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we are presently without a vocabulary needed to sustain or establish

 a protest movement . . . the student activists, in Baltimore at least, aren't

really political, as i see, but they know they are being screwed



Moratorium on School Closings in Baltimore

Supporters & Non-Supporters 


Rodney: This is the list of Baltimore city council people and Baltimore City state assembly representatives and their position on the demanded moratorium on school closings, that is, to allow 12 more months until a decision is made. The Baltimore Education Advocates (BEA) which is a coalition of advocacy groups, published the attached list and presented it at today's rally. Again, the demands also include:

1. Mayor and City Council commit $50 million from city funds to reduce class size.
2. Governor and General Assembly comply with court orders by sending $800 million+ for city schools.
3. Governor, General Assembly, and Baltimore City guarantee $200 million annually for five years to repair and renovate school buildings in Baltimore.
4. $100 million dollars from the General Assembly this year as an emergency allocation for school repairs in Baltimore

Many of the politicians that are in the failure to endorse category, gave "no response," as to clarify, though I at least recall Lisa Gladden and James Kraft as definite "no." As usual, the numbers weren't as high as one would hope. There were some parents in attendance, but very few. Many of the older speakers acknowledged this absence; in fact, one might say it was one of the themes. One speaker went so far as to ask the parents of Baltimore, "Where is your grace and dignity?" Such is the case.

Supporting a Moratorium on School Closings

Until Funding & Planning Are Adequate


Sen. Joan Carter Conway (Submitting Senate Bill for Moratorium

Sen. George Della

Del. Jill Carter (Submitting House Bill for Moratorium)

Del. Clarence Davis

Del. Marshall Goodwin

Del. Keith Haynes

Del. Brian McHale

Del. Nathaniel Oaks

Del. Jeffrey Paige
Del. Catherine Pugh (Submitting House Bill for $100 million school construction)

Council Members Support

          Mary Pat Clarke (Submitting Resolution for More City Education Founding)

          Ken Harris, Sr. (Submitting Resolution for More City Education Founding)

          Helen Holton

          Paula Johnson

          Keiffer Mitchell

          Bernard Young


           Andre Bundley (Mayor)

           Mary Washington (43rd District)

           Ed Boyd (governor, Green Party)

Failing to Endorse a Moratorium on School Closings

Mayor Martin O’Malley

City Council President Sheila Dixon


Sen. Lisa Gladden

Sen. Ralph Hughes

Sen. Verna Jones

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden

Del. Talmadge Branch

Del. Ann Marie Doory

Del. Peter Hammen

Del. Hattie Harrison

Del. Ruth Kirk

Del. Carolyn Krysiak

Del. Salima Siler Marriott

Del. Samuel Roseberg


Council Members

          Stephanie Rawlings Blake

          Belinda Conaway

          Robert Curran

          Nicholas D’Adamo

          James Kraft

          Edward Reisinger

          Rikki Spector

          Agnes Welch

Rodney: One thing that I've noticed by both observation and in my direct contact and interaction with the Baltimore education and youth activists, is that it is a disproportionately white, middle-class led fight. The school district is something like 90 percent black, and as such, one might think that the current efforts might be led primarily by black faces. And I mean as far as parents and adults, of course the student activists are majority black. At these protests and demonstrations and the like, one sees the same adult population dominating the scene: white folk with graying or grayed hair or balding heads.

This is something that I think the black activists either wish not to acknowledge or fail to notice. I find it both troubling and curious that the same black parents that speak of the ignorance and evil of white people fail to show up to these important events. After all, yesterday's protest began at about 4:30, not in the middle of the day, when most parents are working. The expectation was that, by having the event later, more parents would show. But in fact, there were less people in attendance than in previous events. And this was one of the themes at yesterday's rally, a plea to the parents and adults of Baltimore.

The parents who did show up seemed to take this as a personal slight, "Well, I'm here." But they are missing the point. 10 or 15 parents amount to little, especially when one considers that 85,000 students are in the Baltimore City school system. I don't make it my cause to denigrate parents, but the numbers at these rallies have been disappointing. The politicians and the whole of the adult population (with some exception of course) are failing their children.  

