Praying and Fasting in Ferguson — August 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman August 22nd, 2014

Remember the Jena Six? Some 15,000 to 20,000 protesters went to Jena, Louisiana in 2006 to demonstrate against injustice. After all the speeches, threats, marches, and church rallies, the people went home and nothing really changed. The prosecutors did their thing and the system rolled right over Mychal Bell and the other five defendants. It was business as usual. Did we learn anything from Jena that we can apply in Ferguson?

What will take place in Ferguson when the protesters leave? What happened in Sanford, Florida when they left? What has happened in Staten Island since Eric Garner was choked to death and the marches have ended? The latest report says the prosecutor is still trying to “collect the dots,” much less connect the dots, and most have forgotten about Garner and his family and moved on to Ferguson, as it now becomes the crisis du jour for Black people.

Eleven years ago Kenneth Walker was shot and killed by a police officer on I-185 in Columbus, Georgia. He was in a car that was pulled over by mistake. He was on the ground, unarmed, when a police officer shot him twice in the head. After protesters and marchers went home, the officer was acquitted. Walker protest

There are many instances of Black men killed by police with impunity. So what’s my point? Well, as I watched the church services and listened to the speeches in Ferguson, I eagerly awaited the speakers’ solutions. I could have missed it, but I never heard a solution that centered on economics. I heard the obligatory voting solution, in light of an embarrassing 12% turnout among Black voters, but an “I Voted!” sticker will not stop a policeman’s bullet, and voting alone will not change our condition in this nation.

I also heard the praying solution, and I do believe that prayer changes things. However, I am suggesting that the folks in Ferguson and all across this country not only pray but fast as well. That combination will definitely create change.

Be clear now; I am not talking about giving up food for a period of time. The kind of fasting I am suggesting is a “product fast,” which does require doing without and less buying; but isn’t the cause worth it? Maybe the “leaders” who came to Ferguson were afraid to call for a product fast because they could lose a check or a contract or an endorsement or their status among corporate giants. Capitalism can tolerate marches that call for voting and prayer, but it has a great deal of angst when a decline in consumption and sales occurs.

“Black-Out” Days and other shotgun approaches are nice gestures but have no overall affect; they are simply more symbolism without substance. They make you feel good but won’t cause anyone to change. Folks just go out the next day and buy what they want.

A product fast is quite different. For instance, Black folks consume a lot of soft drinks, gym shoes, liquor, fast foods, and other items we don’t think we can do without. Just stop buying some of these products until corporate CEO’s tell the politicians who would tell the governors who would tell the mayors and prosecutors who would tell the police chiefs who would tell their officers to stop violating our rights. You better believe their voices will be heard.

Money runs politics, and when campaign donors are against something they will get results from the politicians they support, especially when their bottom-line is adversely affected. For example, can you imagine Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, Coca Cola CEO, Muhtar Kent, Pepsi Cola CEO, Indra Nooyi, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, Nike CEO, Mark Parker, McDonald’s CEO, Donald Thompson, Diageo Liquor’s CEO, Ivan Menezes, and even Anheuser Busch’s CEO, Thomas Santel, standing before national media and calling for an end to injustices against Black people? Nothing personal against these companies; it’s just as they say in war, “collateral damage.” But the damage would stop when the folks who run this country speak out.
Jackson Marching
Al, Jesse, and others have been marching for decades, and we got Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Timothy Thomas, Nathaniel Jones, Kenneth Walker, Patrick Dorismond, Amadou Diallo, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, and nameless others.

Stop the insanity of doing the same thing and hoping for different results. We need leaders who are unafraid to call for economic solutions, not leaders who will hurt you if you get between them and a news camera or microphone. Get the folks who are really in charge of this country to speak out, and we will see a positive change. Start your local Prayer and Fasting campaign now; and use the money you save to build businesses, create jobs, and recreate real Black communities.

 

 

Built-in Obsolescence — August 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman August 16th, 2014

A series of recent reports cite the drastic lack of economic progress for Black people in general and Black men in particular. Freddie Allen, NNPA Washington Correspondent, wrote “Black men are no better off than they were more than 40 years ago, due to mass incarceration and job losses suffered during the Great Recession, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Chicago.”

Sidney Dinan, writer for the Washington Times, in an article titled, All of the net jobs gained in the U.S. since 2000 have gone to immigrants, stated, “Nearly 6 million more people are working in the U.S. now than in 2000, but the number of native-born Americans holding jobs has declined slightly, from 114.8 million to 114.7 million, according to census figures…Instead, all of that job growth — a total of 5.7 million — has gone to immigrants.”

One other example is an article titled, Economic justice eludes black Americans 50 years after MLK’s ‘dream,’ written by Gerald Britt. It disclosed, “The average unemployment rate during recession years over the past 50 years has been 6.7 percent. Yet for African-Americans during that time, the average has been 11.6 percent while for whites the rate has been 5.1 percent, at times falling as low as 3.1 percent. Only in 1969 did black unemployment dip below the national recession average to 6.4 percent. The report’s conclusion: Over the last 50 years, the black unemployment rate has been at a level typical for a recession or higher.”

