- Created on 28 March 2013
In January 2004, as the president of TransAfrica Forum, I had the honor of leading the first African American delegation to meet with the leaders of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. It was important for us to conduct this visit in order to better understand what was transpiring but also to get a better sense of race, the Afro-descendant movement, and the revolutionary process in Venezuela.
Our delegation had the opportunity to meet with President Hugo Chavez on more than one occasion but the first real dialogue was more than memorable. Chavez gave us an overview of Venezuela’s history and what led to his winning power. I thanked him for the meeting and proceeded to describe my feelings at the time of the 2002 coup. I mentioned to him and his colleagues that I was very sad upon hearing of the coup, and, of course, delighted when he was restored to power.
What really struck me at the time of the coup, however, was looking at the faces of the crowds on television. I looked at the crowds that supported Chavez and those who opposed him and at that moment so much of what was unfolding in Venezuela clicked for me. For, it was clear that Chavez had phenomenal support among the poorer and the darker parts of the Venezuelan population while the opposition looked like it could have walked in from Madrid.
One of the most important contributions of President Chavez and the Bolivarian process has been to help to put race on the table for discussions and action. Under President Chavez, renewed attention has gone to the indigenous and the Afro-descendant populations. This attention, we should note, was not the result of Chavez alone, but a combination of factors with the most important being the actual social movements of the indigenous and Afro-descendant populations of Venezuela. It is critically important to grasp that in Venezuela, including in many progressive and Left circles, there is adamant denial of race as a factor in Venezuela’s reality. The opposition to President Chavez, we should be clear, denies race altogether. In the Bolivarian movement the recognition of race and racism within Venezuelan society has been uneven. But with the combination of the social movements plus Chavez’s support, race came to be openly discussed in Venezuela and actual steps were taken to address a very different form of White supremacy than the version with which we are familiar here in North America.
I had hoped to return to Venezuela and once again meet President Chavez. That will, obviously, be impossible. Chavez will be deeply missed by so many fighters for justice. His recognition of the importance of race and the struggle for racial justice placed him in a unique role in Latin America as a conscious ally of the movements of the Indigenous peoples and the Afro-descendant populations. His audacity alone was enough for one to love him, not to mention his humor and brilliance. We cannot afford to lose fighters like Hugo Chavez which is why it remains so critical that genuine movements for social justice and transformation are producing new leaders of his quality each day.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.
- Created on 28 March 2013
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, released his long awaited report last week called the Growth and Opportunity Project. It is basically a post mortem of last November’s election results and lessons learned.
The report stated the obvious: The Republican Party had problems with key demographic groups such as Blacks and Hispanics. To address this issue, Priebus has committed to hiring Black and Hispanic staffers and consultants to address some of the issues raised in the report. Since the report’s release on March 18, some minority staffers have already been hired. Isn’t it amazing that Priebus has already hired more Blacks this year than President Obama?
But that’s something you’ll never read on the Web sites of either The Grio or The Root. Both are White-owned entities masquerading as Black media. When I say White-owned, I am referring to NBC in the case of The Grio and the Washington Post in the case of The Root. It doesn’t get much whiter than that.
As members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) like to remind me, Black Media is by definition Black owned and operated. Essence magazine is no longer Black-owned and we can see how the content has changed for the worst under Time Warner, the new owner.
Joy-Ann Reid, is managing editor of The Grio and like Obama, a Harvard graduate. In a recent column, she called Priebus’ engagement with the Black community “simply platitudinous.” Of course, she doesn’t define exactly what about Priebus’ efforts are “platitudinous,” whatever that means.
The Root is just as biased as The Grio. They thought so little of Priebus’ report that they didn’t even think it was worthy of one news story. One of their columnists did do the typical hatchet job on the report.
As a Black Republican, I am a first-hand witness to many of the deficiencies of my party and I have not been shy about expressing my frustrations. Equally true, I also am a first-hand witness to what my party is doing to correct these deficiencies and they deserve, at a minimum, a wait and see attitude; and at best, praise for some of the steps taken to this point.
I don’t think any party on the Left or the Right should be above critique. But after constantly criticizing the Republican Party, one would think The Grio and The Root would feel some obligation as supposed journalists to give the Republicans a fair hearing and give Obama fair criticism. If these sites were taken to court and accused of false advertising, they would be convicted and ordered to pay serious damages to the public.