Jonathan: i read rod's account of life in the trenches of the protest movement in baltimore. it is much the same here in nyc.

at the risk of sounding like a fatalist, there are moments of awakening and moments of slumber. the passion of protest and social democratic reform is always in those who have been raised in families which have keep this duboisian tradition alive. because in the u.s., there is really only the duboisian traditioneverything else is artificial and borrowed from other traditions, i.e. european trade unionism, the trotskyists, the maoists, the fidelistas.

some people might object and say that the christian transcendentalists such as emerson and thoreau represent an original american social democratic tradition, but this tradition is marginal, not mainstream.

the mainstream social justice tradition in the u.s. is duboisian.

racial apartheid in our public schools, which is worse today than it's ever been, has had the consequence of completely eradicating the duboisian tradition from the consciousness of at least two generations of americans. why is there no nation-wide protest movement against racial apartheid today? because there is no theory of racial apartheid, and without a theory of racial apartheid, there can be no movement against it.

in my experience, which is similar to rod's, the barricades today are thinly populated because people have no cognition of the problem. dubois's writings were the foundation of the civil rights movement: they guided action.

i'm not saying that all we have to do is read dubois and everything will fall into place, but if you study the successful protest movements of the last 100 years, you see that without studying lenin, there is no movement against czarism and imperialism in russia; without studying josé martí, there is no cuban revolution; without studying dubois, there is no civil rights movement; without studying fanon, there is no revolutionary nationalist awakening in the decolonizing world; without studying sandino, there is no sandinista movement in nicaragua. all successful protest movements have a coherent theory of social change.

one of the biggest problems today is that people do not have the vocabulary they need to organize and sustain a protest movement. in the 50s and 60s in the u.s., this vocabulary of resistance and social change came from dubois.

i know rod has been advocating this for several years, but there is an urgent need right now for study groups that do nothing but read and reread duboisa think tank. we have to always resist reinventing the wheel, and also resist the tendency to reflexively organize street protests, which are labor-intensive, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous and demoralizing, without first having a theory or a language of social change. if we don't have one, people will quickly drop out of protest movements and never return.

Rodney: Jon, thanks for your insights. you mention social democratic reform and families. in Baltimore, it appears that the ideals of social democratic action, whether informed by close study of Du Bois or otherwise, resides in a select few families. and these families know each other, they are in many ways their own "clique" as it were. expanding the passion of protest and social democratic reform to a mass of families is a great challenge today.

I've all but given up with the adults of Baltimore. i mean this as no blanket condemnation. we have very, very committed individuals like rudy, amin, floyd, and others. but most of these people carry over from the protest sentiments of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. as jon has suggested, two generations of Americans have essentially been removed from the dubosian tradition, as jon puts it. to be honest, the past two generations (at least) don't seem to engage much with what jon terms as artificial and borrowed traditions, either.

rudy recently forwarded me a piece called, i think it was "keeping our kids stupid" which mentions the miseducation in the social sciences that kids are receiving. people are always talking about the maths and hard sciences, but we seem to ignore the depravity of critical social science education. this concerns me just as much, if not more so, than math and the hard sciences. 

we are presently without a vocabulary needed to sustain or establish a protest movement, as jon suggests. the student activists, in baltimore at least, aren't really political, as i see, but they know they are being screwed. there is a difference. they haven't engaged with BAM or Du Bois or Hughes, much less Fanon, or anyone else. marx is an enemy as far as the textbooks go. they don't really have an understanding of power relations and systems. what they say is from their heart, and i dont mean to discredit this, but appeals to conscience or morality traditionally have failed. there needs to be a birthing of the political in these young people, a raising of consciousness that is above frustrations and anguish.

jay gillen, who directs baltimore algebra project, informed me of his efforts to establish a group that would tutor baltimore students in the social sciences. these tutors would be college and college-aged, politically informed individuals. the group would be two-fold: 1) it would give young activist-scholars an economic base and 2) it would promote political & critical thinking amongst the city youth. this has the makings of the sort of study group jon speaks of. it would allow these baltimore youth to engage Du Bois and others in a way that is not allowed in the schools. i dont' believe du bois was EVER mentioned in 12 years of my time in public school; thank god for my grandfather and my mother. this would be a positive step. i myself may begin teaching an american government and politics course for a group of church-goers in West Baltimore. we shall see. every bit helps i suppose.  

