Racial Angst and the loss of Black Sentinels

August 9, 2013
 As a former Minority Journalism Program (MJP ’72)  graduate I totally agree with Ms. Maynard’s analysis of the current level of minority representation in media, particularly African Americans. Today’s media is so saturated with “pundits” offering opinions about media, that it is easy to forget they are not (for the most part) trained journalists. Every Black face seen giving “expe…rt” opinion on the latest tragedy in the African American community on the major networks, is not a “journalist”, many are experts in some other field with “audience potential”.
Add to this the fact that they are usually responding to stories about African Americans, and or their communities that were covered my (non-minority) journalists. Now add to this the issue of “class’ warfare and the number of journalists (including African Americans) without intimate knowledge about the inner workings of economically disadvantaged people and their communities and the number of true “minority” journalists decreases even more. Take a look at this portion of Ms. Maynard’s story:
          According to the 2013 survey, only 12.37 percent of full-time daily newspaper journalists last year were people of color. People of color make up 37 percent of the U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that people of color will be 42 percent of the population by 2025.
  The nation and its news media are going in opposite directions, and the public is paying the price.
  To tell the stories of communities of color, we’re relying increasingly on people who may have little or no knowledge about them.
There are many reasons for this current situation, among them the growth of “Urban Media”, and the decline of the emphasis on “Black Media”.  I call it the “creaming of Black media”, resulting from the idea that there is no need to try and reach the Black market place by spending advertising dollars in Black press, because you can reach the same market advertising with/in “urban media” that reaches the same demographic. The problem with this approach is we forget that media is about more than advertising, that it is also about timely information delivered in a way that it’s urgency can be translated into action at the appropriate time; and when it comes to Black folks “psycho-graphics” is as important as demographics.
If you don’ think this is important, take a moment to think about Hurricane Katrina, and the fact that while much of the white media concentrated on the force of the winds, heading towards New Orleans, African Americans were in more danger from the water, and poorly maintained levees in their communities. Yet, there was insufficient effort to prepare a response in the event the levees did not hold, as there was to the fact that economically disadvantaged people would not be prepared to pack a bag, drive to the ATM withdraw a few hundred bucks, and head for a hotel on higher ground. The result, there were too few sentinels.
Now ask yourself how different things could have turned out if there had been more “sentinels” in media in and around New Orleans as the storm approached. Suppose they had been trained in the following manner referred to by Ms. Maynard:
Fault Lines, the Maynard Institute’s innovative diversity training program, asks journalists, when framing stories, to think about race, class, gender, generation and geography in much the same way as who, what, when, where why and how.
Minority journalists are “sentinels”, not movie stars, not fashion plates, not comedians, not simply “Best Selling Authors” but sentinels… the vigilant, ever alert eyes and ears to danger; the ever watchful eyes there to keep us aware of any danger to our quality of life, or any opportunity for the triumph of the human spirit, or to be a witness to the same.
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Say it ain’t so Ken: Why Brown-Ulman just may not be “the ticket”

May 31, 2013

 

I was sad to see the announcement in the Baltimore Sun this morning that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman had decided to accept the lieutenant governor’s slot on Anthony Brown’s ticket since I believe Ulman has a much better chance at winning the race for governor.

Despite Brown’s closeness to the current governor, (without some kind of miraculous “remake”)  his lack of a body of work recognizable statewide by African Americans, and a more cordial “quantifiable” relationship across all economic levels in Black communities statewide, he is opening the door for Montgomery County’s David Craig. The truth of the matter is, Ulman has greater immediate rapport, comes across as a much warmer person even when you meet him for the first time, and a record of service and access that will work “virally” in his favor.

Brown despite his intellect, bright smile and exuberance has yet to emerge beyond Governor O’Malley’s shadow, or the shadow of the “800 lb. gorilla” that enters every room with the governor particularly in Baltimore, and across Maryland; That “800 lb. gorilla” being the perceived negative impact of his elections as mayor of Baltimore, and Governor of Maryland on the lives of African American men.

What the governor’s “people” have failed to either share with him or address is the perception that there has been a systematic removal of “strong, articulate, unbiased and un-bought” African American male voices from positions of power, or visibility in both of O’Malley’s mayoral and gubernatorial offices, and thus from African American communities in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland. This many believe has created the “climate of consent” for increased domestic violence in particular, an increase of gang activity on the streets, and the erosion of Black male role models to intercede in their own homes and communities.

Add to this the continued decline of financial support for Community Base Organizations (CBOs), in Baltimore, the loss of Community Development Block Grant Funds, high unemployment among Black males in particular in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland, and the fact that O’Malley’s record will be parsed and scrutinized more given his political aspirations for 2016. All of the above has the potential to encumber Brown, as he spends more time in the “public eye”. His closeness to O’Malley and the collateral value of it is yet to be quantified.