The above articles and more may cause one to rethink the notion of Black obsolescence, as Frederick Douglass and others down through the years have posited. Have we become obsolete? Based on the structural inequities that plague us, is it planned? Was it built-into the economic system? If so, how can we overcome it? My suggestion is coalescence.

Other groups in this country, although unencumbered by the exploitation that Black people suffered, have enough sense to work together in support of one another to gain a reasonable level of economic empowerment. In other words, they believe in and practice coalescence. In light of what we have endured in this land of plenty, the wealth of which was produced by the free work of our hands, one would reasonably think that Black people, having the most to lose, would be working more on coalescence in order to stave off obsolescence.

Coalition-building rather than the HNIC model is the best way for Black people to make significant progress in this country, especially when it comes to economic empowerment. From the agricultural economy to the industrial and mass production economy, Black folks, in some cases, had it going on. Many individual Blacks did quite well with jobs and businesses in those areas. As we moved to the technology/information economy and now into the knowledge-based economy, the rules for survival have changed.

“In 1970, Sidney Willhelm’s book, Who Needs the Negro? argued that with the rise of automation within a capitalist economic system, African-American workers were transformed from being exploited to becoming ‘useless’ from the viewpoint of those who controlled the economy and the automated productive processes emerging within it. Because of the racism of U.S. business interests, the workforce that automation would require could and would be largely white. Yes, business would continue to hire a number of blacks, but as much as the cloaked face of racism within companies would allow, black workers would become productively ‘unneeded.’ If black people disappeared tomorrow, Willhelm maintained, for capital they ‘would hardly be missed.’

The above statement was written by Gerald Coles, who went on to write, “Willhelm’s assessment is now truer than ever for both poor blacks and many whites who constitute part of the potential U.S. workforce within global capitalism. Since overseas labor is less costly, fewer U.S. workers are needed for the jobs that are and will be available in this country. Why spend money to provide U.S. poor children with adequate food, clothing, healthcare and other basics of life, along with the full funding needed to educate them? For business needs it would be a waste of money.”

I believe it was Marcus Garvey who said, “All the shoes have been shined and all the cotton has been picked.” He went on to suggest that Black people were no longer needed by white folks, therefore, if we did not change our ways when it came to business development we would indeed become obsolete. Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Garvey spoke of a time when we would have to consider this question if we did not awaken from our deep sleep and refuse to be dependent upon the largess of others for our sustenance.

We have two choices: Coalescence or obsolescence. Which one will we choose?

 

 

Goal: 100% Participation in Voting — August 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman August 11th, 2014

Voting2This is a call for all eligible Black folks to register and vote in every election from now until eternity, so we can stop the rallies, marches, and demonstrations related to voting. Despite being the most party-loyal voters in history, and receiving the least for that loyalty (No quo for our quid), we continue to deal with voting-related issues. If everyone would vote we could move on to the “weightier” matter of building our own communities again. So please, all Black folks who are eligible, get registered and vote! Let’s make quid pro quo a reality for Black voters.

In 2012, Black folks turned out in a larger percentage than Whites and other groups for the first time in history. In 2008, Blacks voted 95% for Barack Obama. Now, in 2014, we are still rallying folks around “voting” issues, voting rights, and voting procedures. As I said, we vote the most but receive the least. What will change this ridiculous scenario? I say, 100% registration and voter turnout; then we can finally stop spending such an inordinate amount of our time dealing with them.

BookerT4Booker T. Washington once said, “There are some Negroes who don’t want the patient to get well.” It is still true today with politics among Black folks. We have leading Blacks whose every move is centered on the political. For their personal economic prosperity, they do very well; but when it comes to a collective solution you can’t find them with a search warrant.

They keep Black folks “fired up and ready to go” to the polls but not to the marketplace, where the real action and power reside. Booker T. also said, “There are reports that in some sections the Black man has difficulty in voting and having counted the little white ballot he has the privilege of depositing twice a year. But there is a little green ballot he can vote through the teller’s window 313 days each year and no one will throw it out or refuse to count it.”

Since we don’t get it, I strongly suggest that until we achieve full participation in voting, there will always be someone who tries to keep the patient sick, dependent, and drunk on the fantasy that politics will save us. The only thing that does is wear out good shoe leather from marching so much. If you think the ballot is stronger than the dollar, then put the word out for everyone to register and vote, and let’s see.

Black people have embraced the illusion of political power in exchange for a more important possession: economic power. For six decades we have languished in political purgatory thinking we would be all right if we could just get some Black people elected to public office. So why don’t we just establish a national goal of 100% registration and voting? Then we can move beyond this political charade and stop falling for the best head-fake in history.