Floyd: Comrades, what well-stated positions!  As I check out the Latino marches in California and other western parts of the US regarding the immigration issue, I think what I see is a people who has decided to make history once again.  They sense the power of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  They sense the movement of history.

I may sound cynical.  For more than 10 or 15 years, most Black people across this country have given up on struggle.  Whether it is because of lack of reading progressive theory, or resentment, or fear, or indifference, something has happened to Black people.  Black suffering continues to be at record levels; Blacks are incarcerated way out of proportion to our population; the level of Black educational preparedness in public schools is abhorrent; police continue to kill Black folks at will. 

Yet, Black people largely are silent.  On university campuses across the nation, Black students seem indifferent to the burning issues of today.  Black Student Unions seem so much like fraternities or sororitiessocial clubs, if you will.  As a former BSU president (UCLA, 1968), I am absolutely appalled at what I see at Johns Hopkins U. 

Moreover, the so-called advisors to the BSU there know absolutely nothing about the dynamics and mission of a BSU.  In short, for more than ten years, I have watched Black folks capitulate more and more to white anti-Black racism.  I am afraid that, for some time to come, progressive struggle will not come from within the ranks of Black communities in the US.  I sincerely hope that I am wrong.

On Tuesday, March 28, the Center for Africana Studies will present a talk by Dr. Joy Williamson, assistant professor of education at Stanford U.  She will discuss the Black Student movement at the U of IL in the 1960s and 1970s.  Her book, Black Power on Campus: The U of IL, 1965-1975, is must reading.  The symposium will take place in the Greenhouse, room 110.  Come join us; it's free.  Perhaps we will learn how to revive and resurrect Black students, and even Black communities. Study and struggle.

Rodney: my grandfather constantly reminds me that white supremacy is on the rise not because more white folk are becoming white supremacist, but because blacks and other minorities have become increasingly accustomed to and complacent with it.

at my age, i've only known of the Black silence that Floyd speaks of, which he suggests has occurred over the past 10 to 15 years. i think it interesting that my generation has to seek inspiration from figures & movements of the early and mid 20th century. i don't mean to suggest that those figures are passé or no longer  worthy of our appreciation and respect, but that few inspirational figures or movements have been birthed within my lifetime. this has a lot to do with Jon's assertion that two generations of Americans have been removed from the ideals of protest, and perhaps Mosley's assertion that the Civil Rights generation dropped the ball in its attempt to hand it to succeeding generations. but i'm not about finger pointing and hindsight is hindsight.

black student unions, at least from my personal experience, do seem to have de-emphasized protest and the political, and seem to resemble social clubs. everyone has probably read the NY Times article, "Plight Deepens for Black Men." i've received the article several times over. it only reinforces what we already know, all the things that Floyd is talking about, excessive incarceration rates and horrid educational systems and the like. but these issues, in the main, don't seem to register on the radar of your typical bsu. too much thought is put into promoting dances and parties and invitationals. there is the token volunteer project as well. and i don't mean to denigrate black student unions, but i believe that protest and politics have been removed. you'll find individual black student activists on campus, but they usually aren't associated with a bsu. i've given thought of founding a truly progressive, black political organization at UMBC, but i'm not sure if I could sustain its membership. we shall see. i'm not sure how many students might be attracted to my politics.

i think that Floyd has every reason to be cynical. i try not to be. in fact, i think i've become more hopeful within the last year or so. my grandfather thinks that i'll do a complete 180 10 or 20 years from now, that i'll tire of it all, fighting against the grain. he hopes this won't be the case; i don't think that it will be.

i think i'll attend tuesday's symposium at JHU. there is a school board meeting at 5:00, so i'm a bit conflicted. but i am interested in learning how to "revive and resurrect Black students," as Floyd terms it.

