Requiem for Black People

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 3rd, 2020

Lorenzo Collins, Michael Carpenter, Roger Owensby Jr.  Timothy Thomas, Nathaniel Jones, Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Kenneth Walker, Sean Bell, Timothy Russell, Kimani Gray, Ezzell Ford, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner,   Kajieme Powell, Malissa Williams, Vonderitt Myers, Dante Parker, Michael Brown, Tyisha Miller, Trayvon Martin, Dontre Hamilton, Tony Robinson, Jason Harrison, Martin Hall, Bettie Jones, Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, Sandra Bland, Matthewe Ajibade, Eric Harris, Keith Childress, Kevin Matthews, Leroy Browning, Gus Rugley, Ray Smoot, Roy Nelson, Miguel Espinal, Jonny Gammage, Nathaniel Pickett, Cornelius Brown, Tiara Thomas, Chandra Weaver, Jamar Clark, Richard Perkins, Akai Gurley, Stephen Tooson, Michael Lee Marshall, Alonzo Smith,  Anthony Ashford, Lamontez Jones, India Kager, Samuel DuBose, Felix Kumi, Walter Scott, Billie Ray Davis, Darrius Stewart, Albert Davis, Jonathan Sanders, Spencer McCain, Freddie Gray, Eric Harris, Charly “Africa” Keunang, Emerson Clayton, Jr., Tommy Yancy, Jerame C. Reid, Corey Tanner, Zikarious Flint, David Andre Scott, Emmanuel Jean-Baptiste, Victor White III, Matthew Walker, Darrien Nathaniel Hunt, Jeremy Lake, Laquan McDonald, Denzel Ford, Pierre Loury, Cedrick Chatman, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille…  I could go on, but I am sure you get the point.

“I feared for my life”  “He reached for his waistband”  “I saw something shiny”  “He ran”  “He made eye contact with me”  “He fit the description”  “He resisted”  “He threatened me”  “He didn’t comply”  “He would not put the brick down”  “He would not put the knife down”  “He weighed 400 pounds”  “My hand got caught in the steering wheel”  “He dragged me with the car”  “He lunged at me”  “My gun accidentally went off”  “I thought I was firing my Taser”  “He was acting strangely”  “He was holding a screwdriver when he came to the door”  “He had a broom when he came to the door”  “He was armed with a soup spoon”  “He had a prescription pill bottle in his pocket but I thought it was a gun”  “He had a BB gun”  “He had a toy pellet gun”  “He was obese”  “He kept saying ‘I can’t breathe’ so we knew he was still breathing”  “The stairwell was dark”  “He behaved like a thug”  “He was wearing a hoodie”  “After he survived a car accident, he approached us with empty hands”  “He was running toward us but we shot him in the back”  “He did not comply within 2 seconds”  “He shot himself while being handcuffed behind his back, with a gun that we did not find when we searched him”

“Our hearts go out to the families”  “Our prayers and thoughts are with the family”  “This can never happen again”  “He could have been my son”  “R.I.P.” “Our condolences go out”  “She could have been our daughter”  “It’s a tragic and sad day for our nation”  “We shall overcome”  “This has to stop”  “We cannot rush to judgment”  “We must wait until the investigation is over”  “Let the process work”  “The video does not tell the whole story of what happened”  “We are all saddened by this tragic event”  “Our hearts grieve with this family” “They don’t get up in the morning saying, ‘I am going to kill a Black man today’”  “They want to go home at night”  “All police officers are not bad”  “The vast majority of officers are good”  “Let’s not indict all officers because of the actions of one or two”  “Black lives matter”  “Blue lives matter” “All lives matter”  “This is not a Black problem; it’s an American problem”  “No justice no peace”  “Nonviolence is the answer”  “We need a national conversation on police violence”  “I found no evidence to indict the officer(s)” “It’s Ok Mommy; It’s Ok, I’m right here with you”

These acts are heinous, horrific, terrible, irresponsible, immoral, reprehensible, indefensible, unconscionable, unacceptable, horrifying, shocking, frightening, inhumane, uncivilized, animalistic, disgraceful, shameful, inexcusable, insulting, depraved, shameless, cowardly, outrageous, scandalous, dishonorable, discreditable, appalling, dreadful, irrefutable, atrocious, unspeakable, ludicrous, indecent, disreputable, brutal, wicked, offensive, brazen, unabashed, gutless, spineless, odious, awful, revolting, blatant, and SINFUL.

