“The poor will always be with us…” Matthew 26:11
There are one group of people that Americans hate more than foreign terrorists. The poor within their own borders. They would rather send millions of dollars, as well as their armed forces, to assist and relieve the sufferings of the poor and disenfranchised in distant lands, than to help the poor on their own soil. Americans are not alone in this. The poor, wherever they are, incite the hatred and disdain of their fellow citizens, particularly their government. They are usually blamed and scapegoated for everything from economic downturns to epidemics of disease. They have always been the fodder for wars, cuts in government spending and dubious medical experiments. They are not only exploited for their manual labour, their bodies are also marketed as sex slaves and organ farms for the perverted rich, and their neighbourhoods tourist destinations for the curious advantaged.
The real source of this hatred though lies in the fact that for the elite, the poor are a constant warning that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”… fish rots from the head down. They are the beacon which illuminates the darkness of whatever “noble lie” social harmony is built upon. They are the kindle that a spark for revolution will ignite to burn away the illusion of political stability. There is also an intense societal fear and loathing for those who advocate for these hated poor and direct the beacon to expose the architects and beneficiaries of these sacred falsehoods.
“When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the President can easily bailed out the banks and capitalists, but has done nothing to help the poor, they call me an “uncle tom”.
I have always been a fan of Travis Smiley. I have recently developed a great amount of respect and admiration for Cornel West. I may not always agree with their positions, but there is no doubt that they are principled and honest (Black) men who have a sincere love for Black people, and are committed to the cause of the poor, the exploited and the disenfranchised. Regardless of this… actually because of this… I knew they would become pariahs within the African-American community, particularly with the Negro intellectuals and celebrities, when they announced that they were going on a 2 week, 16 city tour to bring attention to the plight of the poor and President Obama’s lack of any policy, initiative or plan to address their situation… especially the African-American poor, who have been hit the hardest by the housing crisis, unemployment and recession (here).
“If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other people, then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding…” Zora Neale Hurston
I have hence read all sorts of articles questioning their motives, demonizing and vilifying them, as well as calling them all sorts of names, because they took a stance for the poor by demanding that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, the most powerful (Black) man in the world, do something substantial for them, instead of offering empty rhetoric, the noble lie that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. These are the same poor black people who blindly and emotionally supported his bid to the White House, believing that he was their promised messiah, the embodiment of the change they could believe in. (I always mused that if your boat has holes and is filling with water, wouldn’t a rising tide make it sink faster).
Although America is always quick to profess to the world their noble lie that it’s the “land of free speech”, there has always been consequences to bear when one exercises that right and criticizes the government, especially the President. The blacklash against Smiley and West by the African-American community reminds me of the reaction to the Dixie Chicks by their fellow Texans, as well as political conservatives, when they criticized George W. Bush, during a concert in England, 9 days before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” The backlash was intense and fierce. They were ostracized, lost fans, had concerts cancelled, received hate mail and death threats. I highly recommend their documentary of that period: “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing“. In the same manner, President Obama’s supporters would rather “Smiley and West: Shut Up and Coon”.
I have also read a few well balanced articles, not necessarily supporting Smiley and West, but supporting the cause of their Poverty Tour, as well as questioning the failure of President Obama to get up, stand up and fight for the human rights of the poor of his nation. I for one cannot speak to what is truly in their heart, but history has shown time and again that when the elites and their self-serving minions are fighting with all their might to kill (discredit) the messenger(s), the foundation of the message is built upon truth… and those in power will do whatever it takes, will stop at nothing, to perpetuate the sanctity of their noble lie.
“The pursuit of truth attracts critics”
It’s been a while since I dropped a post. I’ve primarily been busy being a husband, father and worker (in that order). The little free time I do have, I’ve been spending reading, as well as watching documentaries, movies, HardTalk (on BBC World), Tavis Smiley and Glenn Beck (more on him in an upcoming post). In a sense, I’ve been recharging my batteries and doing a lot of thinking… more like meditating… on life.