Rodney, I don't have the mental or emotional energy right now to enter into this discussion at length.  I've been reading all of the various comments and, of course, have my opinions.  I'm trying to play catch-up on a lot of things and I'm concentrating on a book project.

Two points, very briefly:

     1.  Your recent message about the absence of Black parents and adults at the protests just underscores my long-standing position that many of the problems that beset our community stem from parents--for whatever reasons:  poverty, lack of education, over- or under-work, etc.--who are not really "raising" their children, and we, as a community, must find some way to support them in that essential task of raising responsible adults.  You and Jonathan have noted that in your own families it was the mothers, grandparents, whoever, who instilled certain values and beliefs in you that kids nowadays are not getting.

     2.  I am not a Duboisian scholar, as is Jonathan, who maintains that his (WEB's) sociopolitical philosophy is the only new, creative thinking in this country (I can't remember exactly how Jonathan phrased it).  But even Du Bois drew upon a number of social, economic, and philosophic traditions (Marxism, socialism, Jamesianism, economic cooperativeness, panafricanism, African communalism, etc.) in developing his ideas, and, furthermore, his positions shifted over his long lifetime.  I'm not taking issue with Jonathan, because political theory is not my forte, but I think that, as with everything else, what we have in this country is basically a synthesis of so many divergent belief systems that it's hard to isolate one out as dominant or unique.

Rodney: i just came from a Du Bois event at the Enoch Pratt library; Dr. David Levering Lewis gave a lecture for the Du Bois Circle. it was one of two events that i attended this past weekend that featured a far higher turnout than friday's rally. those at the Du Bois event today were, by and large, older persons. i told my girlfriend, who accompanied me to the event, that i certainly didn't expect these older persons to have braved the weather on friday, but that their children should have been in full force.

saturday i attended a wonderful spoken word performance event, which was packed. some of the performers were actually teachers in the public schools. there were student performers as well. when the students performed, one could see the sort of talent and potential that is under attack by urban public education. during the performance, there was a "rap" session, in which the audience discussed the contemporary plight of the underprivileged and the black community specifically.

the audience expressed concern regarding the state of education, as a few in the audience were educators. it would be nice to turn this passion and awareness into action. that is, it would be nice to see those who turn out to these performances and express concern for the youth come out to protest and organize and raise their own political thinking and the like.

I am sorry that I was unable to join this discussion on a "white-led fight" and the lack of black parents and adults joining in the 24th March 2006 protest on the closing of schools. I feel greatly your frustration and know that you have a great concern that the quality of education is sustained  and improved in Baltimore. In this, I think you are preaching to the choir, so to speak. Yet I am uncertain that I would move to any definitive conclusions about the lack of 'black faces" at the Rally.

In a previous report, you said that the Rally at City Hall was led by students, primarily from the Baltimore Algebra Project. That was a week ago. For the 24th March Rally you now tell me that it was led  by "white folk with graying or grayed hair or balding heads."

What happened to the student-led protest? was the question I asked when I received the 24th March leaflet, especially when I saw at the bottom of the page under the Demands the following organizational names:

Baltimore NAACP / Baltimore Council of PTAs / Baltimore Algebra Project / Advocates for Children and Youth / Children First / Maryland Education Coalition / Baltimore Education Advocate / Douglass Alumni Association / League of Women Voters / Citywide Coalition / Generation for Peace and Democracy / All People's Congress

Though I am not familiar with these organizations, on the surface it is an impressive list. My suspicion when I saw the list was that the sincere and righteous energies of indignation of the students had been coopted by professional advocates and politicos.

The Demands as I understand it  included :

1. Mayor and City Council commit $50 million from city funds to reduce class size.
2. Governor and General Assembly comply with court orders by sending $800 million+ for city schools.
3. Governor, General Assembly, and Baltimore City guarantee $200 million annually for five years to repair and renovate school buildings in Baltimore.
4. $100 million dollars from the General Assembly this year as an emergency allocation for school repairs in Baltimore

There were about 20 politicians as a result of the rallies who signed onto the Demands and about an equal number who did not sign onto the Moratorium on School Closings. Thus, on the surface, at least, the Rally was a victory, however partial. And thus the student strikers have been sent back to their classrooms, seemingly, with a righteous win. For they have placed the education issues back into the capable hands of professional politicians. So all is calm on the Western Front, at least, at City Hall, except maybe charges of political corruption.