In truth, they are surrogates for the Democratic National Committee and are in the tank for President Obama. Instead of admitting that, they claim to be an unbiased news source and claim to hire objective journalists and provide a platform for the full range of thinking and commentary within the Black community. They fail on all accounts.
They do just as much damage or even more to the Black community as rap music. In fact, it can be argued that foul-mouth rap artists stands a better chance of being accurately portrayed on those news sites than a Republican, Black or White.
They criticized Reince Priebus for his “cynical” efforts to engage the Black community. How is seeking to become more engaged with the Black community – something Blacks have been yearning for – suddenly cynical?
Moreover, regardless of your politics, Blacks are better off when two parties truly compete for their vote and not take them for granted as the Democrats are doing. We’ll always have more power when we can leverage our votes on behalf of the candidate who isn’t afraid to say the word “Black” or targets every group except African Americans.
If you’re going to criticize, make sure you spread it around. It’s not fair to criticize Republicans while giving Barack Obama a pass. He has not added one Black to his cabinet in his second term. Yet, we’re supposed to line up, single file, behind him. When is he going to show that he has our best interests at heart?
It speaks volumes that Obama would throw Susan Rice under the bus, back up, and roll over her again. Yet he had no reservation about the uphill fight to get his Republican Secretary of Defense confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In other words, he’ll fight to the end for a White, male, Republican but not a supremely qualified Black woman.
Given Obama’s poor record meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, I would not be surprised if Priebus hasn’t spent more time meeting with the Black community than President Obama?
Even more importantly, at least Priebus issued a plan of action after his meetings with Black folks. Where is the president’s plan? You can’t criticize a plan that doesn’t exist. Legitimate media organizations should criticize the president for such neglect, but by definition that would exclude The Grio and The Root.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.
- Created on 27 March 2013
The push for the Black vote is on. Black folks are back in style. Black is beautiful – again. Since the last election, the mantra has become, “Get more ‘minorities’ to vote Republican” and Black voters are at the top of that list. Yes, they want to increase their Hispanic support, but the African-American vote is ripe and ready to be harvested by just the right message given by just the right messengers. Wow, that sounds familiar. Don’t Democrats have that same strategy? They trot out a couple of spokespersons to soothe us with convincing platitudes that have kept us in their corner for decades.
Now the Republican sleeping giant has finally awaken, and it is ready to do whatever it takes to regain Black voters’ confidence and support. They have launched a new Black political role model into the limelight; he is an icon among Black people, a hero, Horatio Alger personified, and his name is Dr. Ben Carson. He was the darling of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convention and is the new love of Sean Hannity’s life. Fresh off his in-your-face, Mr. President, speech at the national prayer breakfast, Carson has decided to quit medicine and pursue “other” interests. The Republicans are already drafting him for the 2016 presidential race.
To rub salt into the wound, some Black commentators and columnists are suggesting that Black voters should seriously consider moving from the Democrat plantation to the Republican plantation, and the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, has a plan to make that happen. So does Rand Paul. Both of them have said Republicans must get more Black people to remember what their party has done for us, and bring us back into their “big tent.” Yes, we are definitely in vogue these days.
The question is: What are we going to do with our newfound popularity? When political parties compete for your votes, you win. I wonder what the Democrat response will be to this Republican incursion. After 75 years or so of unbroken Black voter loyalty, the battle lines have been drawn by Priebus, who has set out to do what Michael Steele could not do with “fried chicken and potato salad": get more Black folks to vote Republican.
Why is it always an either/or choice between Black folks being a Republican or a Democrat? It seems to me that Black people, especially, should always be independent and willing to support either party if, of course, both parties address the interests and needs of Black people. Notwithstanding the opposing arguments regarding what Presidents Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Nixon did for Black people versus what Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson did, we should base our voting on interests rather than parties. Our unique position and genesis in this country demand political independence rather than political allegiance to anyone or any party. It’s all about reciprocity, and the last time I checked, Black people have yet to receive even a reasonable return on our investment in the U.S.
Our American experience is unique. No other group has committed so much to, worked so hard for, fought and died in wars for America, and received so little in return. Other groups did not go through what we went through, and our right to play in the political game was bought and paid for hundreds of years ago. However, this is still, above all, a capitalistic society, and economics rules the day. If we take care of business in the economics arena, the political arena will be easy pickings.