Our major conferences have become nothing but mini political conventions. We invite politicians to speak and, of course, keep the flock focused on their agendas. Joe Biden spoke at the NAACP Convention and gave them all the political red meat they could handle as he concentrated on voting rights. “These moves to limit the ‘right to vote’ are nothing more than pure politics, masquerading as attempts to combat corruption where there is none,” Biden said. “Pure politics”? Really?

New President of the NAACP, Cornell Brooks, said his plan is to focus on criminal justice issues, fight the rollback of the Voting Rights Act and diversify the NAACP’s membership. In his answer to Roland Martin’s question, “What is your top priority?” Brooks said, “Well, the top priority would be to listen and engage a membership which reaches hundreds of thousands of members, but certainly in audience and the coalition of inclusion that stretches across the country.” Say what!?

(Note: On July 30, 2014, the NAACP announced a partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts to increase Black franchises. Kudos to Brother Dedrick Muhammad for that initiative.)

On her radio show, Bev Smith discussed this issue with George Curry. They asked why there is less emphasis on economic empowerment than on political empowerment among our major organizations. They called for an Economics Report Card and for the best and brightest among us to devise and execute an economic plan for Black people. Bev Smith lamented, “Where are the voices like those of the past?” Both agreed that we have the “professional expertise to help ourselves” in the economic arena. I concur, but we must first get this voting albatross from around our necks.

In my best James Brown impression, “Please! Please! Please!” All Black people register and vote so we, the “patients,” can finally spend our time getting well. Voting1

 

 

All Quid and no Quo — August 2014

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman August 2nd, 2014

The term “Maát” is familiar to many of us. I give credit to the youth at the SBA (“Saba”) Academy in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, under the superb leadership of Brother Kweku Akan OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand his staff, for enlightening me on the exact meaning of the term and the principles it embodies: Truth; Justice; Righteousness; Balance; Harmony; Order; and Reciprocity. We have scholars among us who know far more than I on these principles, so I will not even attempt to discuss them in total. I do want to speak about one principle, however: “Reciprocity.”

It simply means something for something, for mutual benefit, between two parties or entities. In politics they use the Latin term “quid pro quo” probably because the majority of the electorate does not know what the term means. It sounds nice and sophisticated but it simply means reciprocity. You give me something and I will give you something. In political circles, of course, it could be boiled down to dollars for votes, or votes for dollars.

Blacks are the most loyal voters in this country but not the most generous when it comes to campaign donations. So our quid pro quo should be “votes for dollars.” Although we call them programs and benefits, nonetheless, our “quo,” in return for our “quid” should be flowing back to us like a rushing stream. We should not have to beg, march, demonstrate, or fight for our quo; if reciprocity is the name of the game Black voters should be sitting pretty right now. But for all of our quid election after election, we have little quo to show for it.

Politically speaking, Black people are being played. The sad part about it is that we don’t seem to care. The lower we sink, politically and economically, the more we are available “to get off the couch and put on our marching shoes” to demonstrate our dissatisfaction about the political system, as though our anger will change it.

The mis-leaders keep telling us how powerful our vote is, but in spite of turning out in greater proportionate numbers that Whites in 2012, we still suffer from a lack of reciprocity. Despite our undying loyalty we are still an all quid and no quo voting bloc. Frederick Douglass Douglasswarned, “When we are noted for enterprise, industry, and success, we shall no longer have any trouble in the matter of civil and political rights.” Makes me almost wish he had said, “When we give all of our votes to one political party, we will achieve full political reciprocity.”

To many Black folks, Maát has real meaning. We recite the principles, chant, sing, and teach them, but a relative few of us actually practice them. As for reciprocity, Black people have far to go in the marketplace and in the political arena. We give but we do not receive. All quid with no quo.

Why do we accept such a one-sided deal, especially from those to whom our loyalty is pledged and given? Politically we are taken for granted, obviously because of our staunch loyalty; and economically we suffer the same result because we do not command and demand a reasonable return on our dollars. One example that captures both the economics and politics of this issue is the $1 billion in President Obama’s 2012 campaign war chest contrasted by the measly $985,000 spent with the Black press. In exchange for our 93%-95% quid, our quo was one-tenth of one percent, or 0.1% in media buys, and that was up from the planned spend of $650,000, which was raised due to ”pressure” on the campaign managers. Taken for granted is putting it mildly.

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Alceein an article written by George Curry, NNPA Editor-in-Chief (January 2013), accused President Obama of “consistently disrespecting the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Black Press, and graduates of historically Black colleges, key groups that were critical to his re-election in November.”

Despite the number of years that Blacks such as Douglass, Booker T., Garvey, and Malcolm have been telling us how to play the political game to win, we continue to play it just to play. Considering our penchant for ancient African principles and tenets, such as reciprocity, we insult the memory of our ancestors by giving our quid without demanding and receiving a quo.

So what should we do? Well, my contention is that Black people must move beyond the politics and voting issues, and the only way to do that is achieve the lofty goal of 100% Black voter registration and voting. Once that is off the table, our attention can then be directed to the economics of it all. See next week’s column for an expansive view on this solution. We must have more quo for our quid, y’all.