Power Talkers and Power Listeners — June 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 27th, 2015

“Now there are some ‘practical’ things we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.” MLKth_martin

Those words were spoken by Martin Luther King the night before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, as part of his famous “Mountaintop” Speech. He stated the problem, did an analysis of the problem, and gave solutions to the problem. Let me add that he gave some “practical” solutions that would lead to economic empowerment and justice.
On Friday evening, June 19, 2015, at Carl Nelson’s Power Talk Series in Washington, D.C., PowerTalk Flyer2(1)
my speech contained the same basic steps and were captured in three questions: What?; so what?; and now what? It was the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, with which I began my comments on true freedom for Black people. I essentially stated the problem, analyzed it, and offered solutions to the problem by asking, “Now what?”

Thousands of people attended the Power Talk event, and they stayed for hours beyond the scheduled time to soak up all the information given out by the august group of speakers, too many to name here. My overall assessment is that each speaker discussed problems and opportunities that are before us every day. They cited the common areas of work through which Black people can and should collaborate. I trust that most, if not all who were there, left with a “mind to work,” as the people had when Nehemiah spoke to them about rebuilding the wall.

One of the main aspects of my speech was work, otherwise known as action, involvement, and initiative. And, in keeping with MLK’s words, I offered a “practical” and appropriate response to our economic and political problems via a movement called, The One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (www.iamoneofthemillion.com).
I admonished the audience not to merely listen to the words of those Black scholars, activists, educators, and advocates, but also to leave with a commitment to do something in response to what they heard. Why travel hundreds or thousands of miles in some cases, or even across town, especially in DC traffic, to simply hear messages that make us feel good but fail to make us do good?

Imagine where some of us would be if those who heard Gordon Granger’s words on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, would have simply returned to their normal state of affairs by staying put rather than running for true freedom. Granger told them they were “free,” with conditions of course, but his General Order #3 also recommended that formerly enslaved Africans in Texas stay on their plantations and “work for wages.” Implicit in that statement was their right to leave if they wanted to, which some chose to do. How can celebrate Juneteenth each year if we are not willing to pursue our true freedom?

Just as those brothers and sisters in Texas had to make a decision, so must we today. Will we stay on our psychological plantations, waiting for someone to come and save us or make us comfortable in our misery? Or, will we decide to leave our current mental state of complacency and actually do the work necessary for our true freedom? The culmination of freedom for Black people in this nation is economic freedom. In that regard, my recommendation, as opposed to Gordon Granger’s, is that we move away from our comfort zones and build an effort so powerful that it cannot be swayed by corporate largess or manipulated by disingenuous politicians.

That effort is the One Million, a movement that answers most, if not all, of the problems we face. During my speech at Power Talk I listed sixteen things Black folks can do while we wait for a myriad of things to take place in this country, three of which are:
Hold ourselves accountable for our own freedom;
Organize ourselves around practical economic and political solutions that benefit US; and
Commit some of our time, talent, and treasure to the uplift of our people.

The other thirteen are on the One Million website. It is way past time for us to assume our responsibility of taking care of ourselves. But only when we organize ourselves into a viable force and are willing and able to execute a collective economic and political strategy, through a “practical” vehicle called the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors, we will remain a toothless tiger, ignored by some, taken for granted by others and, shamefully, feared by no one. Are you “One in a Million?” Go to the website and find out.

 

 

Vacation Time — Don’t get in the Spirit. June 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 22nd, 2015

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The cost of air travel, coupled with all of the delays and cancellations, is very frustrating. For example, there was the recent United flight that was diverted to some remote outpost in eastern Canada where the passengers spent 20 hours or so in a barracks without luggage, and not knowing when or if they would resume their flight to London. BarracksThen there are the tales of woe from passengers who sat on the tarmac for hours without food, air conditioning, or information on when they would leave—that is, except for the occasional, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience; we will be cleared for takeoff shortly.”

As though the sheer inconvenience of flying is not enough, the airlines are finding more and more ways to get money out of our pockets. They told us fuel costs went up when the oil crisis hit, but they did not lower their prices when the price of oil went down. They started passing out brown bag snacks to passengers, which didn’t last very long. Then they began selling everything, even the famous peanuts, crackers, and soft drinks.

The next chapter was the extra charge for checked luggage. Folks started stuffing carry-on bags with as much as they could into them in order to get around those charges, which by the way went from a few dollars to outlandish prices now. The current move is to eliminate carry-on bags all together. Cha-ching!

The most outlandish scheme is the one currently being perpetrated by Spirit Airlines (What a name!). My family took a trip recently, the first leg of which was a flight from Atlanta to Houston. After searching for a reasonable price for two tickets, Spirit won the day for the lowest price. After all, it was just a short hop over to Houston from the ATL, right? How much could it be?