Heed the words of T. Thomas Fortune, a journalist and co-founder of the National Negro Business League: “No people ever became great and prosperous by devoting their infant energies to politics. We were literally born into political responsibility before we had mastered the economic conditions which underlie these duties.”
His message is clear. We are not even in the political game because we do not use our political leverage to get what we say we need. All we get back from our “precious” votes is a good feeling, which could be characterized as having sex rather than making love. Black people are in love with our political party; and our party is just having sex with us.
We had better wake up from our infatuation with political parties, and understand that they only want us for one thing: our votes. Of course, they would also like our campaign donations, but we certainly aren’t trying to hear that. Black people must be more politically independent, and stop letting the talking heads and so-called leaders, both Black and White, steer us toward one party over the other. We will be more politically effective if we leverage our votes with those who espouse and support our interests. If we can’t do that then we should at least be present at both tables in large enough numbers to have a positive impact on each party’s agenda. Right now, the reference to Black people being made by either major party is related to our votes, not our progress.
Remember: In politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.
- Created on 28 March 2013
All major cities have street gangs. Some can be violent and many can be criminal organizations. Los Angeles, without a doubt, is the world hub of ethnic street gangs. Blacks have the Bloods, Crips and Pirus while Asian Americans have the Asian Boyz, Fullerton Boys, Kkangpae, Menace of Destruction, Satanas. Chinese have the Four Seas, United Bamboo Gang, Wah Ching and White Dragon while Whites have Armenian Power, Aryan Brotherhood, Hells Angels MC, Nazi Low Riders and Public Enemy No. 1.
Hispanics have the most gang activity. Some of their larger gangs are 13th Street, 18th Street, 38th Street, Clanton 14, Mexican Mafia (Prison Gang), Mongols MC, MS – 13, Nortenos, Nuestra Familia (Prison Gang), Avenues, The Rascals, Tooner Ville Rifa 13, Varrio Nuevo Estrada and White Fence. Keep in mind these are just the larger gangs and many of them have divisions known as “sets”.
Black neighborhoods in Los Angeles experienced the formation of clubs after World War II and lasting until the first Watts riot in 1965. These clubs soon became known as gangs as violence amongst them started to grow. Growing up in the metro area, I can remember the Slausons, Gladiators, Del Vikings and Businessmen. Whites had a gang known as the “Spook Hunters” (in the Hawthorne and Inglewood areas) who would seek Blacks to beat up. The Slausons and Del Vikings retaliated and put them to rest.
After the Watts riot, a new organization appeared. Bunchy Carter, a charismatic, tall and muscular brother who ran the “Renegades” set of the Slausons, founded the Southern California chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was recruiting 50 – 100 members a week and their mantra was to watch the L.A. Police Department and protect the people. LAPD wasn’t having it. They teamed up with the secret FBI operation known as COINTELPRO. This anti-constitutional concoction of J. Edgar Hoover basically went after Black elected officials but the national rise of the Black Panthers made Hoover decide to literally wipe them out. They encouraged another new group known as Organization Us, headed by Ron Karenga (founder of Kwanza), to rival the Panthers. It resulted in Bunchy Carter being murdered on UCLA’s campus. Ron Karenga and some of his members came to my neighborhood to recruit us. We thought they were comical and didn’t know this was just a front for another mission. They went away after Bunchy’s murder in1969.
Many Black youth were depressed and a void was created and needed to be filled. Thus, Raymond Lee Washington, 15 years old, got the boys in his neighborhood and commissioned them as the “Crips” (his brother’s nickname). As they grew in South Central, Stanley Tookie Williams was organizing a group on the Westside. They met and decided to merge under the Crip banner. Today, they are the largest Black gang in America with chapters expanding from coast to coast.
The Bloods were started from a rebellious set of the Crips. The Pirus, named after a street in Compton, helped start this rival gang. Being smaller than the Crips, the Bloods got a reputation for being very violent and ruthless to any rivals. Today, they too are national with sets operating wherever a large Black population exists. Their largest East Coast set is the United Blood Nation, which was started in Rikers Island prison to protect Black inmates from Hispanic inmate attacks.