The question arises, how would additional "black faces" at the Rally have made a difference. What could have been accomplished that was not accomplished by the lack of these absent "black faces"? Is it thus just a matter of show?

I am always uneasy when there is an accusatory view taken toward black parents, especially working class parents. I saw this knack taken by the Rev. Jesse Jackson when he was drumming up money for his Operation Push, on his way to becoming a millionaire. Here is one of his pithy statements: "In the schools, stop giving the kids report cards and start making the parents come in and pick them up — at night." Elsewhere the future black presidential candidate said in a newsworthy comment cheered on by the white conservatives of the time: "Arrogant, undisciplined students more concerned with looks than books, under the slack leadership of teachers and administrators who don't demand enough of students and their parents." Both of these statements were reported in Max Rafferty's column, "Right on Rev. Jackson" (The News American, 14 August 1976).

More recently, however, we have had Jacksonisms translated into Cosbyisms. Read Jonathan's essay  If White America Had a Bill Cosby  

So when it comes to the lack of black participation in protest rallies, especially "white led" protests, I am not altogether surprised. There has been since the mid-70s a disparagement of the folk by black middle-class political leaders and their ilk. As I said, I am not familiar with all the organizations that endorsed the Rally demands, though a few stand out.

Certainly, the Baltimore NAACP and the Douglass Alumni Association are not white organizations or white-led organizations. Of course, they may have the corporate and political money backers One wonders too where were the alumni associations of Western and City. They are fairly well-funded and fairly active and powerful, politically connected. These seem to be more pertinent questions than a complaint and charge about the apathy of black working class parents, who have been lambasted by the well-heeled for three decades.

The lack of black and community folks at the rally may be the result that this Rally was indeed organized by whites. Well, this is not a racialist response. I say this only because I do not expect whites to come down into the community and organize black parents to attend a protest. Where were the black alumni of City and Western? Where was the Baltimore NAACP?

But I have little or no knowledge what indeed was done in organizing this Rally. I have plenty of questions, nevertheless. The obvious question is why the Baltimore NAACP played such a minor role. It seems to be following rather than leading. What backing did they provide the student protesters. We have the national office right here in Baltimore and I assume the national officers. I saw them on the Image Awards on Fox TV and they talked liked they were to go out and do something.

To persuade black parents to come to the Rally, what was indeed done? What sacrifices did these leaders make to get black parents out on the streets? Or did they think this education matter could be solved in the backrooms with expensive cigars and brandy? Did anyone leaflet the community? Were leaflets passed out at City when parents picked up their kids? Did anyone pass out leaflets at the shopping centers Mondawmin and other malls, Lafayette, Lexington, and  other markets? Were there attempts to contact Local 1199 which has 5,000 workers in hospitals and nursing homes, including Hopkins, Sinai, and MD General. Were the college student organizations contacted. Were there attempts to organize community forums on the education crises taking place within the city? Was there a telephone bank used to make calls to encourage people to come out to challenge the City Council?

Allow me to answer my own questions: NO! NO! NO! NO! Was this whole business of a Rally a political charade? Seems likely.

Why? Possibly ignorance about community and political organizing. Well, par for course is political elitism, isn't it? For once you set the folks into motion, you got something dangerous. Isn't the game afoot to play safe, go through the motions?  How about the lack of vision, and the lack of clarity of what really needs to be done to solve the major educational issues in Baltimore? How about fear of stepping on the toes of our favorite black politicians? How about the lack of a coherent black leadership on quality education in Baltimore City?

So instead of looking down with criticism on working class parents, I recommend that you first direct your criticism upward. Those "black faces" at whom you have directed your criticism, like me, have no trust in the present leadership, either those elected or those who endorsed the Demands.  Until the people gain some trust of these black leaders and organizations, you will continue to see an absence of "black faces." Folks are tired of being sold down the river by so-called black leaders.