Ulman has enjoyed a great ride as Howard County Executive, as a native son of the county he has legions of volunteers who will work for him, and an excellent record of fiscal responsibility, constituency response, an “out of the box” approach to healthcare, lowering unemployment rates, and  a county with a relatively low crime rate. However, it is not loss on anyone that several of O’Malley’s key people (Enright, Beilenson, etc.) became key players on Ulman’s staff in Howard County. If he is perceived to be a “game saver” for O’Malley’s legacy and a “gatekeeper” for Brown his luster will fade in eight years.

The assumption is that Brown will be a “shoe in” just because he’s the governor’s choice, is a Democrat, is Black, an attorney, served in the Iraq war, was “given” responsibility by Governor O’Malley to work on several issues such as education, healthcare reform, and veteran related affairs; and Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by almost three to one.

The problem remains that he is most known for standing (“at attention”) behind the governor.  “Brothers” and “sisters” may know the face, but they don’t know “the man”.

Ulman has had the opportunity to be closer to all facets of the African American community in Howard County, and he has seized it; his rapport with other county executives is well known, as is his efficiency as a manager of his constituent’s assets and “trust”. While many know little other than the fact that he is Howard County Executive his “viral street cred” is the “buzz” statewide. You can’t do “GOOD” and get away with it.

By the time the filing deadline to run for governor comes around there will no doubt be several other “hats in the ring”.  While a Brown-Ulman ticket might seem like a stroke of political genius almost two years out, should it become framed as a ploy to leave the O’Malley mark on politics in Maryland, and model in place for 24 years there could be a problem.

Many Howard Countians (myself included) had expected Ulman to run for governor, not lieutenant governor, now that he has taken a “back seat” to Brown many of us have gone from a “sure thing”, back to our political shopping list. This does not mean “Brown-Ulman” isn’t on the list; just that neither name may not be at the top of it by election time.

Too Black To Turn Back

February 28, 2013

Note: The year of 2013 will be one of reflection on the 50th anniversary of several “landmark” events in African American “civil rights” history. A short list would include : the murder of Medgar Evers in Jackson, MS June 12, 1963, The March on Washington in August of 1963, the murder of the four young females in Alabama in September, George Wallace’s run for president and his framing of the issue of “Sovereignty” such that it has survived 63 years later.

In fact many current issues such as “gun ownership rights”, equal access to healthcare, voting rights have all been tethered to this last remaining parachute “Sovereignty”; the last relic of a war against equality which has now moved again from the streets to the courts. Through it all The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA/America’s Black Press) has endured, and six years after I made this speech has found its “footing” if not the needed resources to not only survive, but endure.

Much remains to be done if we are to secure the future of America’s surviving Black newspapers; despite whose “on line” presence and “new media “platforms we would feel cheated. Still, to hold a Black newspaper in one’s hand calls forth a feeling so eternal we take it for granted.

It is my hope in 2013 as we reflect on the various civil rights anniversaries, we also look back at the Black newspapers, and the reporters who covered them and knowing what we know now consider how fortunate we are they were “there”.

It is for this reason I am reprinting my earlier speech.

 
[This is the text of John Milton Wesley’s speech to the 2007 winter meeting
of the National Newspaper Publishers Association ~ NNPA ~ in Phoenix, Arizona.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks, NNPA President John Smith and Foundation president Dorothy Leavelle for this opportunity. And thanks to Mr. Cloves Campbell, publisher of the Arizona Informant newspaper, and, of course, to my client, Mr. Moses Brewer, manager of Diversity African –American markets, Coors Brewing Company, and to my CEO, Ms. Sylvia Cordy of Cordy & Company, Inc. – she’s my boss, by the way.

And, of course, thanks to all of you, for you are indeed the Black Press of America, and though I may not have been the first choice for this evening’s speaker, I don’t mind being the tenth choice, for tonight you have honored me with your presence.

 

I am happy to be with you again so soon. I enjoyed my first visit last June in Detroit for your summer meeting, and I am delighted to be with you again.

So, I am here today, thankful to be your guest and delighted to have this opportunity to share more of my work and musings with you.

 

Initially I had planned to speak to you this evening on the subject “In the beginning was the word.” I had thought I would take a text from the book of Genesis and expound on the importance of coming to know the power of the word of God and the importance of using it to encourage the manifestation in our lives of the desires of our hearts; however, a series of events in the local headlines and the response – and lack of the same – prompted me to take a different path and choose a different subject and theme. I was led instead to choose: “I am too Black to turn back.”