L.A. has more than 600 Hispanic street gangs. The largest by far is Mara Salvatrucha – MS-13, which has more than 70,000 members and sets throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America. These guys stay busy with drug trafficking, robbery, larceny, human trafficking, kidnapping, arms trafficking, racketeering and everything that goes with it. They are extremely organized and fear nothing. One of their sets is located in Washington, D.C. – up in the face of the FBI headquarters.
All of these L.A. street gangs have one thing in common. They are the main distributors of illegal drugs. They are tight with Mexican and South American drug cartels. Drug trafficking is their main source of revenue and it adds up into the billions of dollars per year. The Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be unable to get a handle on how to stop them.
Most run with heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and other illegal pills. The pioneer of crack cocaine was Rick Ross. Rick grew up in Crip territory but his operation furnished his product to both the Crips and Bloods for national distribution. His suppliers were two El Salvadorans with direct ties to the CIA. When Congresswoman Maxine Waters declared CIA meddling in the establishment of crack in the United States, she knew what she was talking about. It started right in the middle of her Congressional District. Rick eventually got busted. Sometimes he would sell up to $3 million of product in a day. For all this, he did only 13 years in prison.
Los Angeles is number one when it comes to gangs. What an “accomplishment.”
- Created on 27 March 2013
I never considered the late Rodney King anything of a philosopher, but as one observes Washington shenanigans, especially around fiscal matters, it seems that Brother King had a point. Can we all just, maybe, get along?
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Senate finally passed a budget by the narrowest of margins, 50-49. Four Democratic Senators jumped ship to side with Republicans, probably because they are facing tough election fights in Republican leaning states. Still, it was great to see some vision from this Senate, which called for a $1 trillion in tax increases and $875 billion in program cuts. Unlike proposals presented by the likes of Paul Ryan, who would eviscerate social programs, the Senate offers a budget that cuts social and other programs more carefully and thoughtfully. Since this is the first budget the Senate has passed in four years, one might think that they should be congratulated. But the passage of a Senate budget is only the first step. Now, the Senate and the House of Representatives have to find some common ground.
Former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis) chairs the House Budget Committee and he chairs it like he thinks he is still running for office. He claims that he can save $4 trillion more than Democrats by turning Medicare into a voucher program and slashing Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps), and other safety net programs. How will the Senate and House resolve their differences when Republicans basically refuse to bargain, and Democrats will give away the store if given an opportunity? If half of the Democrats in the Senate had the backbone of House Republican Majority Leader John Boehner, the people of the United States would be in a better position.
We can’t get along if we go along with nonsense such as a voucher program for senior health. As it is, some hospitals are closing or consolidating, largely because of the number of poor and elderly people who use those facilities. While Ryan is talking slash and burn, Obamacare, albeit imperfect, expands health care possibilities for everyone. We can’t get along with cuts in SNAP that leave more people hungry. The average monthly income for those who receive SNAP assistance is less than $700. That means families who receive this benefit are working part-time or not at all, not an unusual occurrence when the unemployment rate remains higher than 7 percent overall and 13 percent for African Americans. We can’t get along with proposals to cut educational funding, knowing education opens doors for generations to come.
How, then, will they fill the gap between the lean budget passed by Senate Democrats, and the austerity budget passed by Republicans? It is up to we, the people. A few weeks ago, a friend proposed organizing a March that would bring thousands to Washington as these budget deliberations continue to remind the Senate and the House that we are watching them. As this is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, many marches are being planned to commemorate that critical date. But it might also be meaningful if Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign were also reenacted. Dr. King’s vision of bringing thousands to occupy government offices to highlight the needs of the poor was never fully realized, and the current gap between the House and Senate suggests that the poor will be more harshly treated now than they were two generations ago.
When one contrasts the House Budget with the one that comes from the Senate, one realizes that there are two starkly different visions of our country. We were presented with these stark choices when Mr. 47 Percent Romney faced off against President Obama. One could hardly call our president a flaming liberal. People chose the humanitarian Obama vision of the world instead of the elitist austerity that Romney exemplified. The people have spoken, but the politicians can’t hear.
The people are talking, the politicians are posturing, and millions are wondering how they will survive if a Ryan budget passes. Why can’t we all get along?
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.