Miriam: Rudy, you have raised some very valid questions in connection with the paucity of Black adults at the protest demonstrations, but (1) it is absolutely essential that a Black presence be visible at such demonstrations to underscore the fact that these issues are important to our community, and (2) we must not continue to make excuses (and play the blame game of bashing the Black middle class leadership) for the lack of participation in protest activities by poor and working-class adults, particularly since those are the people who are most affected by unemployment, poor housing, inadequate education, lack of health care, etc. 

If you look at our history since the Civil War, the Black underclass, historically, has been actively involved in all progressive movements, from the strike of Black women washerwomen in Atlanta in the 1870s, to the Black hospital workers in Charleston & Baltimore, to the Black sanitation workers in Memphis in the 1960s.  We cannot let anyone off the hook, and making excuses for people is not going to solve any problems. 

As Floyd so eloquently pointed out, Latinosmost of whom are poor as well as undocumented (and, therefore, have a LOT to lose)took to the streets in massive numbers over the immigration issue.  The French students, as well as the French Muslims several months agomost of whom are poor and unemployed--did not wait for some else to take up their banner;  they, too, took to the streets in huge numbers. 

Rudy: But the Mexicans had organization. Leaders and people willing to make sacrifices. They marched from Mexico into California. The issues were clear and immediate. US government policies would  make them criminals and their priests would be made criminals. Moreover they had the Catholic Church behind them. The Archbishop in California issued what amounted to an edict of defiance to his priests. Are the educational issues really clear in this Moratorium Rally. Does the public see it as an immediate danger? Were the parents organized broadly to stand up to government policies?

Where were the super black churches (Bethel, New Shiloh, New Psalmist) and the super black preachers, like Frank Reed, Harold Carter, and Walter Thomas? Did they need manila envelopes and the promise of ties of big checks to get them out their churches? Let us ask where were such big shots about town? Aren't the parents of our children in such churches? Why weren't these preachers who love MLK out there ready like Christ with their congregations to sacrifice their all for black quality education? None of these fat cats with their expensive cars took steps towards City Hall for quality black education in Baltimore.

Here we have no comparison with the Mexicans and the Catholic Church. Black preachers prefer their congregants ignorant and blind to the real issues of their lives. They selling heaven, pimping Jesus. What we have here are oranges and pork chops. I am not blaming. I am looking at the facts on the ground. Moreover, it was not I who pointed out the lack of black leadership at the Rally.

Sharif: Rod, Peace! There is a reason for the school struggle being white led. It is not obvious to most Black parents what they can do about the situation. When we closed the school  system form Malcolm X's birthday. It was after an intense political education program. We went to places like Lexington Market and the projects off of Edmonson and Fremont Aves and spoke with parents of students. We brought in poor and working class students from Morgan. This is how I met lifelong friends such as Rudy and Keith Shortridge. You can not think that working class parents will automatically take up any causeTHEY MUST BE EDUCATED TO DO SO! And, this is where my generation has failed yours.

There were at least ten or twenty brothers and sisters in the community that I could go to back then to advise me on how to bring my issue before the community. Everyone from Lawyer Larry Gibson to a guys who owned bars in the community were there to help me. I could go anywhere in Baltimore and find someone to help me. You do not have the luxury of such support.

So deep were our roots in the community that while working at the SOUL SCHOOL-a black nationalist organization, I was often brought food and given money to sustain myself. I was  bailed out of jail and my legal fees paid by people I never knew. There was no other time in my life that I felt so connected, protected, and loved by our people. And, I stood ready to do what was ever needed to organize them to face whatever problems that we faced as a people. Rod, there must exist a reciprocal energy between any cause and the people. Your students have not recognized this as yet.

Understand that the forces that are leading the struggle now are not organizers. They are advocates. And there lies the difference. Organizers want the people to use their power to solve their own problems. Advocates are more into negotiating for the masses themselvesand they sometimes advocate for issues that the masses have no interest in. Advocating is nothing more than a kind of lobbying. Social change will never come through lobbying unless it has the force of masses behind it. Unless, these students are taught to engage the greater communityorganize the greater communitythey will see their energies dissipate. Unless, they learn how to organize I fear that there cause will be lost.