For once I began to reflect on the history of the struggle for respect and equality by people of African descent, the brutality of the slave trade, the denial of human rights and the historical documentation of their survival against all odds. I was again reminded of our invaluable inheritance as African Americans today. Add to this our own personal and collective spiritual evolution which has brought us thus far by faith, it is plain to see why we are indeed too Black to turn back.

Some unknown author once wrote that “the mind once stretched to a new dimension does not shrink back to its original form.” I agree, and have decided, as the Apostle Paul suggested, to “press on toward the mark of a higher calling.”

 

The writer Phillips Brooks wrote, and I quote: “God has not given us vast learning to solve all the problems, or unfailing wisdom to direct all the wanderings of our brothers’ lives, but he has given to every one of us the power to be spiritual and, by our spirituality, to lift and enlarge and enlighten the lives we touch.”

 

And so this evening I have chosen to speak with you briefly about my own lessons learned before, during, and after the Civil Rights “Movement,” and [about] people famous and infamous whose Blackness inspired me. They still steer me from beyond – even to this day when my back was and is, as the noted Theologian Dr. Howard Thurman would say, “against the wall.”

And every now and then all of us find ourselves with our backs against a wall. If you are living in America today, and you are an African American, your back is against the wall. If you are a resident of the state of Arizona, even if you live in the suburbs as I do, your back is against the wall.

 

When John Kerry – a multi-millionaire – and all his advisers in the political party most African Americans support are totally bamboozled as they were in the 2004 election by the party we are afraid to be identified with (as if one political party is really better than the other) and, in the process [of the campaign], that party spends more money than the winner and loses, we are left with our backs against the wall.

When two of the most powerful men in the U.S. Congress muse publicly about ending support for the Congressional Black Caucus and there is no major outcry, our backs are against the wall.

 

However, anyone could have come here this evening and told you that; so I have come to offer something more – that is, a reminder that there is no cause for alarm. We have all been here before. This too shall pass. And despite our present preoccupation with who the father of Anna Nicole’s baby might be and whether or not Barack Obama attended a Madrassa when he was in kindergarten, we will in the final analysis all stand before our Creator and be required to give an account, not for someone else’s actions but for our own. We will not be granted a reprieve from this responsibility because we are African Americans and have suffered much at the hands of our oppressors. There will be no grants of immunity because of mitigating circumstances or taking the 5th amendment to avoid incrimination.

Hopefully, in the twenty minutes I have this evening to speak with you; I will be able to share through my own experiences and daily rituals how we can prepare for that ultimate accounting. I have asked God to use me to give you something to help us prepare for our own final edit, when the only wall behind us will be the life we have lived, and the only photos will be snapshots of how we served our Creator and treated our fellow man.

You see, when I got the infamous call on “9/11,” it was not the first time I had found myself with my back against the wall. I was born Black in America, in the delta of Mississippi; however, fortunately for me, there was a picture of Jesus hung on that wall, and though he stared down on me in all of his blond and blue-eyed glory, I was, as a child, transfixed by his message and his majesty. One thing was abundantly clear to me even then – that was, his work and life model had stood the test of time. In moments of joy and pain, I heard my grandmamma call his name.

Next to the picture of Jesus was one of my grandfather, Will Sanders, on a hunting expedition with noted racist Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo. My granddad was known for his “word” and his bar-be-que. Bilbo was known for his plan to send Black folks back to Africa. [In the picture] my granddad is seated on a wooden box surrounded by a deer hunting party of some of the most racist white men in the country, yet his face is the picture of calm because he is secure in himself.

 

The memories of those photographs are indelible in my memory. This past October, when I visited the vandalized shell of the house where I was born in Ruleville, Mississippi, (though the floor beneath the wall was littered with broken glass, left behind tattered clothes, empty beer and liquor bottles and discarded syringes), in my mind’s eye I could see myself as a child lying on my cot, hear the fire popping in the pot bellied stove, smell teacakes cooking in the kitchen, while the voice of Mahalia Jackson sang woefully in the background, “Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.”

 

In 1935, Dr. Howard Thurman led an African-American delegation to South Asia. In India, he and his wife Sue met Mahatma Gandhi. They talked about oppression and freedom and nonviolence. Gandhi asked them to sing an old Negro spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” Dr. Thurman, on the other hand, wanted to know how Gandhi’s principles could be used by Black folk in America whose backs were against the wall. Thurman returned to the United States and began reflecting about how the life and teachings of Jesus specifically applied to those facing suffering and oppression. In 1949, he synthesized that thinking in one of his best-known books, JESUS AND THE DISINHERITED.

Howard Thurman said: “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

Dr. Thurman’s words have echoed in my head throughout my life, as God has allowed me to be an eyewitness to “HIStory.” They continuously remind me that belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are integral to my survival, that my quest for knowledge of my people and myself should be personal and unending, and that my ultimate freedom will depend on my ability to answer the call of my own heart.

