Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Duquesne University presents Dr. Goddess Goes to Jail, a Spoken Word, Musical Comedy (unfortunately) Based on a True Story
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Just before the hearing began, at about 1:30pm, Mayor Ravenstahl, Councilwoman Tonya Payne, One Hill CBA Chair Carl Redwood and One Hill Lead negotiator Evan Frazier had press conference talking about how negotiations were going. It was hilarious, for so many reasons (hint: watch Tonya Payne). See for yourself.
Many persons came out to support our cause, all across the City of Pittsburgh and we appreciate that. The overwhelming majority of persons who came out wore red or put on red ribbons to signify Hill unity (full and shared representation), the right for us to speak out and be heard and the message that "We Won't Repeat the Defeat!"
We stood outside in the hallway and then a policeman came out and announced that the hearing on the Hill would begin shortly and that only the persons who signed up to speak at the last hearing would be able to speak this time because this was a continuance, not a hearing---and that the list contained only seven people. Lots of grumbling, I challenged that and the policeman told me to speak to the Chairwoman inside, which is where I immediately went when I got in the room. Unfortunately, a number of our supporters left before ever entering into the room to challenge that miscarriage of justice.
I told Chairwoman Wrenna Watson that many of us had not signed up and that I had not received my full time as the head of an organization last time. She insisted that I did receive my full time and I was not buzzed at 3 minutes. The timer lady (what would she be called, btw?) said that I was not buzzed at 3 minutes, either. Of course, I checked when I got home and I was buzzed at 3 minutes and 28 seconds. I'm going to follow up on that because . . . "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!"
More importantly (and seriously), our hero of the day was Momar Milliones, a member of the Hill Faith and Justice Alliance (the coalition of which I am a part) and one of the original persons who stood up on that bitterly cold day in January to make sure the Pens did not steamroll our entire community (including our elected officials). Momar patiently waited for his turn (as he was one of the original seven supposedly permitted to speak), immediately asked for his time not to begin and made a calm, rational but determined plea for the public, the PEOPLE to be able to speak.
The most profound moment of his speech is when he said there are rare opportunities for the average citizen to participate in a process such as this, the process was flawed from the initial sign up and that the Commissioners should do the right thing and allow the citizens to be heard.
The Commissioners voted and all Pittsburgh citizens were permitted to speak, including Sal Williams, who spoke in support of the Pens (and the 50 surface parking lots, vacant lots and abandoned buildings he owns, mostly on Fifth Avenue). Interestingly, I've learned that former Councilman, Sala Udin, tried to prevent the continued development of surface lots in Uptown and the Hill as early as the year 2000. Very interesting.
"Yo, Sal, how come you ain't got no brothers up on the wall?"
No, I never got my minutes back but I did sit there and patiently listen to everyone's comments and took pictures of all of them.
The City Planning Commission was disappointing not necessarily because they voted "yes" but because they seemed to violate or otherwise go against their own criteria---even outside of the CBA. Some of them had not seen the updated plans for the parking garage. Some of them did not understand the logistics of what they might be passing. Others felt burdened by all of the supposed amendments that would have to happen in the future---but passed the plan anyway despite their own criteria for approval (why, Commissioner Mistick?) Here is a classic example :
Commission member Barbara K. Mistick said she wasn't satisfied with the amount of parking that will be available.
The Penguins plan to build a 500-space garage that could be expanded later to 780 spaces, but the 2,400 spaces available at the 16,900-seat Mellon Arena eventually will disappear once the land is developed, she said.
"Do the math. Now you've got 18,000 seats and you're giving up 2,400 parking spaces," Mistick said.
Despite her misgivings, Mistick voted in favor of the plan along with E. Paul Dick, Monte Rabner, Todd E. Reidbord and Mary Lou Simon. Voting against were Chairwoman Wrenna L. Watson, Barbara Ernsberger and Lynne Garfinkel.
