march on June 17 against the stop-and-frisk practice.

Julian Bond, a former chairman of the N.A.A.C.P. and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said he saw the association’s support for same-sex marriage as a way to acknowledge the contributions of gay rights advocates — most had not come out publicly at the time — in the civil rights movement.

“I knew these people, whom I just assumed to be gay, and I knew what they were doing on my behalf — and I hoped on their behalf, too,” he said. “I was grateful for it, and when the chance came, I wanted to pay them back.”

The same-sex-marriage and stop-and-frisk issues are only the most visible signs of closer collaboration.

Around the country, gay rights groups have joined minority advocacy organizations in political battles on behalf of voting rights and affirmative action. And in California, Oregon and Colorado, gay rights organizations have formed partnerships with immigrant rights groups to fight aggressive immigration laws.

And even before the national board of the N.A.A.C.P. voted to support same-sex marriage, that organization and other civil rights groups got involved in marriage battles on the state level. In North Carolina, the N.A.A.C.P. paid for radio and print advertisements, direct mail and “robocalls” urging black voters to oppose an amendment banning same-sex marriage; the amendment passed in May. In Maryland, where the State Legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage in February, the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights were prominent supporters.

“You must be for the civil rights of everyone, or you’re not for the civil rights of anyone,” Mr. Sharpton said last week.

One indication of the new rapport: Chad Griffin, who is taking over on Monday as president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading gay rights group, plans to have lunch on one of his first days in Washington with the president of the N.A.A.C.P., Benjamin Todd Jealous.

Mr. Jealous explained the newfound collaboration with a reference to Bayard Rustin, the pacifist and civil rights advocate who was black and gay.

“In the last four years, with the increase in hate crimes across the country, with states attempting to encode discrimination into their state laws and constitutions,” Mr. Jealous said, “it’s become clear that, just as Bayard Rustin admonished us all, that we would either stand together or die apart.”

The distance that has long existed between the gay rights and civil rights movements has complex roots. In addition to the strain of social conservatism that pervades many black Protestant churches, gay rights advocates’ use of the phrase “civil rights” and comparisons of the two movements have sometimes offended African-Americans, according to Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University.

“When gay and lesbian people say, ‘Hey, we understand, because we’ve been oppressed, too’ and ‘Like black people, we…,’ that’s a nonstarter for many black people,” he said.

Keith Boykin, an author who has written about homosexuality in the black community, said that “when people hear civil rights and gay rights, they think that people are trying to equate the two movements.” As a result, he said, “we sometimes get caught up in these hierarchies of oppression.”

For its part, the gay rights movement has sometimes struggled to be racially inclusive.

“Fifteen years ago, the leadership of the gay community, certainly in terms of organizations, was overwhelmingly white gay men,” said Marjorie J. Hill, the chief executive of GMHC, an H.I.V./AIDS organization.

Dr. Hill, who is black, said the more diverse gay rights organizations became, the more natural it was for gay rights and civil rights groups to form alliances.

The communication between the two communities has picked up since the disclosure in March of a memorandum by the National Organization for Marriage, the leading group opposing same-sex marriage in the country, that described a goal to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” over same-sex marriage.

Leaders in both movements had already perceived a need to create relationships after gay rights advocates and minorities found themselves pitted against each other in fights over same-sex marriage.

“In the aftermath of Proposition 8, it was all about ‘the blacks and the Latinos, they didn’t vote for us,’ ” said Andrea Guerrero, the executive director of Equality Alliance San Diego, a group that works with immigrants and minority communities.

“Similarly, in the immigrant community, there’s been a sense of ‘they only call on us when they need us for their issue — they never come and help us on our issues,’ ” she said.

To address that divide, she and Delores A. Jacobs, the chief executive officer of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, decided to test political messaging about nontraditional families and the need to keep families together that they hope could be used in future campaigns to advocate both immigrants’ rights and same-sex marriage.