 

Sometime between 55 – 65 A.D., James the brother of Jesus taught that the moral life comes out of one’s human nature. That evil could be eradicated by moral and ethical behavior. In the book of James chapter 1, verses 1-4, he writes:

“Count it all joy, brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

 

Now James identified himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” When I became familiar with his writings, I was of course intrigued by this notion and wanted to know more. In verses 5-8 James goes further in his advice: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave on the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.”

 

Early in my childhood I took the message of James to heart. One of my first lessons was to:
· Celebrate my Black uniqueness, and define myself beyond my race, as a creation of God, ransomed by the sacrifice of his son Jesus.

 

I learned to do this by attending Sunday school and Church often with my grandmother and grandfather. They reinforced my formal and religious education by encouraging me to stay in school, demanding that I attend Sunday school and Church, and yes, join the 4-H club, and cultivate my talents and social skills.

 

I write about this in the Emmett Till story in the book titled AN EAR TO THE GROUND (which I coauthored with Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson), in my new book SALVOS, and in the new anthology THE BRIGHTER SIDE OF DARKNESS, a 50 year memoir on “Brown vs. the Board of Education” published in 2004 on the 50th anniversary of the decision.

 

I also find the Apostle James’s admonition to do the following seven things very helpful:

 

1. Be quick to hear
2. Slow to speak
3. Slow to get angry
4. Put away all filthiness (that includes filthy language)
5. Get rid of all weaknesses
6. Receive God’s word with meekness…and
7. Implant God’s word in your heart

 

Along with lesson one, these principles guide my life.

 

Harriet Tubman once said, “I have freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed thousands more, if only they knew they were slaves.” She undoubtedly knew even then that before her people’s journey toward freedom could begin, her greatest task would not be to remove the chains around their necks and ankles, but around their minds. This was echoed later when another picture was added to my [childhood home] wall behind me. It was a painting of Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad, with a bible in her hand and a shotgun under her arm, leading her brothers and sisters to freedom.

 

And so another lesson I learned early was that “attitude was the key to freedom.” Webster defines attitude as “a posture, a state of mind or feeling.”

 

Over time we evolved and thrived as a people first colored, then Negro, then Black, and later African American. Regardless of the characterizations, the gifts of our ancestors’ love and sacrifices continue to remind each new generation that we are indeed too Black to turn back.

 

Poet Claude McKay perhaps said it best in his poem, “If we Must Die.”

 

If we must die let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the murderous lot.
If we must die, oh let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back.”

 

It did not take me long to realize as a child that my back was against the wall because I was obviously treated differently by white people because of my color.

 

After growing up in the delta of Mississippi for the first 13 of my young years, I moved to Jackson, the state capital, the night Medgar Evers was shot to death in his driveway. That was the summer of 1963. Later that summer, my “Godmother,” Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, was beaten severely in Winona for attempting to register to vote. She would never fully recover from the attack.

 

At that time, only 9.2 percent of all Black students were attending integrated schools in the southern and border states. The federal government had given the school systems until the fall of 1967 to desegregate or lose federal funding. All were desegregated by 1966. Still, just 14 percent of Black students in eleven states were in mixed schools. Most southern cities set up private academies to avoid integration. Just a year earlier, President Kennedy was forced to send 12,000 troops to Ole Miss to restore order after James Meredith was admitted. Two people were killed and many were injured. Three hundred soldiers had to remain on campus to insure Meredith’s safety until July of 1963. There was no doubt our backs were against the wall.

 

The following summer, three civil rights workers – James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman – were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, while registering Black people to vote. Two years later in 1966, during my freshman year at Tougaloo College, James Meredith set out on his historic “March against Fear” down through the [north] delta of Mississippi. He was shot [south of the Tennessee line in Desoto County, Mississippi]. Dr. King, Floyd McKissick, Stokeley Carmichael, Rev. Jessie Jackson, and others came down to finish the march, which I had joined.

 

Dr. King decided to lead a small group of the marchers to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in honor of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. The group was stoned and attacked by a mob. The police did nothing to prevent or end the attack until some of the marchers began to fight back.

 

Later during a stopover on the march in Greenwood, Stokeley Carmichael told the gathering, “What we need is Black Power.” On June 17 of 1966 the media spread our request (though misunderstood) worldwide.

 

On a more personal note, two years later when I was 19 years old (1968), after being mentored by Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander and poets Audre Lloyd and Dr. John Oliver Killens, I received the Readers Digest & UNCF first place award in poetry; however, prior to flying to New York in May to be feted at the Readers Digest compound in Pleasantville by Mr., and Mrs. Wallace, while boarding at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, there were several other obligations to be fulfilled. You see, though born with my back against a wall, some from a historically Black (Tougaloo College) College (Dr. Ariel Lovelace and Dr. Ernst Borinski) saw potential in me. They helped me received a full vocal music scholarship and even allowed me to major in Political Science and English Literature. All I was obligated to do was perform nationally with Tougaloo’s concert choir.