With all that being said, last month I read a lot of articles and posts, as well as watched a couple of documentaries, in regards to Black History Month but didn’t have the urge to comment or do a post. It was all primarily the same ole stuff about what we’d accomplished in the past (and didn’t get credit for), and the discrimination and tribulations we’ve experienced in the past and still going through today. I didn’t read anything on how we are making history today, laying the groundwork for a look back, in the future, to our positive accomplishments. Now I’m not saying that there wasn’t anything like that being discussed out in the afrosphere, in relation to Black History Month, I just didn’t read any (maybe more of a reflection of the blogs and websites I frequent… I will need to meditate more on that).
However in my various cyber travels, I did come across some sites and information that gave me hope and encouragement in our future. It reminds us…me … that everyday we are indeed laying the foundation for the future, as well as making positive history today, that is not confined to a single month.
2. “Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority” by Black advertising pioneer Tom Burrell.
3. Fihankra International: A mission to return to build a future in the motherland.
4. We all no doubt heard and/or watched the Serena Willimas meltdown during the 2009 U.S Open. It was all over the media then and even today. However there was no media coverage, that I saw anyway, or to the extent of her meltdown, of her work in building two schools in Kenya: The Serena Williams Secondary School and The Serena Williams Wee Seconday School.
5. An excellent documentary about the political power of hip-hop in Africa: African Underground: Democracy in Senegal
Op-ed submission by Project 21
Washington, DC: Mychal Massie, chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network, is critical of the premise of talk show host Tavis Smiley’s upcoming March 20 conference that seeks to set a “black agenda” for America.
“What is a black agenda?” asks Project 21’s Massie. “Jobs, retirement income, education, cost of living, crime and so on are not black American issues. They are American issues. It’s not predicated on race and color. So why is Tavis Smiley seeking to divide us when Americans should be coming together?”
Tavis Smiley, a PBS host, is set to hold a conference at Chicago State University on March 20 to discuss the alleged need for an exclusive political agenda for black Americans. Smiley has been critical of Barack Obama for not paying special attention to the black community and has taken black leaders to task for not pushing Obama to maintain a race-specific agenda for black citizens. Panelists at the event are reported to include noted left-wing luminaries Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Julianne Malveaux, Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.
“Project 21, the group I head, exists because there are those who would deny there is a diversity of opinion within the black community,” noted Massie. “With panelists representing a political range from Jesse Jackson to Louis Farrakhan, it seems sadly obvious that Smiley’s gathering will perpetuate this myth.”
Talking to the Associated Press about his conference and black support for Obama during the election and the need for his March 20 conference, Smiley asked: “[N]ow that he’s elected, what are black people being asked to do to hold him accountable to our agenda?”
“Obama is the President of the United States of America, he is not the president of black America,” Project 21’s Massie countered. “He can no more be expected to show preferential treatment to blacks any more than Jimmy Carter was expected to have shown preferential treatment to white southerners. Smiley, who recently abandoned his ‘State of Black America,’ is apparently feeling left out. This seems to be just another way for him to promote Tavis Smiley’s race-mongering agenda.”
Massie added: “One need only look at the cast malevolent marplots Smiley assembled as a panel to understand exactly what is taking place. I can assure you this is about them heretofore not being able to capitalize to the extent they would like from Obama being in office.”
When I wrote this post “Stuff White People Like”, I had planned to do one about Black people too. Well that time has come so here it is. These are the 10 things that first came to mind, which are based on my observations and experiences. They are in no particular order of relevance or importance.
1. A White Jesus
You ever go into a Black persons home and the first thing that meets your eye as you enter is a picture of a white hippie looking, blond hair and blue eyed Jesus!? The one that really get’s me is the picture with the “sacred heart” on the outside of his chest. In previous times, I would ask the host (usually a family member): “who is the white hippie dude in the photo? Is he family!?” They would look at the photo and I could tell that the wheels in their mind would start to turn… then they would look at me long and hard, like they couldn’t believe I wasn’t struck dead (and probably silently praying that I would be), then and there by lightening! If you close your eyes and think about Jesus and the above image comes to mind, then read this and you may also want to read this book.
2. Barack Obama
On the flip side of worshipping a white Jesus, Black folks all over the world worship Barack Obama as the “Black Messiah”. I swear that when they see him, ole negro spirituals starts playing in their heads! He can do no wrong in their eyes. He is Moses and Jesus all rolled up into one, sent by the Almighty to bring them into the new heaven and the new earth. The post-racial promise land that is America.
