Building Bridges — 2013

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 23rd, 2016

Ken Bridges’ birthday is June 24th. We call it Ken Bridges Day

KenOn October 11, 2002, we lost a great Black leader to an assassin’s bullet. Who was he? Stop reading right now and see if you can answer. If you cannot, then you are one of the reasons I am writing this article. While this is my annual dedication to him and his family, I also dedicate it to those who did not know him and those who have no knowledge of his lesser known assassination, but an assassination nonetheless, and the impact it had upon Black people.

We are quite familiar with famous Black men who were killed by assassins, but there are others who have died in that same manner and for similar reasons who are not celebrated, not remembered, and not memorialized. This brother falls into the latter category; he died during that well-known protracted period of chaos, fear, and confusion in and around our nation’s capital.

Emerging from that period was that ominous moniker, “The DC Sniper,” which has since been dramatized on TV. The sniper(s) became more familiar to us than any of those they killed and remain in our psyche today, but their victims are slipping from memory. There should have been a movie about the victims, and in this case, especially about the one to whom this article is dedicated; but maybe one day, huh? Another dear friend, Bob Lott (Philadelphia), is just the right person to produce it.

The man I am writing about, and I emphasize, “Man,” is Kenneth Bridges. He sought no accolades, even though he did some of the most important work in economic empowerment since Marcus Garvey. He was humility personified, despite being a Wharton School of Business graduate and one of the most intelligent persons around. He did not seek the spotlight, even though his message of self-reliance should have been blasted over all media, especially Black media.

Ken refused to allow his spirit to be crushed by negativity, irrespective of the mountain he was climbing and the stiff winds of change he faced daily. (Working for our people is very difficult and trying.) He met sacrifice head-on, despite having six children and a loving wife at home, by traveling across this country to spread the gospel of economic empowerment. And Ken never met a stranger; he was known for his bear-hugs and loving persona, always smiling, always encouraging, always ready to help, and always teaching.

I continue to write about this giant because everyone should know who he was and what he did. Just as we know about more prominent brothers and sisters who fought for economic freedom, we should know about Ken, and we should teach our children about him. He is the proper example of leadership for young people, thus, the title of this article, “Building Bridges.” Let me pause here to mention and give honor to Brother Muhammad Nasserdeen, who also died on October 11th (2007).

Great leaders serve; they don’t consider themselves higher than others; they are not intimidated by the initiative and intelligence of younger brothers and sisters; rather they always try to create other leaders by duplicating themselves. Great leaders know and accept the fact that one day they will have to give up the reins of leadership, so they are in a constant mode of developing new and younger leaders to take their places.

Great leaders build other leaders, and if there is one leader in whose image and memory we should build it is Ken Bridges. We must build more “Bridges” in addition to the Bridges children who had a father who taught them well, raised their consciousness, and put them on the path he pursued.

If you paused at the beginning of this column and could not answer the question, then you have learned something very important, and I have done my job. Now it’s up you to tell someone else, to educate your children, and expose them to a true Black leader, Ken Bridges, and the work he did. Our children need to be connected with Ken’s children; they are the future leaders who have the consciousness to do the right thing for all the right reasons, as Ken demonstrated during his relatively short life.

The likes of Claud Anderson, Bob Law, Rosie Milligan, and others are still working hard to bring Black folks out of the darkness of economic despair and dependence; we should get to know and appreciate them now while they are still with us. Do some research on your own to find out who they are, and take the opportunity to work with and support them. The ball’s in your court Black America.

If you’d like to see a video of Ken, go to my website, Blackonomics.com, click on videos, and share the love that exuded from Ken Bridges for his people. Then, as Ken would fondly say, “Let’s Get Busy!”

(Note: Just before publication of this article I learned that Dr. Walter Lomax (Philadelphia), a close friend, mentor, and supporter of Ken Bridges and his family, passed away. Now October 10th will always be just as significant as October 11th.)

 

 

What really matters? — June 2016

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 18th, 2016

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In 1991, Latasha Harlins was shot in the back of her head and killed by Soon Ja Du, a Korean store owner in Los Angeles, who received a $500.00 fine, 400 hours of community service, and five years’ probation, from Judge Joyce Karlin, who ignored the penalty of sixteen years in prison for voluntary manslaughter. Du received no prison time for her callous act of murder—execution style—of a fifteen year-old Black girl, over a $1.79 container of orange juice. This case and the outrage it brought foreshadowed the L.A. civil unrest now known as the Rodney King Riot in 1992.

Harkening back to the Harlins’ case, I think about the fact that here in 2016, Black lives really don’t matter to some police officers, prosecutors, judges, and other Black folks. Preserving Latasha’s life was not worth $1.79, and to add insult to injury the person who killed her only had to pay a $500.00 fine.

Since that time thousands of Black men, women, and children have been killed, 1134 by police officers in 2015, according to The Guardian. In Chicago alone there have been 1454 shootings and 279 killed as of June 2016, 207 of whom were Black. So just who are we trying to convince that Black lives matter, other than politicians? And if Black lives matter, how much do they matter, how much are they worth?

We have recently seen millions of dollars being paid to victims’ families, but it pales in comparison to the number of lives lost. Just the Black men and women killed by police, if divided into those millions of public dollars—tax dollars—the individual amounts would be embarrassing and insulting, just as in Latasha Harlins’ case. But who cares? Right?

If members of any other group in this country were being killed at the same rate as Black folks are being killed, there would be a collective outrage and indignation such that the problem would be addressed, if not solved, almost immediately.

Moreover, on the economic side of things, just look at the Orlando shootings. Four days after that tragedy $4 million was raised for the victims, and all we hear in the news reports is advocacy for the “LGBT community.” When have we heard so much sympathy and advocacy for Black folks on those news shows? When have we raised significant amounts of money for Black victims? When have we seen LGBT news reporters take commercial breaks in order to shed tears for Black victims? If Tamir Rice didn’t make that happen, nothing will.

Money is pouring into Orlando from private corporations, in part because LBGT’s are willing to leverage their dollars in return for corporate support. (Don’t be mad at them; that’s what we should be doing) The Orlando Magic, Disney, the Florida baseball teams, and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, have given money and other support in the aftermath of the latest shootings. Over the past three years, we have also seen corporations use their power to affect political change on behalf of LGBT’s. Yet corporations, despite earning much of their profit from Black consumers, did virtually nothing for Eric Garner’s family, Sandra Bland’s family, John Crawford’s family, or Ezell Ford’s family. Why not?

Politically speaking, while 20 bullet-riddled bodies of children in Sandy Hook couldn’t move them, politicians will surely act now on gun law legislation because many of those killed in Orlando were LGBT, the NRA notwithstanding. What if that had been a Black club?

So, do our lives matter? And who are we trying to convince that they do matter? First, our lives must matter to us. We must be just as willing to bring our causes to the forefront as gay people and other groups are. We should see red, black, and green colors everywhere when we are killed or aggrieved. No one else is going to do that for us, so we must do it for ourselves. Are we afraid? Ashamed? Apathetic?

Where does this leave Black people? Latasha Harlins, Tamir Rice, and all of those killed in between and since, are calling out from their graves for us to respond appropriately to what happened to them. Our charge is to make our lives matter to us, first and foremost, and then show a united front to this nation that we will not be relegated to a subordinate class and continue to be ignored, dismissed, and trampled upon by groups that continually parlay our misery into their benefit. Until other groups begin to support us the way we have supported them in this country throughout history, we must commit ourselves to a “Never Again” approach and take charge of our own destiny, our own causes, and our own security.

The only Black things that matter are dollars and votes, but they still don’t count; so why not make them count by leveraging them to get what we want?

 

 

Muhammad Ali – The Legacy — June 2016

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 15th, 2016

“Where you been, boy?” When I heard those words in June 1966, I knew I was going to have rough time in the U.S. Navy. My immediate reply to that Petty Officer was, “Who are you calling a boy? I am a man!” I was twenty-one years old, already an angry Black man who experienced separate bathrooms, water fountains, restaurants at Greyhound bus stops that had “Coloreds served round back” signs posted on their front doors, and having to sit in the balcony of the local theater in Winston-Salem, North Carolina during my two years of high school there. I was already angry about Medgar Evers, Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, and Malcolm X. So I knew at that very moment I was called a “boy” by this southern White guy, I would be a marked man on that ship because of my belligerence and unwillingness to go along to get along.Rota, Spain

Ten months later, when Muhammad Ali refused to step forward to be drafted, I took a step up, got on his shoulders, and have been there ever since. My view from that perch has given me the spirit, the drive, the commitment, and the dedication to do what I have done for decades now. His example gave me the audacity and temerity to stand before anyone, White, Black or otherwise, to state my case and stand my ground. A backbone is much stronger than a wishbone; Ali had backbone, and he passed it on to me without ever knowing it.
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Ali and those few athletes who stood with him were giants in a land of cowering, timid, “yessah” men. He was bold, brash, brave, and brutal in his in-your-face assessment of society’s ills. Ali was the personification of dreams, the realization of hopes, and the culmination of victory, with his fists as well as his voice, which could only be silenced by Parkinson’s disease.

His impact on my life has lasted for fifty years, and will continue until I die. When they stripped him of his title and took away his right to earn a living, I became even angrier at the government for such a gross injustice. Years later, watching him fight the daily rounds of his real “Fight of the Century,” against such a relentless opponent as Parkinson’s, my commitment to help others grew even stronger.
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Now that I am in the fight of my life, against my greatest opponent, ALS, which is similar to Parkinson’s in some ways, I think about Muhammad Ali often; I think about his children, especially his “Little Girl” Laila, in the same vein I think about my daughter, Kiah. And I pray that I will be strong like he was until the end. Ali’s strength made me a better person; I have the courage of my convictions and the fearless sacrificial mindset of that man among men.

In today’s society of “make money without making waves,” prominent athletes should learn from Ali. It was not enough to wear hoodies when Trayvon was killed, not enough to turn shirts inside out and throw them on the basketball court in response to a racist franchise owner, not enough to wear “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts after Eric Garner was choked to death, not enough to stand in front of the Walmart where John Crawford was killed for checking out a BB Gun, not enough just to voice outrage after Sandra Bland died inside a jail cell despite not committing a crime, and not enough to say, “I haven’t really been on top of this issue,” when twelve year-old Tamir Rice was executed for carrying a toy gun in the “Open Carry” State of Ohio. Empty gestures are temporary and cause no real changes.Ali6

It’s easier to speak highly of Muhammad Ali than it is to do what he did. I am proud to say that I did what he did, and will continue. I am reminded of the following quote:

“Forty years [after his death], it’s easy to quote Malcolm and put him on a postage stamp—now that we’ve killed him. Martin Luther King Jr. was ultimately abandoned by the civil rights establishment for his stand against poverty and war. Today he has a national holiday, and even conservatives have to honor him—now that he’s no longer here to shame them. Ditto for the Black Panthers. Everybody says their dad wore a black beret—now that J. Edgar Hoover isn’t alive to tap their phones.

Progressive vision almost always lacks mass appeal. While possibly enjoying a bit of rebellious sheen, prophetic insight is decidedly uncool; it involves the sacrifice of family livelihoods, the sullying of reputations, and, at worst, death. Only the afterglow is romantic. Everybody says they would have fought with Nat Turner—now that none of us are slaves.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates – Compa$$ionate Capitali$m (2003)
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Accountability

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 6th, 2016

Black people talk a lot about accountability, especially as it relates to politicians. How do we do that? How can you hold someone accountable who is not accountable to you? Most politicians, Black ones included, couldn’t care less about what we think or what we do, so where is the incentive for them to be accountable to us? Throughout the Obama terms certain Black folks have met with him, supposedly to let him know what to do for Black people, but nearly eight years of that has resulted in nothing specific for Black people—even with the highest percentage of votes cast among all voter segments.

It’s all about power, as we know too well, yet we settle for lip service from political lackeys and the politicians themselves. How can Black people hold anyone accountable if we have no real power over them? Our power resides in holding Black dollars accountable. Black consumer3

What power does the NAACP hold over politicians? This so-called “Black” organization flaunts itself before the world as the “biggest and baddest” Black organization in this nation, yet its national leaders have proven to be corrupt, money-grubbing, hypocrites who hide behind the transparent veil of “nonpartisanship.” What a joke; but the joke is on us because we give them our money, which allows them to continue living their lavish lifestyle while pretending to have real sway over the political system on behalf of Black folks.

You would think that a 100 year-old Black organization would be able to make a couple of phone calls and get some appropriate results for those who have supported and sustained it for a century. You would think they would be able to hold politicians accountable; but they cannot.

The corporations across this country, while they do have the power to hold politicians accountable, even to the point of forcing them to change legislation by threatening to move their companies and boycott various cities and athletic events, do not exercise their power on behalf of Black people. Eric Garner was killed before our eyes and no corporation said it would move out of New York because of it. Tamir Rice was executed and no corporation stood up against that heinous act. Look back at how they responded to Michael Vick and the dog fighting, or Ray Rice, or Adrian Peterson.

As Bob Law has stated so appropriately, these corporations, many of which earn their profit margins from Black consumers, have a “depraved indifference” to the plight of Black people in this country. Corporate execs know they only have to pay off a couple of selected lackeys and things will soon cool down; Black folks will fall back in line and continue to buy their products and services as if nothing ever happened.

Facing that sad reality, where do Black folks go and what do we do in order to hold accountable those whom we support? Back in 1951, then President of the National Negro Business League, Horace Sudduth, said, “Economic freedom is the greatest cause before the Negro today.” In the early 1960’s Elijah Muhammad called on Black folks to “do for self,” and Malcolm X continued that refrain. Then in 1968 MLK said, “The emergency we now face is economic.” In the 1980’s and 1990’s it was Tony Brown, Claud Anderson, Bob Law, Brooke Stephens, Robert Wallace, Kelvin Boston, Julianne Malveaux, the very astute and dedicated Kenneth Bridges of the MATAH Network, and yours truly, sounding that same alarm and giving economic prescriptions for empowerment.

With all of those and others like them, Black people continued to follow the empty path of no-win politics, abandoning our economic base along the way and seeking the largess of politicians who either ignored us or took us for granted. Amateurish? Child-like? Naïve? Uniformed? Misinformed? Apathetic? Call it what you will; we blew it, brothers and sisters. We really blew it.

But that was then and this is now, as the saying goes. The Calvary has arrived. It’s called the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors. one million2This movement encompasses and melds together all of the basic principles espoused by those Black champions mentioned above.

The One Million focuses on three primary factors that must be done in order to meet the goals promoted by our true economic empowerment leaders. First, we must “Organize.” The One Million has done that. organize nblc2Second, we must have a vehicle through which our problems can be solved; the One Million is that vehicle. Third, we must make Black dollars accountable to Black people. By pooling and leveraging our dollars, creating more conscious Black millionaires by supporting their businesses en masse, and by using our own dollars to help one another. The One Million is leading the way to economic empowerment for Black people. To join the movement go to: www.iamoneofthemillion.com