 

First there was the participation in a mass meeting in Memphis in late March for the Garbage Workers Strike; then, in early April, [there was] a concert at Carnegie Hall along with my colleague, Walter Turnbull, founder of the Boys Choir of Harlem. We were accompanied by Duke Ellington and his orchestra. The night was April 4th, and Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis moments before we took the stage. I was pained by the hatred that could kill a body, but buoyed by the spirit that lives on.

 

You see, I had heard King say the night before, “I fear no man, I’m not worried about anything, I just want to do God’s will, Our people will get to the Promise land, Mine eyes have seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord.”

 

Later in the summer of 1972, (I was 23 years old) on the final day of my fellowship at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, I attended a pizza party for one of my instructors, CBS news correspondent Michelle Clarke, the first female African American to hold that title for CBS news. This was an informal affair – 10 or 12 of us sitting around in the lounge on 121st and Amsterdam Avenue, drinking sodas and eating pizza while waiting for Michelle’s limousine. Soon the driver arrived and she left for a short flight to Washington to board a flight to Chicago to cover Hubert Humphrey, who was running for president. Unfortunately it was the summer of Watergate and she boarded a plane carrying Howard Hunt’s wife, the Watergate “bagman.” The plane crashed enrooted. And regardless of whether or not there was a connection, the loss for me was painful, real, and hard to comprehend. Once again I found myself up against a wall.

 

Despite it all, I continue to find strength in the legacy of our people, and I remain too Black to go back.

 

Socrates wrote: “The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be, and if we observe, we shall find that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by practice and experience of them.”

 

Each day is a day I celebrate the history of African Americans by seeking to embody their dreams, lift their burdens, emulate their ideals, give them hope, and build my own collage behind me of the triumph of their human spirit, made up of my own daily snapshots of service to my fellow man.

 

And so I have come to challenge you this evening to stand firm, my brothers and sisters, for we are too Black to go back. Despite the fact that to be a young Black male in Baltimore is to be an endangered species, we are too Black to go back. Despite the fact that the powers that be seek to deny us as a people even today with equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we are too Black to go back. Despite the fact that poor healthcare, the drug epidemic, crime, violence, inadequate educational opportunities, disenfranchisement, and even America’s enemies seek to rob us of our rightful place even in this hour, we are too Black to turn back.

 

Our charge is to move forward boldly, against all odds, to finish the work our heroes and “sheroes” started, and to do so daily by serving God through our efforts to raise the consciousness of others, for we are a people too Black to turn back.

 

I leave you this evening with the words of Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander, taken from her poem “For My People.”

 

“Let a new earth rise, Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth, let a people loving freedom come to growth, and let a beauty full of healing and strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men … Now rise up and take control.”

 

Thank you.

 

 

Rice is Rice…

November 27, 2012

So “let me be clear”, Condoleezza Rice missed an important meeting with members of the National Security Council in July of 2001 about threats from Al Qaeda. This meeting took place after the United States had received actionable intelligence that Al Qaeda was planning to use airplanes as missiles to blow up buildings in the US. Somehow she missed the meeting due to “scheduling”. Several classified reports from the intelligence community including three FBI agents whose warnings (in writing) had already been confirmed.

Yes, intelligence “firewalls” prevented the sharing of information by the US intelligence community. Most of the “9/11” hijackers were already on “watch lists” in the US. The fact that  a group of men of Arabic descent living in the US studying to become pilots, who had little interest in learning how to “land” was already a documented known fact provided by their flight instructors.

The importance of “hardening” cockpit doors on airplanes was already a topic of conversation within the airline industry, and on Capitol Hill and at the (NTSB) in 1999; information “not” deliberately diluted by the intelligence community; in this case Ms. Rice’s “inaction” spoke louder than words.

Susan Rice, is being accused of wrong doing because she made statements following the attack in Benghazi based on intelligence deliberately “diluted” by the intelligence community and her “actions/words” are being classified by some Republicans as deceptive, and mis-leading; even worthy of blocking her nomination. Condoleezza Rice’s was still confirmed as

From the desk of Lawrence Guyot… September 2012

November 24, 2012

Lawrence Guyot’s Thoughts  — Lawrence Guyot Originally published in From the Desk of Guyot, September, 2012 To all of you students who started the greatest civil rights move ment that probably ever existed — the southern civil rights movement — I call again upon each and every one of you to repeat what you did decades ago. That is to begin again to organize from the ground up, everyone that you know to bring together the kind of government that we have made possible. You, the people I’m speaking to, changed America, the South, the country, and the world. I say that without caveat; simply read the history, it’s there, we wrote it, and it’s ours, now we must fight to defend it. We’re faced with a challenge, the likes of which none of us have ever really experienced, because this challenge goes to the fundamental roots of what is humanity, what is the role of government, is it essential that government provide for the services and necessities of all of its citizens, or is self government to be turned into a narrow division of those very wealthy with those non-wealthy, thereby redefining America.