After Oregon voters in 2004 approved an amendment banning same-sex marriage, with the major group supporting the amendment using an African-American talk show host as its spokeswoman, a gay rights organization called Basic Rights Oregon decided to review its own lack of diversity and its failure to form close relationships with minority communities, according to its executive director, Jeana Frazzini.

It deepened a relationship with a Latino immigrant rights group, Causa. Since then, Basic Rights Oregon has fought local anti-immigrant ballot measures and pushed at the state level for illegal immigrants to be able to get driver’s licenses and, for those who came to this country as children, to pay in-state tuition at public universities. Causa and Basic Rights Oregon have also joined forces to run an ad on Spanish-language radio to promote legalizing same-sex marriage.

In the ad, a woman describes how she and her husband struggled to accept their gay son, then says that she does not want him to face discrimination when he finds someone to marry.

“As a Latina, I believe in loving my neighbor, in treating others as we would like to be treated, and in never turning our backs on family,” the woman says. “Marriage has brought so much happiness to my life, and I wouldn’t want any member of anyone’s family — gay or straight — to be denied that chance at happiness.”

 

Does the Black Political Class Actually Protect or Defend Black People? If Not, What Do They Do? May 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Poverty, Race.
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Wed, 05/09/2012 – 14:43 — Bruce A. Dixon

 

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Do the black political class, our preachers, leading business people, and thousands of appointed and elected officials actually do us much good? Do they protect or defend us? Do they carry our wishes and will to the seats of power. Or do they just “represent” us by merely being there doing the bidding of corporate funders?

Does the Black Political Class Actually Protect or Defend Black People? If Not, What Do They Do?

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Let’s take a trip to an imaginary black America, a place in which black leaders regularly stood on their hind legs to safeguard and protect the interest of their constituents against greedy banksters and institutional racism in the job, credit and housing markets. It’s a pretend world where African American politicians are busily engaged in building and expanding opportunity for all, and leading the fight for peace, jobs, justice, and quality education and participatory democracy. It’s a mythical place where prominent blacks in the business world too, work to create good jobs and stable communities and provide key support to the civic organizations engaged in this work as well.

Imagine that the Katrina disaster had occurred in such an imaginary world. Black America’s best and brightest would have convened hundreds of meetings and workgroups in real and virtual spaces across the country. Urban planners, educators, and professionals of all stripes would have speedily devised just and equitable plans for regional education, transit, agriculture, tourism and more. They would have insisted that the six figure number of black Gulf Coast residents deported to the four corners of the continental US on buses paid for by charitable donations to the Red Cross be returned and put to work rebuilding a just and sustainable region. This single example reveals that such a world, if it did exist would differ so profoundly from the one we know as to be almost unrecognizable.

In the real world that does exist, we now have more than 10,000 black elected officials, from small town mayors and sheriffs up to forty-some reps in Congress and the president. Still, black unemployment, black incarceration rates, foreclosures on black homeowners and the gap between black and white family wealth are at or near all time highs, with not a one of these key indicators moving rapidly in any good direction.

Black faces are found more often than ever in corporate boardrooms. Chevron named a tanker after Condoleezza Rice, one of its longtime board members. In recent years, black corporate execs have run the NAACP, the National Urban League and big-city school systems like Atlanta, where public schools CEO Erroll Davis boasts that he learned all he needed to know about running a school system in his time on the board of BP. Black-owned and operated banks in cities like New York are heavily invested in gentrifying developments that push African Americans out of the five boroughs toward the suburban periphery, or in many cases, back to the South. Some contend that it is the shriveling of urban housing and job markets in places like Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Detroit that accounts for the net flow of black population in the twenty-first century reversing from the north back to the south, something not seen in almost a hundred years.

National black leaders, even with popular winds at their backs were unable to prevent the legal lynching of Troy Davis. Since the freelance killing of Trayvon Martin more than thirty police and vigilante killings of young blacks have occurred, and our leaders can’t point to even the beginnings of any official process on the national level aimed at preventing the next thirty. Like the man whose lower lip brush the ground and whose upper lip caresses the clouds, they are all mouth.