And still others, like Todd Reidbord, for example, left the hearing right in the middle of testimonies to go watch the Pittsburgh Panthers play basketball, skipped tons of important information that could have changed his vote and then return to pass the Pens' arena plan.
We also discovered that the City Planning Commission can sort of guess what the social impact of a particular development might be---even something as large as this---without a social impact study.
So, with all that said and done, we lost the battle but we will win this war.
Do not fear, friends. Nobody was really surprised by yesterday's vote.
In the meantime, an excellent review of Mindy Fullilove's "Root Shock" appears here at Null Space. This will be good for all of the people that don't understand the root causes of friction, division, crime, struggling infrastructure of organizations and problems with development in urban, African American communities like the Historic Hill District.
Get your read on.
Monday, January 14, 2008
We need you today and wearing something red. Red means "We Won't REpeat the Defeat!" Meaning, the defeat of 50 years ago where broken promises were never kept and repeated displacement, lack of investment and benign neglect has been the order of the day in the Historic Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
200 Ross Street, Downtown Pgh
Come at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm.
As you are.
If you need a ride from the Hill, there will be buses running from Grace Memorial Church (Upper Hill), Wesley Center AME Zion Church (Middle Hill) and the Hill House (Lower Hill). Call 412-621-9612. Spread the word.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I'll see you on Monday, January 14, 2pm onwards (feel free to come after work, we will still be there), City Planning Commission Meeting, 200 Ross Street, Downtown Pittsburgh. We need you for three minutes. We're on a filibuster to stop the vote at City Planning until the Pens address our questions and there is a signed Community Benefits Agreement---legally binding contract---that is mutually agreeable.
History is extremely important
So, what you can do to come full circle on the One Hill Community Benefits Agreement / Hill District Reinvestment Plan is to read Bram's blog, since he's like the first outsider to really bring it home (we've been here, waiting...) and then read below to come full circle. Be sure to pay attention to the names on the press release and this will all sink in for you---with one exception:
Councilwoman Tonya Payne. She gives verbal support to One Hill---yes. Her people passed out flyers a few months ago---yes. But has she (or her people) done anything substantive to really support One Hill? No. Why? Because she was doing her master's bidding by playing with hockey sticks for the Pittsburgh Penguins and working for a Mayor's election, after which he promptly kicked her in the teeth. Very sad. That's way too much shucking, jiving and buckdancing (and I like to dance) to not get anything in return. This is why you should stand with the community. The power will always, always, be with the people.
After you see these names, just understand that largely because she felt threatened by people she thinks will run against her and because of her angst towards anything related to her former boss and our former City Councilman, Sala Udin, Payne worked hard to help Carl Redwood and company form One Hill and then flooded the organization with her friends, family members and democratic committee persons to totally exclude or heavily minimize the influence of anyone who put the development rights, Don Barden, funding for community development, or any ask she considered too strenuous, etc. on the table---i.e. Jake Wheatley, the Hill CDC, Raise Your Hand! No Games, the activist ministers, etc . Why? Because her Master, David Morehouse, told her so. And her overseer, Mayor Ravenstahl, told her so.
We want to let Tonya Payne know that slavery is over. We are beginning the campaign to Free Tonya Payne.
To wit, the blast from the past:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kimberly C. Ellis, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hill District Community Demands Representation in Negotiating Development Rights for the Lower Hill District, To Hold Press Conference on Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 2:30pm, Mellon Arena
For years, the Greater Hill District Community has worked to develop an inclusive, decision-making process with City officials and other elected representatives in an effort to shape its future. Of paramount importance in this struggle is the need to confront the dismissive attitude towards the Hill District community and its indigenous leadership of private citizens, faith-based institutions, service and development entities.
As residents, stakeholders, leaders and institutional representatives, our collective mission is to preserve, protect and develop the Historic Hill District. This is evidenced by our recent sustained and collective battle to protect the community from the encroachment of a casino placed within and in the front yard of our neighborhood. Thus, the Hill District Community demands representation in negotiating development rights for the Lower Hill District, which are currently being negotiated solely by government officials and the Pittsburgh Penguins Sports Franchise, with no representation from the Hill District community. The Penguins share a unique and recently contentious place in history with the City of Pittsburgh and are now seeking to rectify it. Similarly, the Hill District Community also shares a unique and contentious history with the City of Pittsburgh. As such, we are at a pivotal period in our neighborhood and the City's history and are seeking to forge a new path with a much brighter future.
Therefore, with our collective mission in mind, the concerned citizens who live, work and play in the Hill District would like to make exceptionally clear the following:
- The Greater Hill District Community is bound by Bigelow Boulevard, the Boulevard of the Allies, Forbes Avenue and Sixth Avenue. This area encapsulates the Upper Hill (Schenley Heights / Sugartop, the Herron Avenue Business Corridor), the Middle Hill (Oak Hill, Whiteside Road and the Centre Avenue Business Corridor) and the Lower Hill (Reed & Roberts, Crawford Square, Bedford Dwellings, Uptown and the Mellon Arena / Melody Tent associated lots and sites).
- Throughout the entirety of its history in the Lower Hill District, the Pittsburgh Penguins have not served as partners in any substantial manner and are not entitled to development rights to the land in the Lower Hill.
- Further, as a multimillion dollar sports team that has been given concessions by the City of Pittsburgh in accordance with Plan B, the Penguins will receive a new arena and a reduced contribution to this arena from the initially stated $4 million dollars annual contribution to $2 million.
- As residents and citizens of the City of Pittsburgh, we expect our elected officials, especially our Mayor and County Executive, to represent Hill District taxpayers, voters and stakeholders in the protection and proper representation in any decision-making process that reflects our past while shaping our present and future.
- Therefore, we demand a seat at any decision-making table with regard to the Greater Hill District Community.
- We demand equity in any plan for the Greater Hill District no matter who or what entity obtains development rights and we demand a formal agreement be determined in writing with any and all entities involved.
- Hill District residents and stakeholders will hold a press conference on Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 2:30pm at the Mellon Arena site; and invite all of our elected officials who are in the critical, decision-making roles in this process to ensure that community voices are heard.
It is unconscionable and entirely unacceptable for City representatives and other elected officials to continue a process of engagement with the Pittsburgh Penguins or any other entity that seeks to develop within and in the front yard of the Greater Hill District community without taking into account the concerns of the citizens who live, work and play here twenty four hours a day.
At this point in our history and upon the cusp of change, it is important to come to the table to address the wrongs of our collective past, engage the needs of our present and move forward into a brighter future for the Greater Hill District Community and the City of Pittsburgh, as a whole.
Terri Baltimore, Hill House Association
Larry Demarzo, House of the Crossroads
Kimberly C. Ellis, Ph.D., Hill District Resident, Raise Your Hand! No Games Movement
Rev. Glenn G. Grayson, Pastor, Wesley Center AME Church
Emma T. Lucas-Darby, Ph.D., Hill Community Development Corporation
Marimba Milliones, Hill Community Development Corporation
Momar Milliones, Lifelong Hill District Resident
Rev. Johnnie Monroe, Pastor, Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church
Carl Redwood, Hill District Consensus Group
Rev. Tom Smith, Pastor, Monumental Baptist Church
State Representative Jake Wheatley, Jr., 19th Legislative District
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Thank you. Comments?
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Three important announcements where we request your attendance/participation:
1. One Hill CBA Coalition meeting Monday, January 07, 2008, Hill House Kaufmann Auditorium, 1835 Centre Ave, 6:00pm
2. City Planning Commission Hearing, January 14, 2008,
3. Watch our speeches from the last Planning Commission Meeting on Dec. 11, 2007:
“We Won’t Repeat the Defeat!: Historic Hill vs. Big Business”
A Bit of History
As many of you may know, the Historic Hill District community is in the middle of a revolution for the 21st Century. The two major issues that have swung our neighborhood into action centered around the gaming applications for the State of
Today, our major point of contention is with some of the same group of persons who sought to place this casino at our front door but were granted huge public subsidy and public lands to build their new arena, also at our front door. A new arena, of course, is a totally different development from a casino, which could be much easily supported, however, the responsibility of a large, multimillion dollar corporation such as the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team (with a billion dollar owner-Ron Burkle), coupled with gargantuan public subsidy demands that we insist on proper reinvestment to the low income, working-class community that must host this arena---the Historic Hill.
Thus, in 2006, the Hill District Gaming Task Force insisted on a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in its Ten Point Key-Reinvestment Proposal given to each gaming applicant. In January 2007, a small group of individuals representing Hill residents, organizations and clergy stood in icy cold weather at the present Civic Arena to demand a seat at the table and prevent the Pittsburgh Pens from signing a lease with the City and County with little or no regard for Hill residents whose neighborhood hosts the arena. In April 2007, many of these same persons issued a term sheet with a list of demands for reinvestment (based on the points of the 2006 Hill District Gaming Task Force), followed by the creation of the One Hill CBA Coalition (with the support of City Councilor Tonya Payne), which started a community process to develop planks, asks and a “Blueprint for a Livable Hill” document that shaped negotiations for the CBA.
Unfortunately, because neither the City, County nor Pittsburgh Penguins had produced or signed a CBA or a plan of reinvestment with the Hill District community, we all had to come together at the City Planning Commission Hearing on December 11, 2007 to request that the Commission vote “No” on passing the Pens’ plan for the arena until they responded to further community concerns around planning and signed a legally binding contract for proper reinvestment.
The videos listed above capture that hearing and Part I of our testimony. We have yet to sign a CBA or gain proper reinvestment for our community, so we ask that you support our cause by writing letters, making phone calls, hitting the streets and coming to the January 14th meeting, in particular.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Just understand . . . Black man wins in one of the whitest states in the U.S.
No, race should not matter but it does. So, Iowans proved that they are willing to look past the artificial and embrace visionary change for the U.S. Good for them! Good for us!
"You came together as Democrats, Republicans and independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, we are one people and our time for change has come."
Grassroots activist and organizer for decades
Servant of the people
The Audacity to Hope!
"You've got to have hope if you are a black man named Obama running for the presidency of the United States of America."
Oh yes! And for those who think he's too young, just know that he is the same age that Bill Clinton was when he was first elected President of the United States of America.
"Obama Shows Blacks Can Win"
"Obama Wins Iowa on 'Change' Issue"
Thank you, Oprah! You really put your money where your mind is!
Thank you, Michelle, you are going to be the Best. First. Lady. Ever!
Barack for President!
Barack the Vote!
Officials unveil plans for Hill District
Thursday, January 03, 2008
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl offered representatives of Hill District groups a seven-part community benefits agreement today that included new services, plans and facilities, but not a direct transfer of dollars from a new arena to neighborhood development efforts.
Once again, any discussion of shared revenue, shared prosperity, reinvestment and funding to indigenous Hill District organizations is described as "a direct transfer of dollars", one step above "cash payments".
Reaction from Hill groups was mixed, with the One Hill CBA Coalition issuing a statement that it was "pleased" that neighborhood concerns including a grocery store and job training center would be met, but adding that "vital planks have been expressly ignored."
Many of the vital planks are ignored and it's very disrespectful to the community. And there is no mention of a "job training center" in this proposal. CareerLinks referrals do not a "job training center" make.
The package is a result of "many meetings and discussions" and represents "significant benefit to the community," according to the cover letter accompanying the proposal.
I'm sorry but I have to disagree that there is any level of significance here. I see very little that is concrete in this process, very little guarantee of anything substantive for the community and much of it is also not what the community believes to be what it needs for self-determination. Newsflash: we do know what we need but have so often had little resources to do the types of things that would be holistically impactful. True, there have been "many meetings and discussions". And I think that's why this proposal is so sad---because it looks like the first step of something real and it's considered the last.
The package includes a master plan for Hill development, funded by the city and county.