Black people are disgusted, dismayed, outraged, fuming, livid, irate, sickened, revolted, repulsed, repelled, offended, affronted, hurt, scared, tenuous, intimidated, fearful, incensed, enraged, nauseated, injured, disrespected, tired, sick and tired, and angry.

After everything is said and done, much is said and little is done.  Our words are like a needle on a scratched record; we are stuck, and we keep repeating the same thing over and over again.  If you are conscious and conscientious, join the One Million in Atlanta, Georgia, on August  19-21, 2016 and this time let’s take appropriate action to deal with these horrendous times in which we live.   www.iamoneofthemillion.com

Note: At the time of this writing four police officers in Dallas were killed and seven were injured by a Black man who was tired of and angry about Black people being killed by police.  Pray for their families too.

 

 

Sticky: Eavesdropping on the Elders

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman October 11th, 2020

Late one evening, while I was working on this book, I inadvertently overheard a conversation among some of our elders.  I didn’t mean to be discourteous by listening to their conversation, but I just couldn’t help myself when I heard who was doing the talking.  The more I listened the more I knew their ruminations were really meant for me to hear; they actually wanted to get their message out to their children and had no other way to do it except through me.  So, I listened intently and even took notes in an effort to pass on the correct information to you.

Marcus, the flamboyant and assertive one in the group, called the meeting of several brothers and sisters, who were trying to get some much needed and well-deserved rest. Marcus is the kind of brother who never seems to be able to rest; he is a veritable whirlwind.  He always wants to talk, to write plans on organizational strategies, and he keeps everyone on their toes despite their weariness from long days of laboring for their people.

“What is it this time, Marcus?” asked Harriet, “I walked hundreds of miles during my lifetime, bringing slaves to freedom, and quite frankly I am exhausted.”  She proudly looked at Marcus with loving admiration, which reassured him, as always, that Harriet respected him for his initiative. 

“Yeah, Marcus,” Frederick chimed in.  “Why do you keep marching around in that army uniform?  Don’t you ever get tired?  Don’t you know how old you are?  You should be getting some rest, my brother.”  Marcus replied, “I can’t rest no matter how much I want to and how much I try.  I can’t and won’t rest until our people are free.”

“What do you think, Booker?” Douglass asked.  “You fought hard for our freedom, and your life ended quite abruptly and prematurely, during the height of your movement.  How do you deal with the plight of our people?” Booker lamented, “Yes, it is difficult to rest while our people are still fighting the same battles we fought more than 100 years ago.  I was only 58 years old when I had to stop, so I am with Marcus; we have to continue, and even though our bodies are weary, we must keep our spirits strong.”

“I told our people what to do way back in 1829!” interjected an angry David Walker.  “I only made it to age 34, but in my short lifetime I appealed to our people to run for freedom, but many of them refused.  It’s not that I’m tired, my brother, I’m too young for that; I’m just frustrated at our people’s lack of resolve to take their freedom.”

“Let me say something,” said Mother Mary McLeod Bethune.  “In my Last Will and Testament, I left instructions for our people, among which were directions on how to save and how to build institutions.  I told them to save their pennies and nickels, and work cooperatively for our collective wellbeing.  From the looks of things, they didn’t listen to me, Marcus.  So what do you have in mind now to get our people to change?”

“That’s right,” retorted Maria Stewart.  I also told them to unite and open stores; their response was, ‘Where will we get the money to do that?’  I told them we have all the money we need, but we spend it on nonsense.  Nothing has changed.”

Then Richard Allen came strolling up to the crowd, imploring them, “Brothers and sisters, I know our people have made several strategic errors by failing to do as we did. Instead of maintaining the institutions we established, they abandoned them and now find themselves in dire straits.  If we were able to do what we did back then, surely, they can do better today, so let’s not get too frustrated; let’s see if we can help them”

The conversation started to get a bit heightened and energized; that was just what Marcus wanted.  Others who heard it stopped by and sat down to add their wisdom to the mix.  One was a fellow named Martin Delany.  “Do you remember when I told our people to be producers, to build houses and rent them, to manufacture clothes instead of buying everyone else’s?   I warned that unless we were committed to make those changes, we would walk around with our heads hung in sorrow and our faces hidden in shame.  I knew, even then, that our progress resided in the work of own hands.  What’s wrong with our people?  All they have to do is listen to us,” Delany said

“I know, I know,” Marcus responded, “but we must continue; we cannot stop.  Even though our people have refused to hear us and even though they have allowed themselves to be misled, we love them and we must help them.  Can you imagine how I felt and what I thought when some of our brothers and sisters were turned against me?  I helped start many Black owned businesses and raised millions of dollars toward an economic movement that has not been duplicated since.” 