Local black political leaders in places like Columbia SC and Atlanta GA have proved as vicious toward the homeless as any of their white colleagues. Black mayors like Philly’s Michael Nutter have endorsed widespread stop-and-frisk policies that presumptively criminalize black youth, and like his black and white counterparts in City Halls across the land, the mayor of Philadelphia tells parents and children that there is no alternative to the piecemeal destruction of public education, driving it into a crisis whose only solution, we will be told, is privatization. The black mayor of Newark is pushing to privatize that city’s water system, and the black mayor of Atlanta has proposed taxing rainwater that some catch as an alternative to the city’s wate rsupply.

At the 2004 Democratic convention, pointedly held on and constantly referring to the anniversary of King’s 1963 March on Washington, Barack Obama gathered more than 20 African American generals and admirals on stage around him, hypocritically linking their mission with that of the apostle of economic justice and nonviolence. Despite the fact that black America is the most antiwar segment of the US population, Barack Obama has boosted military spending to all time highs, has put more troops in more countries than any of his predecessors, and is waging wars in more countries, including African countries than any president in recent memory.

At that Democratic convention, just like the one in North Carolina this year, the goodie bags and receptions will be held by AT&T, the nuclear industry, GE and GM, Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Insurance, drone manufacturers and “defense” contractors, defending US interests in more than 140 countries. Nobody will be the least surprised when Barack Obama again proclaims himself the president of “clean coal and safe nuclear power.” For the black political class, the road leads to exactly the same destination as their white counterparts.

The Congressional Black Caucus and the CBC Foundation like the careers of most black politicians, and traditional civil rights organizations, from NAN to NAACP, the Urban League, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the National Conference of Black State Legislators, is funded by the generous contributions of actors like Microsoft, Boeing, Lockheed, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and on and on and on on and on. It’s hard to regard most of the black political class these days as anything but sock puppets for the folks who fund their careers.

The Congressional Black Caucus still stages a weeklong annual celebration of itself and the black political class. A look at its weeklong agenda any time over last few years shows lots of relationship workshops, celebrity meet-and-greets and workshops on how to be a black military subcontractor, a black real estate developer, a movie producer, or a contractor with the Department of Homeland Security. You will search in vain for workshops on how to organize to protect black homeowners and keep them in their homes, how to prevent municipal and state privatizations of transit, education and infrastructures, how to organize unions and strike for better wages and conditions, or sessions how to obtain permanent title to vacant urban land for community agriculture projects.

There are a handful of corporate actors, like Koch Industries and Exxon-Mobil that give exclusively or mainly to Republicans. But these are relatively few, and there are some big players that give mostly to Democrats as well. For the most part however, corporate America is happily bipartisan, with a pronounced bias toward incumbents of whatever party and color, and only too happy to shine on the favorite charities of black congresscreatures in the inner city, or Tom Joyner’s computer giveaways, or pet charter schools in black communities, to name just a few.

President Barack Obama, far from being the exception to this rule, will be standing atop a heap of more than one billion dollars in direct corporate contributions to his re-election campaign this year, in addition to another billion in indirect contributions to super-PACs, state and national Democratic parties, and other channels, even without the nickels and dimes of a diminishing number of hopeful ordinary people.

Since it doesn’t protect us, doesn’t defend our jobs, our homes, our education, our children or our elderly, all that the black political class can do for black people, all they can do to prolong their careers, is to wave in our faces the rancid racism of their Republican colleagues. And that’s what Republicans are —- not their rivals, but their colleagues. Keeping the black conversation focused on what racist s.o.bs these Republicans are is vital to the survival of the black political class. It takes attention away from the fact that black politicians in power, of whatever party, no matter what they say on the campaign trail, pursue roughly the same policies in office, in keeping with the fact that they all have the same funders.

The ideology of the black political class is best described with the clumsy world “representationalism”. It’s supposed to “represent” us, mostly by looking like us, but while not defending our children or elderly, not protecting our families or jobs or institutions, not defending our political gains or the public sector that our advocacy built. And the last thing the black political class will do is argue with militarism or war, even though these penalize black communities and nonwhite people around the world. It is only now, with the ascension of a black president, prominent blacks in all branches of the military, courts and corporate American that the end of the representationalist rainbow can clearly be seen. This is it. This is as good as it gets.