Tickets were booked, and less than 24 hours before the 4:00 PM flight an email arrived informing us that the flight had been moved up, yes I said “moved up” to 7:00 AM. The problem with that move was not only the short notice but also the inconvenience it caused because we had to drive about 150 miles to Atlanta to catch the flight. Nine hours made a great deal of difference in our case. But we adjusted and made it to the airport on time.
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The fun and games were just beginning though. We had not seen anything yet. Upon arrival at the desk we had to pay for our bags of course, and we had to pay for a seat selection! Want to sit by a window? You’ll have to pay for that. The price of the tickets was $459.40, and with the extra charges for bags and seats the price was $589.36, the difference of which was the baggage and the seat selection. On the trip back the same thing was charged.
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My point is this: Always read the fine print; ask questions about additional charges; and remember that nothing is free—cheap, yes, but never free. The other point is that some businesses like Spirit Airlines purport to be the cheapest most cost efficient way to fly. They reel you in and then drop the bomb on you with extra fees. Not illegal, but definitely unethical. I believe ethics is important in a business; Spirit is not a company that I would consider in that vein.

Not to let the other airlines off the hook; they have unethical practices as well. We are at their mercy though, as they merge and become virtual monopolies. ailines6 We are their captive market, as we sit for hours on runways without simple creature comforts or information about our fate. We are the sheep walking through mazes of ropes and chains, as TSA workers miss contraband that passes right under their noses.airlines2

But it’s the only mode of travel we have in many cases, depending on time and distance, of course. So what do we do? Research and get the full picture on prices and charges that may not be disclosed when you purchase your ticket. And if you get ripped-off, notify the company first, as we did. Then spread the word to others, the way I am doing now, about unethical business practices. Don’t believe me? Go to this link: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/05/08/5-outrageous-spirit-airlines-fees/
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This particular airline has something called the “Free Spirit” club; I question their “spirit” and it sho-nuff ain’t free. Every little item costs something. I can truly see the day coming when the following announcement will be made by the flight attendants: “In case of a sudden loss of air pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from overhead. Before putting your mask on, insert $5.00 into the convenient slot in front of you, put your mask on, and breathe normally.” airlines4

 

 

Let the Games Begin. — June 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 13th, 2015

In March of 2007, I wrote an article titled, Obama Drama. Here is the opening paragraph: “Will the euphoria sweeping through our ranks over the possibility of a Black President eventually dominate our collective psyche? Will it overwhelm us with notions of “equality” and “victory,” and ostensibly cause us to subordinate our primary interests and abandon the pressing issues that negatively impact Black life in America?”

Just when I thought we had learned our political lesson, along comes another one. AnesthesiaOur collective anesthesia began in the first week of June 2015, when Hillary Clinton made voter suppression her major theme. She went to Texas and called out Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush, all of whom she said supported voter suppression laws in their respective states.

Not only did she go into that lion’s den called the State of Texas, she gave her speech at Texas Southern University, an HBCU. “So what,” you say? Take your anesthesia mask off for a moment and think about this. Back in 2007 Black people started inhaling the nitrous oxide and fell into what has now become nearly a seven-year state of political euphoria. Some of us are still laughing from the gas we inhaled.

Now, with Hillary’s foray into the sacred bastion of voting, saying she will fight against voter suppression, while surrounded by smiling Black folks (Or should I say, “Grinning” Black folks?) on a Black college campus, the fix is in once again. We are being numbed out and dumbed down, and many of us will traipse to the polls and vote for Hillary in 2016 simply because of this one issue. “She’s for voting rights,” many will say, and that will simply be enough for them. Yes, voting is very important, but that one issue must not be used as the panacea for Black political empowerment.

There will be no other issue on the minds of many Black voters since they will have been programmed while under anesthesia. They will demand nothing more of Hillary, or any of the other Presidential candidates. They will not make demands around criminal justice; they will not demand some form of reparation for Black people; they will not demand a student loan bailout; and they will not demand a Marshall Pan for America’s urban areas in which Blacks reside.

Hillary is already playing the voting card with Black folks because she knows that’s what wins us over. I am sure she will be in Selma next year, lending her shoulder to John Lewis as he weeps, saying, “Don’t worry Black folks; I will protect your right to vote, for real this time.”
NAACP Hosts Presidential Candidates Forum
She will attend the NAACP national convention in a staunch show of support for that organization’s fight against voter suppression, even though the NAACP has shown no penchant for outlawing voter suppression in its own ranks. That’s right; there are several open cases of the NAACP allowing and maybe even supporting voter suppression in local branches across the nation, led and promulgated by its henchman, Gill Ford.