You can’t have the America that is proposed by the Republican Party and still call it America. America to me is the totality of institutions set to serve, through division of power and self-representation of the governed by themselves. The government in my mind has always been the instrumentality of fairness, justice, and social need. The Republican Party is proposing something quite radical. They want the government, and I’m quoting them, to be small enough to be destroyed in a bathtub. What we have to remind ourselves is that the greatness of America is that nothing has ever been given to us. Everything we have from the eight hour work day, to the right of labor unions to organize, to the right of women to vote and participate on juries, the right of Blacks to feel that they have rights at all, the right of women to compete adequately with men in the work place, all of this came about by battle.

Now is the time for us to do five specific things: one, everything we can to organize victories for Obama, president of the United States, all Democratic candidates in the House and the Senate; if we do not include taking over the house and the senate in our campaign, it will only be one third of a campaign. Our political inactivity in 2010 has shown that the rabid right wing was ready and waiting to and has taken over the government, not to make it work, but to prove that they could force it into subjection. America as we know it is not only in question but that is the only question in the presidential election of 2012. This is not a time to talk about perfection or jobs, ad infinite. This is a time to say we will change the economy when we include the House and the Senate as well as the presidency in the government of the United States.

There must be a realignment that makes that a reality. As of this moment, we have the House of Representatives that are committed to making sure that the government does not work. The only beautiful thing about this is in November we decide this once and for all. So I’m calling on all of you to, through all of your skills, and the reason I’m calling upon all of you, those of you who have organized, is I do not have to explain to you the power of mobilizing, the power of empowerment. We changed our lives and changed the lives of millions. It is time for us to simply do what we know well and get into to motion to do some specific things: 1) re-elect President Obama president of the United States; 2) assist the Democratic Party in taking control of the House and the Senate; and 3) establish a nationwide hookup to serve several ends. We should support the movie now being developed about Fannie Lou Hamer, and also support Thunder of Freedom, a great book by Sue (Lorenzi) Sojourner and Cheryl Reitan about Holmes County. This book tells the story of Holmes County, it tells the story of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. It also tells the one classic story of the Freedom Democratic Party and the NAACP working successfully together in Mississippi.

The story of true American heroes: Hartman Turnbow, Ralthus Hayes, Mrs. Carnegie, Walter Bruce, is told. What we begin to understand is that is necessary for us to use this history. To make sure that we spread the word as wide as possible, such materials have to be integrated in the history curriculum of the nation’s education system.

One other major area of concentration would be the promotion and selling of the SNCC tapes of the 50th Anniversary events and programs. With the exception of the Anti-Saloon League, there is no organization in American Political History that was as successful and had as much as of an impact on the American culture and on the bringing in of the powerless into political empowerment as has the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I joined with them in helping write that history. I vouch for it. I will not join with them in helping re-write it. But, I do want the materials circulated, because I think it is the best organizing, mobilizing tool we have.

I hope that all of you will understand that this newsletter is your newsletter. I am joined by three great Americans in help making this newsletter possible, myself, Margaret Kibbee, Irvin Davis (of SETF). We’re an indispensable team, and we’re of equal rank, but we like this newsletter because this newsletter exists to empower people. This is not about entertainment, this is not about advertisement, this is about how do we galvanize people that we know to be organizers to do what they do best and that’s organize. Now if you have any questions about any of these activities email Margaret Kibbee at margaretkibbee@ymail.com, email Irvin Davis at idavis@setvision.org, or call Lawrence Guyot at 202-332-5157.

Fannie Lou Hamer deserves our uncompromising support; Holmes County is just as deserving. Let’s stop waiting on other people to promote and buy books written about our history that we can use to make sure our history is replicated and that our history doesn’t simply sit on a shelf but these books become part of the body politic of the great country of the United States of America. Reading is a political act, especially when you have a rich body of literature which captures the organization history and the empowerment of the people who wrote it. In this history, we found ourselves and found each other and together created a different world. We must accept responsibility for passing on this collective information to as many people as possible, creating and developing organizers to organizing for action and not have them sit on the sidelines doing nothing. I ask all of you to join with me in what may be our final fight.