It’s time for something completely different. It’s been a long time since we had black leadership that didn’t depend on corporate America for its funding. But until our people can throw up new leaders and mass organizations whose bills aren’t paid by corporate elites, little will change. It’s time for all of us, and especially for those who would be leaders to let pharaoh go.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Those Hit Hardest Get No Bailout March 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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by Amy Goodman

Taxpayers’ bailout money for AIG bonuses has rightfully provoked a massive backlash against AIG, Wall Street, President Barack Obama and his economic advisers, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers. The U.S. public now owns 80 percent of AIG. The outrage is bipartisan: Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley even suggested that AIG executives “resign or go commit suicide.” New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo just released details on the bonuses, exposing AIG’s ridiculous claim that they are “retention bonuses” aimed at keeping key employees, since 11 of those who received bonuses of $1 million or more are no longer employed by AIG.

These AIG millionaires may need to return their unearned millions (Congress may pass a tax law aimed just at them, taxing their bonuses at 100 percent). But will the outrage help those who have been hardest hit by the economic meltdown? Will the hundreds of millions of dollars in various stimulus packages and bailouts find its way to regular people who are trying to get by, or will it go only to corporations deemed “too big to fail,” leaving behind millions of people who are, apparently, small enough to fail?

The Center for Social Inclusion has just issued a report on the economic meltdown and how best to solve the problem. It links race to the lack of opportunity and to the prevalence of the notorious subprime mortgages that triggered the economic crisis.

CSI Executive Director Maya Wiley told me, “We have to stimulate equality in order to stimulate the economy.” Access to education, transportation, housing and a clean environment give people a firm footing to respond to crisis and to succeed. Noting that “shovel-ready” stimulus jobs in construction will disproportionately favor those who are already in that industry, predominantly white males, Wiley is pushing for “community benefits agreements for construction jobs [that] ensure when the government has construction contracts, low-income people, people of color, women, are going to have their fair share of those jobs.” Since people of color are more likely to live far from available jobs and are less likely to have cars, Wiley says, “we must ensure that the way transportation dollars get spent go to transit … to connect people who need jobs to the places where there are jobs.”

The group United for a Fair Economy also highlights the racial wealth divide, noting that “24 percent of blacks and 21 percent of Latinos are in poverty, versus 8 percent of whites. In the corporate world, we are seeing the highest executive pay and the biggest bailouts in history. CEO pay is 344 times that of the average worker.”

Prevailing wisdom posits that freeing up credit will save the economy, thus these huge banks need hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts. But the crisis was initially caused by defaults on subprime mortgages. One option at the outset would have been to support the distressed homeowners, helping them avoid foreclosure. Wiley points out that “35 percent of subprime mortgage holders were actually eligible for prime-rate loans. … Most of those were people of color … communities of color did not have fair access to credit.”

The banks and the mortgage lenders pushed bad loans on poor and minority borrowers. The NAACP has just filed lawsuits against Wells Fargo and HSBC, alleging “systematic, institutionalized racism in subprime home mortgage lending.”

The banks bundled the bad loans into securities and sold them, then created derivatives based on these securities that are impossible to understand, let alone value. AIG insured the investment banks against potential losses from these complex derivatives. The U.S. Treasury bailed out the banks along with AIG. AIG then paid out tens of billions of its bailout money to the very large banks that already received billions in bailout funds: Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. Yet, despite the hundreds of billions being siphoned off by these megabanks, we are told that the credit market is still frozen. Many European banks also received funds this way, including Swiss bank UBS, which offers secret bank accounts that allow the richest Americans to avoid taxes. In effect, beleaguered U.S. taxpayers are bailing out wealthy U.S. tax dodgers.

Obama has surrounded himself with financial advisers who are too cozy with Wall Street, like Summers and Geithner. It’s time to direct the stimulus to the people who need it, to those whose tax dollars are funding it.    

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

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