Marcus continued to lament, “I can remember when we had our own publishing company in Harlem, during the Renaissance, when many of our Black writers protested about white owned publishing companies discriminating against them by not reviewing or publishing their works.  How sad I was to hear our people complain about white folks’ publishing houses when our own UNIA publishing house, located in the heart of Harlem on 135th Street, was there for them.  We had six million UNIA members who stood ready to purchase all the books Black authors could write, without depending on the largess of white companies.  How ridiculous was that?  But still, we cannot give up on our people.”

“Hey Brother DuBois, you and I have had our disagreements and you have acknowledged that even you, one of our most learned men, fell prey to the divide-and- conquer tactics that caused disunity between us.  What are your thoughts on this issue?” Marcus inquired.

W.E.B. answered, “I hear you, and I hear all of the others.  I lived on the earth for 93 years, and it took a long time for me to see what was really going on in America.  When I left for Africa, I was disheartened and frustrated even at my beloved Talented Tenth.  I witnessed the squandering of tremendous intellectual and financial resources among our people, and now as I assess the situation facing our children I am convinced they need our messages even more, and we must aid them in any way we can.  We must teach them sacrifice over selfishness”

Brothers and sisters throughout the crowd began to get engaged in the conversation as well, supporting what Garvey and the others were saying.  Martin, Medgar, and Malcolm added, “We agree that our children’s most important need is economic.  Our messages are there for them to read and heed.  Our lives were taken from us as we worked for their freedom.  We can no longer be divided and disjointed in our response to this pressing need.” 

“I wholeheartedly agree with these brothers,” responded Elijah Muhammad.  “That’s what my economic program was all about in the 1960’s: self-sufficiency, ownership, and wealth-building.”

Looking as though they could no longer remain silent, three brothers leaped to their feet and shouted out in unison, “Amen!  Freedom, every aspect of freedom for our people must be the ultimate goal.  What is life without freedom?”  I wondered who those bold, brash, outspoken brothers were.  I soon found out when Marcus acknowledged them as Nat, Denmark, and Gabriel, former slaves who died trying to set their people free.

Kwame Ture and Fred Hampton spoke up too.  “Our brothers are absolutely right.  What is our legacy if it is not our willingness – and even our eagerness – to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of our people?” 

Then Sister Ida B. Wells stood up, and with her usual aplomb and commanding presence, said, “My dear brothers and sisters, we lived during a time when our people were lynched, and those who perpetrated those cowardly acts went unpunished.  Their unnamed souls call out to our children who still walk that land called America; they seek relief just as the souls of those in the Book of Revelation called for their rescue.  I pray our children will respond and do the things they need to do to help themselves?  If they don’t change, they are lost”

As the crowd grew larger, over my right shoulder I saw a much younger brother standing there, listening intently, with a pensive smile on his face.  He obviously had not been there as long as the others.  His name was Ken Bridges.  Marcus saw him and motioned for him to come closer.  “Brother Ken, we know you are a relative newcomer to our midst, but we were watching as you tirelessly worked for freedom for Black people and, like the UNIA, the Matah Network was a stroke of genius.  What do you think now, as you see our people continue to struggle despite all of the wisdom we passed down to them?”

Ken humbly stepped to the front of the crowd and simply said, “Our people have been tampered with, Marcus, and they are suffering from the vestiges of psychological programming that still cause them to dislike everything African about themselves.  But I believe if they would just love themselves and their brothers and sisters more, and redirect more of their spending toward one another, they will achieve the goals you promoted and set for them.  The messages all of you left are still there with our people but they need to be reinforced continuously.  When I left, there were new Kwame’s, new Martin’s, new Frederick’s, new Ida’s, and new Harriet’s on the way.  I am proud of them, for their courage and for their commitment, and I am confident they will make you proud too.”   

Marcus was relieved, and so were many of the others who heard Ken’s words.  Jackie Robinson and Paul Robeson were giving high-fives to everyone; Mahalia Jackson was singing, “Glory! Halleluiah!”; Satchmo was blowing his horn; James Baldwin, Bob Maynard, and Amos Wilson were busy writing down everything they witnessed; Queen Mother Moore was hugging everyone near her.

Harold Washington stood up and, with that familiar engaging smile, starting “pressing the flesh,” remembering his days as Mayor of Chicago; Ron Brown and Reginald Lewis now felt much better about the future of those they left behind; and Fannie Lou Hamer sat back down in her rocking chair, able to rest once again.