We must remember that in 1972 the Republican Party proposed canceling the congressional elections. Who knows what happens if we make the terrible mistake of losing the presidency, the house, and the senate in 2012. The reason I speak so grimly is I believe what the Republican Party has said it plans to do. I trust that they are about delivering an awful lot of pain to as many Americans as possible. I trust that their interest is that of the very very wealthy.

I look forward to this battle. I am glad to have lived long enough to be in it because I personally feel that everything I’ve ever done was prepatory to the fight we’re in now. This is the fight to save and redefine the greatest country on earth, the United States of America. Join with me and to those of you who would implore you to be tempted to accept perfection over what is possible tell them not yet, not now, maybe never. God bless each and every one of you, let’s get to work! on.

Lawrence Guyot — September 2012 (202) 332-5157

Copyright © 2012, Lawrence Guyot

 

 

On Romney’s visit with Pastor Billy Graham: Making the Right Move

October 18, 2012

I am continuously amazed at the boldness, and arrogance of “non-believers” towards God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Even as they live and breathe, experience miracles daily, witness blessings bestowed on the faithful, and even the undeserving.

Still, despite their own unbelief they have no explanations for their own existence; they cannot explain the wonders of nature, the expansive universe, miraculous healings, gravity, the tides, the wings of a humming bird, the transition of Caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly, divine intervention in cases where all seems lost.

All the while, the non-believers very existence is in fact the greatest proof of the existence of God, his unfailing grace and mercy.

At one point in my own journey I still marveled at the nerve of the unbelievers whenever I encountered them; their cynicism, boldness, fearlessness in their belief in their own power, their ability challenge the existence of God, the gift of his “only begotten son’s” blood for the remission of sin in lieu of endless blood sacrifices of animals to receive absolution.

I often pondered, perhaps it is their disdain for “the law” handed down through Moses, which once God concluded was too difficult for man to keep, he replaced with “Plan B” “GRACE” which was made available to “all” who simply believe in “the gift of his son’s life as restitution, and God’s unfailing grace and mercy. He then chose a former “non-believer” Paul to deliver the message to “non – believers” and “believers” alike.

I applaud Mr. Romney for his visit with Pastor Graham, and thank Pastor Graham whose revival messages I first listened to as child growing up in a racist, hate filled environment in the delta of Mississippi during the ’50s, and ’60s on a tiny radio.

In fact, one of the main reasons I became involved in the civil rights movement despite the entrenched racism I experienced daily. I lived across the street from J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant in Ruleville, MS after they killed 14 year old Emmett Till in Money, MS and moved next door to me and my grand mom and grand dad on the corner of highway 49w and Weber Street.

My epiphany came when, I finally got to see Pastor Graham on television, and watching him it occurred to me that if this “white man” Billy Graham could love my people (Black people) and offer them the same opportunity to experience salvation as he did the “white” people who flocked to his big tent revivals, and streamed down front to received “salvation, forgiveness for sin, and membership in the “body of Christ at the end of his services; I could help Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advance his non-violent efforts to bring about change and harmony between Black and White peoples.

Like it or not, knowledge of the Mormon faith will grow exponentially as a result of Mr. Romney’s campaign, and the young male missionaries who go “door to door” much like Mr. Romney once did will experience more doors and hearts being opened compared to what was the reality before campaign 2012. In fact, two approached me recently while I was out working on my yard, and for the first time I actually listened, and held a conversation with them “believer to believer”, only then did I discover that a new couple who moved in next door to me are in fact also “Mormon”, Go figure!

It is my firm belief that the greater benefit from the meeting will come for those who find fault in the Mormon faith because they understand so little about it, and “non-believers” who will ultimately benefit from the combined resources these faith communities provide to “believers” and “non-believers” in need across the nation and the world.

https://www.facebook.com/john.m.wesley.3

September 9, 2012

https://www.facebook.com/john.m.wesley.3

What Maryland’s Governor O’Malley Couldn’t Say

September 9, 2012
So Governor O’Malley is still getting grief for his answer to the question “are we better off now than we were four years ago?”
 
The correct answer was in fact “yes” and “no.” O’Malley just started with the “no” (the only answer a sitting governor can give especially when he is head of the national governors association, and is considering a future run for national office in a climate such as this.
 
What he could not say was “no” because the obstructionists seized the opportunity immediately after Obama’s election to nullify the enthusiasm and climate of consent for his success; some (Democrats) because they were too weak to act while they were still in control of congress, and others (Republicans) because they were determined to make sure he failed at all costs.
 
The other half of his correct answer to the question (“yes”) is true and appropriate also not just because Osama Bin Laden is dead, and the nation averted a financial disaster due to Obama’s leadership during the years immediately after he was elected, but we as a nation know so much more now about the choices we must make regarding the obstructionists on both sides of the isle if we are going to “move forward” in 2012, and the years ahead.
 