This is necessary for all parties involved, anyway. In addition, the Pens are not adding one dime to the Masterplan for the rest of the Hill. The city, county and the Pens would be absolute fools not to do a Masterplan for the best location in the city, especially with Downtown's burgeoning development. Yes, this was a demand of ours but let's just keep perspective. We also specifically asked that the Pens pay for the Masterplan. And why not?
Officials will go to the neighborhood to detail social services and recreational and training opportunities available to residents, and to identify any gaps in the available services.
So, they want to give us a presentation to tell us what we already have in our community. And, they want to take two years to make an assessment of it all. First, there is already a list of the services in our community and, second, we can tell you how well they're all going because they're not all going well---hence, the need for proper reinvestment and a Community Benefits Agreement. I think the fullness of the insult has set in now.
The city and county will set up and operate a "resource center" to connect people to services and jobs, including those related to the arena project.
Ah, the "Hill District Resource Center". It sounds big!, exciting!, effective!, yes? The proposal states that this Center will be "in a central, easily accessible and visible location". Oh, yes!
What Rich Lord did not mention (and pardon me for laughing but you have to read the proposal to really believe it) is that there is to be ONE (1) staff person to refer the entire Hill District community to "appropriate existing human services, employment training, assessment and preparation programs, job opportunities and economic development funding programs. This center will be maintained for two years and then its effectiveness will be reassessed and reviewed".
Well, I can tell you now that this will not be effective in any real or substantial manner. Way too much work for one person in a very needy community, way too much stress, way too many phone calls, way too much paper work. This person will eventually break down and become ineffective. Then, when they ask for more help and resources to make the program (a Hill District organization) more effective, they will be told they're asking for "handouts" and "cash payments' and that the city and county will conduct a two year assessment to look at its effectiveness and gaps in the process.
In other words---this is insane.
Both governments and the Penguins would "support the establishment of a viable grocery store in the Hill District and . . . use good faith efforts to cause that to occur," in the words of the proposal.
Right. The "in good faith" effort is quite similar to the "concept" of a grocery store, which ultimately means "much later". And, folks, it's not that the community will not eventually get a grocery store. It's just that when it comes, it will be to make sure that it serves the people who live on the new developments on the 28-acre site and then Hill residents will be considered as part of a total population to make it extraordinarily profitable. In the meantime, we can continue to subsidize other communities and big business that don't give anything back.
Similarly, they pledge their support for a new YMCA in the 2100 block of Centre Avenue, and offer to help win state money toward its development.
Yes, that's right. The YMCA that is not even a member of One Hill, the one organization that is nationwide, already in the middle of a capital campaign and, you guessed it---not what the community asked for. The community asked for a recreation center that would be for the elderly and youth---like the Kingsley Center in East Liberty. Maybe, just maybe, the YMCA could come close to that but it still means that the community cannot control the kinds of programs, services and recreation, not necessarily shaped or defined by an overarching, national organization with its own agenda and priorities.
And, again, we must note the Mayor's revelation that he will be asking for a "handout" (he calls it funding) from the state.
There is no reference to direct funding for development groups in the Hill District or sharing of arena revenues, which some neighborhood leaders have sought. It isn't clear whether the mayor and executive believe they need community leaders to sign off on the proposal to make it official.
Laughable. I don't know if this is Lord's assessment or the officials' but in order to have a deal all parties must sign off. Any indication otherwise is just more paternalism, more racism, more of the same.
Just so everyone is clear, the Hill District community has explored what we need and want for at *least* the last two years---all of 2006 and all of 2007. The planks from the One Hill CBA Coalition from 2007 and the other group of clergy, residents and organizations is based on the terms from 2006 (outlined in the ten point key reinvestment plan of the Hill District Gaming Task Force). The cost of implementing or maintaining those programs and organizations is what makes up the community fund. As Mr. Eugene Taylor, a Hill community member, says in his statement to the City Planning Commission, "we are not asking for a handout. We just want our fair share".