Hillary is already dancing to the Black voter tune, and once the music stops in a couple of months, and we are well under the influence of her anesthetizing effect, she will then move to the more important business of dealing with the agendas of other groups. She knows all we need to pacify us is a call for voting rights.

Not to worry though. There is a group of conscious (as opposed to being politically anesthetized and unconscious) Black people who will not submit to the nitrous oxide. It is called the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors (OMCBV&C). We will not be lulled to sleep nor put to sleep by the political shenanigans of any candidate. We will not be beholden to a particular party, and we will cast our votes for the candidate that publicly supports our platform. Likewise, we will withhold our votes and our dollars from any candidate who does not.

Once and for all, Black people must stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by politicians; we must stop letting them off so easily; and we must stop giving them our so-called “precious” votes with no reciprocity other than a good feeling. This goes for any candidate running in 2016. Let them all know that we are not little children who simply need a warm hug or a pat on the head to make it all better. That’s what we got in 2008, and Hillary, sure to be followed by others in the race, is getting her simple obligation to Black voters out of the way early. Join the OMCBV&C, if you are conscious, and let’s put an end to this political nonsense. Go to www.iamoneofthemillion.com and register.

 

 

“I’s” versus “We’s”

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman June 7th, 2015

“In the Northern states, we are not slaves to individuals, not personal slaves, yet in many ways we are slaves of the community…It is more than a figure of speech to say that we are a people chained together. We are one people – one in general complexion type, one in degradation, one in popular estimation. As one rises, all must rise, and as one falls all must fall. Having now, our feet on the rock of freedom, we must drag our brethren from the slimy depths of slavery, ignorance, and ruin. Every one of us should be ashamed to consider himself free, while his brother is a slave.” Frederick DouglassDouglass

One conclusion I have drawn from working in the collective economic empowerment vineyard for years is that “We” fail because “I” gets in the way. Black folks adore the statement, “I am because we are, and because we are, therefore, I am.” Oh, that we would live by that statement rather than merely recite it. Frederick Douglass and other ancestors knew they were all in this thing together, and that no Black man or woman would rise without the rest of us rising. Have we come so far since his time that we no longer believe in the collective? Have we achieved so much and risen so high as individuals that we have lost sight of our brothers and sisters?

Considering how we are so into words these days, I thought it appropriate to offer a change in how we perceive and use the word “We.” Each of us should adopt the thought that there is an “I” in “We” and realize, as our forefathers and mothers did, no matter the level of anyone’s individual success, he or she is still included in the “We.” That way we can eliminate much of the ego that tends to separate us from one another.

The “I,” when it stands alone, is dangerous. It is rife with self-aggrandizement, self-delusion, vulnerability, and sometimes self-destruction due to its tendency to make an individual think his or her success was obtained without the help of anyone else. But add the “I” to the word “We” and watch what happens. The “I” is still successful, and it uplifts the “We” by its individual success.

The “We” is strong. It overflows with self-reliance, self-determination, love, trust, respect, and cooperation. The collective aspects of success, whether one person attains it or everyone in the group attains it, fills the “We” with pride and the “I” with strength to do even more. Thus, I would assert to you that there is an “I” in the word, “We”; it’s a small “i” and it’s silent.

The “I” is silent, not in the sense that it never speaks out or never does anything for itself as an individual, but rather it appreciates and respects the “We” so much that it is willing to make individual sacrifices to uplift the “We”. Just as Frederick Douglass said, “As one rises, all must rise…” He understood his obligation to his people and acted upon it, irrespective of the fact that he had attained tremendous success and was “accepted” in social and political circles in which his brothers and sisters were rejected. RobinsonJackie Robinson said, “We might make it as individuals, but I think we have to be concerned about the masses of [Black] people.” Both men understood the inside-outside game quite well.

While Douglass was unwilling to do what Harriet Tubman and John Brown did, John Brown

Tubman2he knew Black people needed a spokesperson, a protest organ, and he was not afraid to tell it like it was and speak truth to power, as he did in his newspaper, The Black Star and his famous July 4th speech: “What is it to me?” he asked. Although Douglass was an “inside” man he heaped praise on “outsider,” Harriet Tubman, in a written tribute to her: “I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage.”

The inside-outside strategy worked well for those two stalwarts and with many other historical figures. What about us today? Are those on the inside so comfortable, and do they think they are not vulnerable to the same treatment the outsiders are receiving? Are the outsiders so envious of the “success” of the insiders that they spend their waking hours trying to bring the insiders down?

If we adopt the notion that there is, indeed, an “i” in “We,” the battles Black people are fighting in this country will be won. Group ego beats individual ego any day. To remind us, let’s change the spelling of “We” to “Wie.”