Miriam: But, Rudy, I do think that you & Amin tend to romanticize the poor & working class, while you demonize the Black middle class.  There are criminals, degenerates, and corrupt folk as well as hard-working, well-meaning, and honest people in all classes.  We must avoid these broad, hurtful generalizations. 

Rodney:  Amin & Rudy, as usual, your comments were both sobering and insightful. I'll try my best to address many of your poignant points.

First, I didn't mean to suggest that the students had a diminished role in this most recent rally. They still did a lot of heavy lifting, as I see it. I only meant that the adult population that attended the rally was disproportionately white and aging. I know that the student activists from Poly and City distributed leaflets to both parents and students, and were in fact threatened with expulsion for doing so, though school administrators deny this charge. But these efforts were not limited to Poly and City. Kids from Digital Harbor, Northwestern, and the new, "smaller" schools also did a great deal of work. They ought to be applauded.

As I understand it, most of the organizations listed on the list have been supportive of the Baltimore Algebra Project student activists since it was disclosed in 2004 that the school system was suffering from a $58 million deficit, if not earlier. Of course, Amin is right to say that these groups are advocates and not organizers. Amin is also right to say that these students must be taught to organize, or else their efforts will be for nothing.

My question, I suppose, is who might provide this education? Amin suggests that his generation failed mine in its inability or failure to educate in this respect. I don't like pointing fingers, but Amin is probably right. As it is, these kids and "older" persons like myself are doing what we can without any sort of guidance, that is, we are self-taught and this is problematic. i think that we youth activists, at least the ones i know, myself included, are aware of our shortcomings in organizing work. but we weren't taught, we aren't being taught, and there is no example to model. 

i will concede that the organizing done was not great. but the heaviest of it was performed by inexperienced high school students.  so yes, we do suffer from "ignorance about community and political organizing," not because of age necessarily, but because of a lack of proper education. so, any criticisms of the organizing effort are fair and welcome. we need to improve, no doubt. as it is, i'm just throwing up ideas and hoping some things might stick. the kids are pretty much alone in this. they are not gonna turn down help from the advocates, who are likely political elite, as Rudy suggests. but it is not as though others are knocking down the doors of these youth, reaching out with a helping hand.

I too am not about accusing black, working class parents. that is where i come from. but the youth don't have this luxury. they are charging the adults with apathy and indifference. they assault both the political misleadership and adults more generally in their powerful spoken word performances and poetry. perhaps this is unfair to black working class parents. but it is also a reality of the youth. they don't much care that "folks are tired of being sold down he river by so-called black leaders." they just want support.

so, in this regard it is not just a "matter of show" in regards to black faces showing up to these events. it is unlikely that more black faces would have made a difference politically. but i'm not sure that is what the students care for. what they want is support. black faces not showing up sends a message to these kids that they are not being supported by adults. don't take my word for it: ask them. they say so defiantly with their art and in their speeches. i think it fair to suggest that the youth are tired of being misled or misguided by so-called adults.

Rudy, i respect your recommendations that I direct my criticisms upward to the present leadership. but, i think it would be a mistake to suggest that I and the student-activists aren't already doing so. there is enough criticism to go around, including self-criticism. I also don't have trust in the present leadership. i've voiced my criticisms directly at the present leadership several times over the last few years, in the form of letters, phone calls and protest. i've never published anything that takes an accusatory tone towards black parents; in fact, i've defended them as much as possible from such attacks. 

i'm trying not to be cynical or pessimistic. all the youth see are adults (whether political misleaders or black working class parents) as not caring, not showing support. this is certainly demoralizing and i don't know what can be done to console them. amin fears that the cause of the student activists will be lost. i share his concern. but more importantly, i fear that the student activists and their peers will be lost as a result of political misleadership and general indifference.

That said, everything the two of you said has been taken to heart and i thank you. Peace.

Floyd: "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, betray it or fulfill it." Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

As a critical assessment of my earlier comments about today's Black generation of youth, it needs to be said that there really is no social movement today that would perhaps inspire younger and older Black people to struggle for social change--at local or national levels.  Today, even though social conditions are horrendous, there is no credible Black leadership that inspires our people to be courageous and competent in the face of social injustice.