One Hill's statement said that the city, county and Penguins have "drawn a line in the sand calling the [development] fund a 'hand out' and misrepresenting the concept of community control. One Hill is willing to negotiate on this plank, but it is a crucial part of the blueprint. . . .
Well, there is no doubt that any continued references to "handouts" and "cash payments" is just downright ignorant and a purposeful shaping of racist, classist perceptions designed to harm the Hill District community (further). It's also a subtle warning for anyone else in poor, working-class and/or communities of color who are thinking of CBAs and/or gaining proper reinvestment from development projects with public subsidy.
"Without some agreement on a Community Improvement Fund with some form of Hill District community control, there will be no agreement," One Hill's statement says.
Good for One Hill because the folks in my coalition didn't plan on settling, either. The motto is supposed to be "no one settles until we all settle", so it's good to see One Hill following its stated platform without capitulating to the weaker elements among the group that probably think this proposal is an honor instead of an insult.
The letter is addressed to Hill House Association Executive Director Evan Frazier, who was not immediately available, and Monumental Baptist Church Rev. Thomas Smith, who had not seen it yet.
Yes. And that is for "joint sign-off" folks, for the One Hill CBA Coalition and the Hill clergy, residents and organizations of which I am a part (including State Rep. Jake Wheatley). I support One Hill too, it's just that the political corruption and capitulation to the ridiculousness of Tonya Payne and her people drove us out of the process and the organization. C'est La Vie. We still live here and we are the ones who launched this cause on January 28, 2007 when we stopped the city, county and Pens from steamrolling us, so we weren't going anywhere and weren't going to stop fighting for what's right, anyway.
Maybe now we can all be on the same page. Because the fact that it was shared with the media even before the actual community representatives is just more of what I will call mayoral games. I don't know how much Onorato's office was in on that one.
In any event, stay tuned and also show up at City Planning on January 14, 2008, 200 Ross Street, 2:00pm to stand up and speak the truth about power (cuz speaking to them doesn't work the way one might desire).
Next up: my special focus on what the Pens have to offer.
Here's a snippet of my latest column in the Pittsburgh City Paper, click here to read the entirety:
We should remember that we hear snippets from the "I Have a Dream" speech so often today because it sanitizes the challenge he posed to us. If King were alive today, he would be 78 years old, and that wouldn't be too shabby. But I would be too embarrassed to tell him that Pittsburgh was voted the "Most Livable City," because I'm sure he would ask how we define "living."
In his time, he heard the "cries of disappointment" from black youths, in particular, who were raging in riots, exasperated by a non-violent struggle that had done little to enhance their quality of life.
Let me know what you think, readers.
RIP Benazir Bhutto (more on her later, I am still learning).
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Vote for me...
Dr. G, cruisin' down the West Side
highway . . .
Doin' things I like to do
my way . . .
All I need in this life of sin
is me and my girlfriends (plus my boyfriend)
down to ride 'til the very end
it's me and my girlfriends (plus my boyfriend)
So, I secured enough nominations and now I need votes for:
Mover and Shaker of the Year
Best Writer / Journalist of the Year
Poet of the Year
Click here to vote in Pittsburgh's Hip Hop Awards.
I'd appreciate your support.
Why Mover and Shaker?
Raise Your Hand! No Casino on the Hill Campaign, Raise Your Hand! No Games Movement & Film Series, Full Reinvestment / Community Benefits for the Hill, Highlighting Gentrification in East Liberty, Women's Equal Pay Rally, Codepink Anti-War Rally, Save Schenley, etc.
New Pittsburgh Courier Guest Columnist, Letters to the Editor on Gaming, Proper Leadership, putting Isle of Capri, Penguins, "Pittsburgh First", Rev. Simms and Rep. Payne on blast, "Revelations by Dr. Goddess" columnist, Pittsburgh City Paper, sharing info during appearances on KDKA, WTAE, WPXI, WKQV News Radio, Rustbelt Radio and frequently on Ebony Spectrum, 88.3FM w/ Rick Adams and Kevin Amos, etc.