3. Hating on Tavis Smiley
Ever since Tavis Smiley called on then presidential candidate Barack Obama to be accountable to the Black American electorate, he has caught hell from that community (see here). I recently read a post where the author referred to Tavis as a “self promoting race hustler”. “A self promoting race hustler!?” Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson… maybe. Tim Wise and Soledad O’Brien… for sure. But Tavis!? I guess if you criticize or question the Black Messiah and don’t get struck by lightening, then the true believers are obligated to demonize you.
I like this definition of Swagga from the urban dictionary: “one’s own unique style or personality that sets them apart from anyone else.” There is no doubt that we are the leaders and trendsetters… worldwide… when it comes to the originality and uniqueness of style. From the Caribbean to Africa… from the Americas to Europe… whether it’s in popular culture, fashion, urban wear, hair styles, art, music, dance, slang, etc., we set the bar. Individually and collectively, we get our “swagga on” like no others!
5. Saying “hello” to other Black people
I have been blessed to travel to many parts of the world and the one of the things I find that really defines us, is our acknowledgment of each other. Whether it’s a lift of the brow, a nod, a smile, a wave, or a simple hello, we will greet each other, especially when we are in an environment where there aren’t that many of us (if you know what I mean). Granted not all of us are like this and some of us are even down right nasty and disrespectful when it comes to dealing with another Black person. However overall, I find that overwhelmingly there are many more good experiences with this than bad… and I hope we never lose that quality with each other. It brings a certain level of community and reassurance.
When I lived in Windsor Canada, right across the river from Detroit, I would listen every morning to the Tom Joyner radio show. My favourite segment was the Tavis Smiley twice weekly commentary. There were times when I would leave my desk at work and head down to my car just to listen to his commentary. I didn’t always agree with his views, but I always found him sincere in his commitment to address the issues facing Black America, in an effort to bring clarity and offer solutions.
So I was disappointed by the fierce backlash he endured from the Black community, when last year he was critical of President (then candidate) Obama for not being more attentive to African American issues during the campaign, from distancing himself from his pastor of over 20 years Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and for not taking the time to attend the 2008 State of the Black Union forum. According to news reports, it got so bad that members of Smiley’s family were being threatened. So after 11 years, Smiley ended up leaving the Tom Joyner Morning Show due to what Joyner described at the time: “The real reason is that he can’t take the hate he’s been getting regarding the Barack issue — hate from the black people that he loves so much.”
I for one have always had a difficult time understanding why we as a people so easily fall into a “tribal like” mentality when we have differences of opinions or beliefs with one another. We have internalized as a collective this “us vs. them… if you are not with us you are against us”… polarizing attitude with each other. Democrats vs. Republicans; Christian vs. Muslim; Religious vs. Atheist; Rich vs. Poor; Straight vs. Gay; Male vs. Female; Light-skinned vs. Dark-skinned; Eastside vs. Westside; Red vs. Blue; African-American vs. Caribbean; African vs. African Diaspora; Tutsi vs. Hutu; etc. We have developed this reflexive response to feel obliged to take it personally when someone doesn’t see things our way… have a difference of opinion… as well as to feel justified in “demonizing” said Black person, with statements such as: “they’re just a crab in a barrel”; “they’re a sellout”; “they’re traitors to the Black community”; “they’re doing this because they’re jealous”; “they’re pawns of the white man”; “there’s only one point, your’s?” etc. I heard (and read) all this, and more, at the time in reference to Smiley… well maybe not the last one so much… [;o)
Anyway I have been reading some commentary on the 2009 State of the Black Union forum that was held last Saturday. Again I don’t understand some of the negative feedbacks, which appears to me is based primarily on the dislike of Smiley for criticizing Obama and/or the corporate sponsors associated with the forum. In regards to corporate sponsorship, although I do believe you have to be very careful in whom you allow to support your cause, I commend Smiley in the way he has been able to market the forum, his message and even himself to a wider audience. And if he makes a little money (or a lot of money) through his endeavors… all the more power to him. It doesn’t take away from the fact that he is committed and does positive work for the community.
Unfortunately, here in Canada we don’t get the broadcast of the forum, so I didn’t get to watch it. But whether one agrees with or even likes Tavis Smiley, this forum is one effort… “one effort”… out of many that is striving for the upfliftment and progress of Black America.
Here are a sampling of some of the articles I read on Smiley and the Black Union forum: