Black Dollars Matter! — Febraury 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 28th, 2015

Cannot breathe shirtsThe protest slogans relative to our latest struggle for justice and equity compel me to come up with a new phrase. The signs and T-Shirts emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe!” “No Justice, No Peace!” and the latest, “Black Lives Matter,” carry connotations related to action. I often wonder what the folks who wear the t-shirts and hold the signs are doing to back up the slogans thereon. More importantly, I wonder who makes the shirts and who sells them. With that in mind, my slogan for action—economic action is, “Black Dollars Matter!”

The “I Can’t Breathe” shirts worn by the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, for instance, were sold by NYC Customs, a shop in Long Island, owned by Helen Mihalatos, a friend of Rameen Aminzadeh, member of Justice League of NYC. The initial gesture and resulting “hook-up” came from Nets team member, Jarrett Jack, followed by help from LeBron James and Russell Simmons’ political director, Michael Skolnick. The shirts were ordered by Jay-Z, who bought 1000 more shirts after the basketball game. dollars1

I truly hope those “Big Ballers” and “Shot Callers” had enough consciousness to give the profits to Eric Garner’s family. The Washington Post reported that “Skolnick obtained shirts from a store in Long Island City, whose owner confirmed in an interview that the shirts were manufactured by Gildan, a large Canada-based apparel company…According to pro-labor activists, Gildan has a poor record when it comes to respecting workers in its manufacturing plants in Haiti.” Click on this link: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/02/11/haitian_garment_workers_low_pay_has_them_still_going_hungry.html The story discloses that Gildan’s workers are paid $6 per day for their work. Skolnick’s response was, “I think we want to assume sometimes when we’re ordering shirts that they’re not being made in a sweatshop; we’ve got to do better.” You think?

Now you would think that someone in this chain of events involving t-shirts that carry the last words of a Black man who was killed on the streets of New York by police officers would be conscious enough to say, “Hold up! Let’s not just go for the symbolism of wearing shirts on the basketball court; let’s make a substantive statement as well, via a Black business transaction and a financial benefit for the Garner family.” Sound reasonable?
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Instead we now have “I Can’t Breathe” shirts sold on Amazon and elsewhere as if they are some kind of novelty rather than a sincere, compassionate, and meaningful response to the homicidal death of Eric Garner, the originator of the “I can’t breathe” phrase. We saw him take HIS last breath; he was the one who couldn’t breathe for real. dollars3 The above travesty reminds me of an article I wrote after Trayvon Martin was killed; it’s titled, “The Profit of Protest.”

In light of the hype of “I Can’t Breathe” and now the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” the slogan we should emblazon on shirts, and instill in our brains, the one by which we should live and the one that, if inculcated into our daily lives, will move us from the rhetoric of freedom to the action of freedom is, “Black Dollars Matter!”

Despite the wasteful and nonsensical spending by Black folks, from the poorest to the super-rich flamboyant celebrities, dollars5dollars7dollars6we must all realize that “Black Dollars Matter” and they should matter to us first. Right now, they matter most to everyone else; and other folks are doing everything they can to get more of our dollars with no reciprocity other than symbolic gestures that make us feel good.

It’s great for athletes to wear shirts with slogans, but they should move to the next step of starting initiatives that not only sustain their gestures but build economic empowerment for Black people. dollars2Our athletes and celebrities, as they protest inequities and injustice, should keep in mind that “Black Dollars Matter,” and they should consider that as they come up with their solutions to effect real change within the systems against which they protest—and so should we.

After the chanting, the marching, the protests and demonstrations, the outrage, the threats, and the unjustified killings of our people with impunity, if all we do is sit back and wait on the next crisis, why should we even bother with the above actions in the first place? We must be smarter and we must be conscious. We must always be aware that money runs this country and it has its place in everything, yes, even in the deaths of our people.
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Indeed, Black lives matter above all; but to those who kill us, those who economically exploit us, and those who are indifferent toward us, Black lives don’t matter as much as Black dollars do. Start a “Black Dollars Matter” campaign. Make some shirts displaying that attention-grabbing slogan, and act upon it. “Black Dollars Matter,” but only if they start making more sense.

 

 

Fifty Years of Economic Futility — February 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 23rd, 2015

During the fifty year period from 1963 (“I have a dream!”)March to 2013, Black people have been on a virtual economic treadmill. Our relative economic position has not changed; our unemployment rate has consistently been twice as high as the White unemployment rate, which was 5% for Whites and 10.9% for Blacks in 1963, and today it’s 6.6% for Whites and 12.6% for Blacks. Our aggregate annual income is $1.1 trillion, but it’s not what you earn; it’s what you’re worth: The typical White family had $134,200 in wealth in 2013, while Black families had $11,000, lower too than Hispanic families, at $13,700.

The U.S. has a $17.7 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the world’s largest economy. The total Gross Domestic Income (GDI), which some economists say is a better measure of an economy, was $9.3 trillion as of the 4th quarter of 2014. A recent Pew Research study indicates that the financial gap between Blacks and Whites is the highest it’s been since 1989. In 2010, the median wealth of white households was eight times higher than blacks; now it’s seventeen times higher. The African-American economy, by either measure, GDP or GDI, despite reports of robust economic growth, remains mired in a recession.

You awake yet? So what can we do about it? Please, don’t take that fatal leap of faith in thinking the “guvment” will take care of it. They are too busy counting our income as a huge part of GDP, because we spend nearly all of our $1.1 trillion on goods and services, which comprise 70% of GDP.GDP

We must extrapolate a logical and appropriate response to the above information. All the reports in the world will do us no good if we fail to learn from them and then act upon what we know. After that, we must do our part as individuals to contribute to the collective economic/political uplift of our people and future generations.

What do we have, as individuals, to contribute to our economic and political success? We have votes and we have dollars; and if we cast our votes with leverage and spend our dollars strategically we can achieve parity. Let’s face it, to chase the illusion of economic “equality,” via income and wealth, will only keep us diverted from setting practical and achievable goals.

MLK was partially correct when he posited that by obtaining employment in White corporations and using either strategic consumption or boycotts as leverage, Blacks could secure economic equality, just as we had secured civil rights. He was right about the leverage of our dollars, but wrong about the result of us getting jobs in corporate America. The above statistics prove that. Chasing equality instead of parity is futile, in that we are always chasing someone else’s standard, a standard that can be elevated at any time, thus never to be attained by the pursuer.

We must use our own intellectual and financial capacity to change our shameful and static economic position in this nation since MLK spoke in 1963. Fifty years of chasing an illusion are enough? We squandered our economic base and abdicated our personal economic responsibility when we abandoned our businesses to buy from others. We gave in to the notion that we could be equal if we elected Black folks to political office. So it’s up to us to admit those near fatal mistakes and work together to rectify them by pooling our resources, locally and nationally, and growing our businesses to the point where they can hire our own people.

We must gather enough conscious independent-thinking voters who will cast their votes as a bloc for the candidate that supports our best interests. Enough with the pre-election condescending rhetoric, kissing our babies, and coming to our churches at election time; they must explicitly state their support of our issues and follow through on that support. If we cannot win, why play?

We must save more money, irrespective of how much or how little we have. We must own property, or at least rent from one another. Blacks collectively lost between $164 billion and $213 billion in housing wealth as a result of sub-prime debacle. (And we are seeking “wealth equality”?) Therefore, we must also invest in stocks, and not tie all of our assets to real estate. We must find ways to decrease or eliminate our reliance on college loans, which will be a generational albatross around the necks of our youth, their parents, and even grandparents. And while we are at it, we should be petitioning the “guvment” for a massive student loan bailout. You know, the way the banks got bailed out of their debt.

Finally, go to https://iam1ofthemillion.wordpress.com/ and sign up, and let’s get on the road to true freedom.

 

 

Is image everything? — February 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 16th, 2015

While recalling those camera commercials, featuring Andre Agassi (Pro Tennis Player) saying “Image is everything” and Billy Crystal’s Saturday Night Live character, Fernando, who always said, “You look marvelous! It is better to look good than to feel good,” I also thought of the NAACP Image Awards and the fact that the NAACP’s image is taking a huge hit, especially among some of its members.
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During the past month I have spoken to many people who are very disenchanted with the NAACP, not for the same reasons we hear all the time from young folks and others who feel the organization has served its usefulness, but for a much worse reason: Corruption. Members who have worked tirelessly within their local branches for years are now speaking out about how the venerable organization is destroying its image by allowing, participating in, and turning a blind eye to member voter suppression, fixing local elections, and lack of accountability of funds. I don’t think that’s the image desired by most NAACP members.

To borrow the most over-used word in the Obama administration’s lexicon, let me be “clear.” I am not on a mission to destroy the NAACP. The only administrator I have ever had contact with is Gill Ford, who presides like a dictator over the local branches. In fact, I admire Brother Detrick Muhammad Dedrickand the work he does on economic development; I appreciate Hillary Shelton Sheltonfor his involvement in a variety of pressing issues, especially his outspoken participation at Ron Daniels’ panel discussion in DC last year.

I do have concerns about the organization’s direction and never ending solicitation of donations from members, in light of the $46 million Ben Jealous said he left in the NAACP coffers when he resigned. Moreover, as I reflect on the countless number of volunteer hours I worked for the NAACP, I believe I have the right—and the obligation—to voice my criticism and call for change within. I use this external forum because they refuse to respond internally.

The image of the NAACP is tarnished, Image awrdsmainly because it offers tepid responses to crisis-level issues; in addition, it has left a “trail of tears” across this country at local branches, via the corrupt and downright dictatorial practices of Gill Ford, a person the National Office protects, if not collaborates with. The NAACP image portrays strength and resolve, courage and confidence, integrity and respect for its membership; but some of its national personnel are the complete opposite of that portrayal.

Getting a response from folks at the National Office, by email, letter, phone call, or carrier pigeon is tantamount to trying to break into the CIA. Having written, called, and sent emails on many occasions, I can personally attest to that fact. And don’t dare to call it out; that road usually leads to nowhere.

Therefore, the conclusion I have drawn is that image means more to the NAACP than its local members, who are just pawns that are used and disposed of at the whim of Gill Ford. Many have been expelled from the NAACP when they disclose wrongdoing, point out corruption, and reveal financial inconsistencies or just outright violations of the law. If members persist in their righteous attempts at internal justice, retaliation is sure and swift. The mistreatment of local members is shameful and disrespectful.

It is ironic and perplexing that an organization that hands out “Image Awards” does not qualify for one of its own awards. The NAACP had to put forth a great image, locally and nationally, for its National Convention to be held in Philadelphia this year, where local branch members have been and still are embroiled in a legal battle for disclosure of hundreds of thousands of dollars (Gill Ford did “his thing” there too). The economic impact on the city will be in the millions and the NAACP will reap handsome economic benefits as well—all based on a manufactured image. That must change, and it can only change from within.

Over the years I have written several articles that juxtapose issues like symbolism and substance, consciousness and capital, doing good and feeling good, power and principle, and leaders and pleaders, just to name a few. I have come to know that we settle for empty words, pretentiousness, and shallow images as it relates to our internal accountability. As Carter G. Woodson wrote in his timeless work, The Mis-Education of the Negro, woodsonBlack people have a tendency to follow mis-leaders rather than authentic leaders. Right now, the NAACP is mis-leading our people, and is using its image to shroud the wrongdoing within its ranks. I trust they will clean it up before it’s too late or, even worse, before they get caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar.

 

 

Learning from the Past — February 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman February 7th, 2015

“There comes a time in the course of human events for persons who have been mistreated to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with those who mistreat them. In the interest of self-respect and to claim the respect of others, after a long train of abuses, such persons have the right and the duty to throw off those who mistreat them and provide new guards for their future security.” The Declaration of Independence
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This country was established on the simple facts that people were being mistreated, they were tired of it, and they were not going to take it anymore. One cannot help but admire people who come to the end of their rope, defiantly proclaim the truth about their condition, and then do something about it.

I long for the day when Black people finally get so tired of the abuse we suffer all over this country that we will decide to spend much more of our time, not trying to hurt someone else, but to use our resources to help ourselves. Our plight is similar to that of the founders of this country. The big difference: They were fed up and determined to make a change; we are just fed up. They had to go to war, as we must do if we want change. Our war must be revolutionary as well, but it must be fought with dollars rather than musket balls.
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Our resolve must be the same as the Patriots. We must “admit” our problem and then “commit” to doing what we have to do to get what say we want. Why would we continue to hope and wish for change from people who have demonstrated no indication of their willingness to do so? Check out how Patrick Henry put it: “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves…”

Henry knew he had to fight rather than hope and wish for change. He asked his compatriots what would make them believe their captors would change. “Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet.”
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Patrick Henry continued, “They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed… Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?”

Henry reminded the people of their futile petitions, their arguments against oppression, their entreaties and supplications to the King. He reminded them of their demonstrations, their protestations, and their humility, all rejected by the power structure. He told them it was time to take things into their own hands and stop begging their oppressors to come to their rescue. He said, “There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free… we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight!” Until Black people decide to fight against negative external forces and our own internal economic recalcitrance, things will not change.

If we do not act upon the historical juxtaposition of David Walker’s Appeal and Patrick Henry’s words, we are doomed to permanent underclass status. We must leverage our economic capacity against corporations that treat us like afterthoughts. And, we must combine our intellectual and financial resources to build our own political, economic, educational, and social independence. (Join the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors movement. Go to https://iam1ofthemillion.wordpress.com/ Read more at www.amefika.com.

Having written this column for 22 years, I figured I’d let a white man do the talking this time. That way more of our people will listen and act; because if a white man called for a revolt, it must be all right for a Black man to call for one.
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So I leave you with Patrick Henry’s most famous words: “Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”