In the 1960s, we had the civil rights movement as a example of liberal social protest.  To be sure, Black Power advocates chose a more aggressive approach; we made certain demands on the system (at universities, etc.) and we refused to submit to white violence without counter violence.  We accomplished much; yet, we also had some failures. 

For instance, I really thought that Black Studies was going to find its way into the American educational curriculum, from elementary school to doctoral studies.  I knew there would be hard-line resistance, but I thought we would continue to push even harder.  It seemed that Black people were reading, studying, and struggling for social change on the basis of this kind of intellectual work.  "Study and struggle" was a motto for many of us. 

At UCLA, I constantly said to our BSU members that we could not be student revolutionaries if we flunked out of college.  No, we were not revolutionaries, but some of us thought we were (youthful bravado, smile).  We were reading all the revolutionary literature we could find: Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Dostoevsky, etc.  This also encouraged me to read Nietzsche and theories of anarchy.  We also were reading Pan Africanists like Jomo Kenyatta, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, C. L. R. James.  Black Nationalist literature was profuse: Du Bois, Martin Delaney, and even Frederick Douglass. 

We read about the Harlem Renaissance, and we read those who criticized this intellectual project, like Richard Wright.  In addition to the civil rights movement there was the anti-colonial struggle in Africa taking place.  Hence, Frantz Fanon became important to read.  I remember ordering a copy of his book during my junior year at North Carolina Central University.  I was overwhelmed by this book.  It became my handbook.  We thought that we could put into practice what we read.  That's why we made non-negotiable demands; we thought we could enforce them, too!  Many of us refused to compromise on principle! 

We read Harold Cruse's Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.  I read it in grad school two weeks before final exams; I couldn't put the book down.  Even though I thought a good part of his argument was skewed, Cruse taught me critical analysis.  Yes, the Black Power movement was decidedly male chauvinist--in what we read and in our social practice.  Today's generation needs to learn from our limitations.  Today's young people also have a mission; what is required is its discovery and fulfillment.

So, Rodney, there is nothing wrong with your generation studying the advances and limitations of earlier civil rights and Black Power movements.  That is as it should be.  The issue, as Jon rightly suggests, is that we need to read, read, read, study, study, and study!  We are not doing this today.  Pragmatism has taken over serious thinking, analysis, and struggle.  In my judgment, so many folks just make judgments based upon "personalist" and "presentist" notions; this method learns nothing from history and plans nothing for the future.  It represents "here and now" thinking.  Indeed, our social relations also seem to be based not upon intrinsic elements and values, but upon using some means to achieve an end.  Just do what works!  But there are no principles in that way of thinking and acting in the world.

Serious reading, thinking, analysis, and study needs to be employed by today's younger generations so that they can become more attentive to national and world affairs.  However, I see very little incentive or encouragement for this to occur.  So many Black folks merely are trying to survive in an American society that has grown indifferent and insensitive to people's suffering.  Poverty, lack of education, imprisonment, and police murder no longer seem to encourage mass resentment, anger, and outrage. 

Moreover, not enough of us pay attention to the aggressive ignorance of the Bush regime of war criminals.  Not enough pay sufficient attention to the manner in which these criminals have put not only Americans, but also the world at risk of  barbarism and human destruction.  Without any knowledge of Iraq, and based upon lies to America and the world, Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq.  As family and community life was disrupted, museums destroyed, and an unstable occupation implemented, the US military increasingly has found itself involved in an Iraqi quagmire.  It is a war that the US cannot and will not win. 

Indeed, America's imperial imagination in Iraq has left that land in civil war.  Look for so-called Iraqi allies to turn on the occupying American military.  Do you realize that the unilateral invasion of Iraq by the Bush junta constituted a violation of a mid-17th century treaty that recognized state sovereigntythe Treaty of Westphalia?  Bush should have been impeached before the Republicans were able to steal the 2004 election! 

Yes, we all need to read more in this historical moment.  Perhaps it would result in more outrage against both local and community problems and international trends and developments set in motion by the Bush gang of international criminals. Study and struggle.

posted 28 March 2006

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