Brother Chancellor Williams was so excited that he actually picked up Sister C.J. Walker and spun her around in his arms.  Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, J.A. Rogers, Langston Hughes, Elders A. G. Gaston, and A. Philip Randolph joined hands in a small circle and silently offered thanks to The Creator.  Maggie Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Sojourner Truth, Mary Church Terrell, Annie Turnbo-Malone, Betty Shabazz, and Gwendolyn Brooks jumped for joy at the thought of their children’s awakening.

Tupac, Biggie, Aaliyah, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes quietly sat at the feet of these elders, full of regret and remorse for their untimely departure from their loved ones but comforted, nevertheless, by their understanding of what love and sacrifice truly meant.  They wept.  Mother Hattie McDaniel embraced them.

Garvey was all smiles by now, buoyed by what he had heard and seen.  Although he knew his people still had a long way to go, and although Marcus regretted our not having followed the lessons of all the great elders gathered before him, his big smile was a dead giveaway that down deep inside he was confident we would one day soon follow through and fulfill our quest for true freedom. 

Marcus was even more reassured when Maynard Jackson, who had just arrived, boldly walked up to him, gave him a huge bear hug, and thanked him for the sacrifices Marcus had made for our people.  Maynard, in that beautiful baritone voice of his, thanked everyone in attendance for the lessons and examples they passed on to him.

Garvey was visibly moved by the gesture, as he took his beloved Amy’s hand once again, embraced her, and slowly walked away from the crowd.  This time he was determined to get some rest, and this time Amy would see to it that he did just that. 

My initial feeling of eavesdropping on a private conversation subsided; I was supposed to listen in.  After all, those were my brothers and sisters, my family members, and my elders; I have an obligation to listen to them and, more importantly, I have an obligation to acknowledge them and to follow their lead.  I was not eavesdropping; I was learning.  I thanked them for their words of wisdom, which are echoed throughout this book.  

With deep respect and boundless gratitude to those who sacrificed for our freedom; they continue to teach us the “stuff we need to know.”

Jim Clingman

 

 

Look back and see the future. (Part One) — June 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman April 23rd, 2020

I often use the phrase, “Our history is our future,” to express the fact that everything we need to do today, vis-à-vis economic empowerment, has been done before by African Americans in this country. Just look back at what Black people built in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, Durham, North Carolina and Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District. Take a closer look at what Booker T. Washington was doing with his National Negro Business League; read about Black entrepreneurs in Cincinnati and Philadelphia during the early 1800’s, and you will see the economic future of African Americans is, indeed, grounded in our history.

I wonder why it takes us so long to do what we know is right. In the context of the economic well-being of African Americans, most of us know what “we need” to do. Yet we seem content to discuss, “intellectualize,” meet, and complain about how unfair the system is. For those “we need to…” folks out there, if you see the need, do the work.

One thing most of us know is that economic empowerment and business development—vertical business development—are vital to our economic prosperity. Naturally following the development of businesses is the support of those businesses by consumers. To illustrate that point, I am reminded of what a friend once told me: “Production minus sales equals scrap.”

In the 1800’s there were many flourishing Black owned businesses. In spite of the worst brand of slavery ever perpetrated on a people, Black businesses survived and grew. Economic growth was a reality, even in the face of the racial prejudice that existed, because we were determined, and we stuck together.

In 1853, a convention was held in Rochester, New York, to discuss “Afro-American Economics.” Slogans like “Buy Black” and “Double Duty Dollars” began at conventions like this one, all over the country. What happened to us since that time? Have we drifted so far from our heritage and from the things that benefit us as a whole? Have we become so selfish and so self-centered that we have completely lost sight of our values toward one another?

Businesses are the foundation of a true community. Our current 2.4 million Black owned businesses, compared to the 45 million of us, are but a drop of water in the ocean, especially when you factor in the relatively meager annual revenues those businesses take in. We must change that.

Our time should be devoted to starting and supporting business ventures, rather than complaining about how difficult things are out there and how the “Arabs” and Asians dominate our neighborhoods when it comes to business ownership. We must find common ground to move beyond the stagnation and complacency in which we have been mired for so long. Organization, unity, and mutual support are the keys to our economic freedom.