O’Malley couldn’t/can’t say that either because to do so would endanger his relationship with Republican governors many of whom are supported by the same individual donors, corporations and PACS who support the congressional obstructionists.
 
Add to this the fact that the experience over the past four years has (most importantly) empowered the individual voter like no other time in the nation’s history and the winning margin in this election could equal size of the population of an average city. But then O’Malley couldn’t say that either.

“Romney has “0” support among African Americans !?”: Don’t believe the hype

August 23, 2012

 

Having grown up in the south, there was a time I never believed there were African American men who believe in ideas espoused by the likes of Herman Cain, or Allen West, or Artur Davis. Now don’t get me wrong; I do not dislike the brothers I simply was not aware of the depth of such loyalty to the ultra-right faction of the Republican agenda.

To this day I remember my first “conscious” encounter with this particular Black Republican “mindset”. I was host of a radio show in Baltimore (1986-1989) and I had heard of a young Republican brother named Allen Keys who was working either for the State Department, or the United Nations and I invited him on my show to talk about some issue I now can’t recall. I was amazed at his point of view and how different it was from mine. And, yes some of my best (Black) friends were then, and are now Republican.  I haven’t heard from him lately, but he is till out there.

Fortunately most Black Republicans I know are in the “moderate” wing of the party, or what is left of it. They remain “fossils” from the good old days of Maryland’s Dr. Aris T. Allen, J. Glen Beale, Charles “Mac” Mathias, and men like Sen. Ed Brooke, and Sen. Bob Dole. I even voted for one Republican ticket in Maryland that of Robert Ehrlich, and Michael Steele, although I never considered joining the party.  I was “disgruntled” over the Democratic candidate for Governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy’s missed opportunity to choose an African American running mate; an opportunity seized by the Maryland Republican Party which chose Steele, the same year. 

It is very dangerous to assume that Mr. Romney has little or no support from African Americans. Don’t believe the hype. Just because the Republican Party lost the White House to the Democrats in 2008, they still are a powerful political organization, even in a fractured state. How else could they generate $1 Billion dollars to wage the current “fight to the finish” to win in November?

Many of the Republican Party’s elite are business owners with long standing positive relationships in business and otherwise with African Americans, and Hispanics; much of it is “on the down-low”. Given the present political climate there is no need for this group of Black voters to speak up, or “come out” now. In fact, I can’t blame them.  After all, they need only show up at the polls on Election Day, step behind the curtain and speak with their vote. 

They are the new “Silent Minority” who will suddenly in this upcoming close election play a pivotal role in electing the next president of the United States. This election will be a “toss up” when their votes are added to those of independents, and disgruntled Black Democrats like Mr. Artur Davis who made a nomination speech for candidate Obama in 2008, and who will be addressing the Republican convention next week in Miami. Some are “opportunist” who jumped ship after 2008 and for various reasons and joined the “opposition” because they fell out of favor with president Obama, or because they became convinced their “audience potential” had more collateral value with the “Tea Party” which is their right.
So, get that surprised look off your face Black America, because there are more African Americans caught in this dilemma than we know. After all, there are only two choices with chances of winning in November, either Obama, or Romney, there are rumblings among African American voters about “sitting this one out”, there are real and imagined voter suppression efforts afoot, and much less enthusiasm for candidate Obama this time than in 2008.

Therefore, I suggest Democrats ignore the hype/notion that Mr. Romney “has “0” support among African Americans”, and encourage organizations and the institutions controlled by African Americans, (such as out faith communities, fraternities, sororities, minority business organizations, etc.) to:

1.   Organize as “hubs” and pool resources to form “carpools” to guarantee rides to the polls on Election Day for any voter in need of a ride. And,

2. In states where there are new voting rules, to work with The League of Women Voters locally to educate the public about how to read ballots, and how to secure the needed credentials to avoid being denied the opportunity to vote.

America’s non-partisan cunundrum

August 7, 2012
 
The shooter in Wisconsin’s actions and life style indicate he is a “willing host” to a negative spirit. It fueled his hatred for others he assumed were his enemies. By contrast the shooter responsible for the massacre in Colorado was an “unwilling host” seeking help with his promptings. He “telegraphed” as much to his doctor in person, and in information discovered after the incident.Both men purchased and possessed guns legally.

The Wisconsin shooter also “telegraphed” (via his choice of friends, conversations, music and lifestyle) his willingness to be such a host. Either mindset (host) with a weapon legal or otherwise is a danger to society. Neither are necessarily “bad people”, but both were no match for their indwelling negative spirits. Therefore, America has two choices when it comes to dealing with such individuals; to identify, isolate, and eliminate them (the hosts,) or reduce their access to weapons via sensible legislation. This is America’s  non-partisan cunundrum.