Dr. Goddess!: A One Woman Show & Dr. Goddess Goes to Jail, spoken word, musical comedies, 1st place winner of Mic Melter's series, guest poet at Glaxo Smith Klein, Poet Instructor @ Hill House Summer Camp, Three Rivers Arts Festival sold out performances, First Voices Int'l Black Arts Festival, etc., a part of the Best of Rustbelt Radio Fall of 2007 for "Power Concedes Nothing: We Demand" at the "Day of Peace, Coalition Against Violence" by Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and One Hood.
Is Obama Black Enough?
By Grace Lee Boggs
This is a good question because it challenges us to stop glossing over the huge changes that have taken place, both positively and negatively, in black leadership over the last 50 years.
In the 50s and 60s we may not have called it “black leadership” but there was no doubt what we had in mind. We were talking about “the movement.” Southern blacks, rising out of obscurity, determined to rid their communities and this country of Jim Crow, risking their lives by sitting in front seats on buses, sitting down at lunch counters, registering to vote. Small groups of deeply-committed and highly-disciplined individuals engaging in non-violent actions that forced millions of white Americans to look at themselves and recognize the crimes that have made possible the rapid economic development of this country. SNCC students transforming themselves and humanizing this country by simple acts that raised the fundamental question of what it means to be a human being, thereby inspiring women, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans to challenge patriarchy and racism.
In the North men like Malcolm challenged us to look into the mirror by transforming themselves from hustlers into community leaders and searching for new ideas when those which had initially inspired their transformation tuned out to be too narrow. Students inspired us by walking out of schools demanding black history and black administrators.
Between 1965 (the year Malcolm was killed) and 1968 (the year Martin was gunned down) black leadership was taken to a new level by King. Agonizing over the twin crises of the Vietnam war and the urban rebellions, he called for a radical revolution in values, not only against racism but against materialism and militarism. Warning against integration into the “burning house” of U.S. capitalism, he emphasized the need for two-sided transformation by and of Americans, both of ourselves AND our institutions, a transformation that would take us and the world beyond both traditional capitalism and communism.
King was killed before he could put this new revolutionary/evolutionary transformational vision of revolution into practice and make it widely known to the world.
After his death civil rights leaders, ignoring King’s warning, seized upon the opportunities that had been opened up by “the movement” to enter the “burning house” of U. S. capitalism. Instead of calling upon the American people to confront our consumerism and militarism, instead of challenging corporate globalism, these opportunists became a part of the system, evaluating black progress by how much they and other blacks were catching up with whites.
In 1977, with the support of the civil rights establishment, Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, used scabs to break the garbage workers strike. In the late 70s civil rights leaders turned blacks into a special interest group inside the Democratic Party, just as the Democrats were becoming indistinguishable from Republicans in their dependence on corporations for campaign funds
As a result, the word “black” has lost all its movement meaning. So Bill Clinton, the man who sponsored NAFTA, who got rid of Aid to Dependent Children, who bombed Iraq, and who now suggests that Hillary’s first act as president would be to send him and George W’s father around the world, can be called this country’s “first black president”!
Meanwhile capitalism has morphed into corporate globalization, the materialism of the American people has skyrocketed, inequality is mushrooming inside the United States and between the global north and the global south, violence continues to escalate both at home and abroad, and the planetary crisis is reaching the point of no return.
Had it not been for the movements of the 50s and 60s, Obama and Hillary would not be front runners in the presidential race today.
But neither Obama’s ethnicity nor Hillary’s gender is enough to earn my support. Neither is calling on the American people to confront our materialism and militarism or challenging and proposing alternatives to corporate globalization. At this critical period in human history that is what we should be requiring of ourselves and of any presidential candidate, whatever their race, gender, or religion.
Fortunately new leadership is emerging out of obscurity, at the grassroots level, building community instead of running for office.
Source: Michigan Citizen, Dec.30 - Jan.6, 2008
Barack will have to step up. But I do believe that he would and will.
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