Cooperative economics among African Americans is an idea that has been around for hundreds of years. It could not be resisted during the early years of American history, and it cannot be resisted today. It is up to us to take advantage of that fact as we move forward. It is time to make individual commitments to “do” something rather than sit back and “let someone else do it.” It is time to stop complaining and blaming someone else for our plight. It is time for us to give up that lame excuse, “There is no use trying to change things, because we are never going to get together anyway.” I don’t buy those tired words, and I hope you don’t buy them either. All we have to do, instead, is buy from one another, for the benefit of us all. The precedent exists; look at it and learn from it.

My primary example of seeing a need and doing the work (although there are several during my lifetime that I could share) is my current work for our people: THE One Million Conscious and Conscientious Black Contributors and Voters (OMCCBCV). Our historical grounding is found in the words of Marcus Garvey: “The greatest weapon used against [Black people] is disorganization.” Thus, we are organized, united, and unapologetically determined to contribute to the economic elevation of our people. We saw the need and set out to do the work; and we will continue that work as we learn from our past and strive for a better future for our children. If you would like to join us, go to www.iamoneofthemillion.com Next week, part two of this article will give a deeper look at why and how the system in which we live has caused some of us to be complacent. It will also offer a way to change our situation.

 

 

Look back and see the future. (Part Two) — July 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman April 23rd, 2020

An excellent example of the impact our history has on the way we are today, especially economically, can be found in an article titled, The Reluctant Entrepreneurs, by Joel Kotkin, author of the book, Tribes.

The feature discusses several reasons for Blacks not going into business and being surpassed in this area by other ethnic groups. Among other reasons, the history of African Americans was cited. The article quotes Robert Hill, a Black Historian at the University of California at Los Angeles, who traced the lack of entrepreneurial tradition to African origin and the brutality of the American system of slavery. “Africa”, Hill explained, “is more a communitarian society, where notions of private property have never been so entrenched as in Europe or North America. The culture of capitalism is just not part of our African heritage.”

The piece goes on to say, “…certainly slavery and its progeny, the sharecropper system, did nothing to foster confidence, independence, or a capitalist inclination among African Americans. Before slavery and after, white landowners believed the proper way to treat the Black was, in the words of one slave owner, ‘to create in him a habit of perfect dependence…’ And it was a system that proved to be enormously successful and enduring.”

The article continued, “we are a race of people who for generations, both before and after Emancipation, were denied freedom of movement, education, and even a rudimentary familiarity with the free market, not to mention credit, legal status, or safety from lynch mobs. That we, as descendants, have not taken naturally to entrepreneurship should hardly come as a big surprise.”

The fact still remains that despite their poorest of circumstances, some Black people engaged in entrepreneurship even before the Emancipation, and did well at it. According to John Sibley Butler, in his outstanding work, Entrepreneurship and Self-Help Among Black Americans, “They (Black entrepreneurs) became the merchant class in northern cities, and it was through their enterprises that Black income in the last third of the nineteenth century grew faster than that of whites.”

The INC. article cited the economic protestations of Booker T. Washington, who established the National Negro Business League, exhorting Blacks to “uplift” themselves by striking out on their own. It celebrated the “new” ministers like Adam Clayton Powell, who urged aspiring congregants to go into business on a larger scale.

While early Black businesses had to rely solely on the Black consumer market, such is not the case today. However, if we do not move collectively through the economic maze, making our monetary clout felt in the widest of circles and obtaining the reciprocity we deserve as a massive consumer army, our businesses will not achieve the growth they need to prosper in this economy. Moreover, African Americans will have abdicated our responsibility to carry forth the legacy passed on to us by our fathers and mothers.

We must never forget our history and the reasons for our attitudes on economics, business ownership, and mutual support. We must also realize that if we are going to make it in this country, we had better get down to business NOW! I think our ancestors would be proud.

Economic empowerment is a constant struggle, and if we do not view it as a struggle, we will never achieve the goals to which we aspire. No one is going to “give” us anything. If they do, it will not be without encumbrances. The economic power we seek is within us all, and examples for us to follow are everywhere. We simply need more cooperation within our own ranks.

In seeking that economic power, remember what Frederick Douglass said: “…This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amounts of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them…The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

I say: If we rise up, as Marcus Garvey exhorted us, resolving to cooperate with one another and do for ourselves, our economic manifesto would be clear. Our struggle will be easier, and the powers we face will concede to our demands. However, if African Americans choose individuality over collectivism, yes a few of us will “make it”, but we will go down in history as a paradoxical people; a people who, with all of our wealth and knowledge, acquiesced and continued in economic oppression. And the blame will rest squarely upon our shoulders.

Let our past be the light that guides us to a brighter economic future.