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John Conyers was not sent to DC for twenty-two terms so the young folks would have somebody

black to look up to.  He was sent there to carry the political will of black and progressive Detroit,

of black and progressive America to the halls of power



Rev. Lennox Yearwood and the Hip Hop Caucus

to Congressman Conyers:  "It's Time To Impeach"

 By Bruce Dixon


On July 23, four hundred people showed up at the office of Detroit Congressman John Conyers.  They demanded that as chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee he initiate impeachment proceedings against Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez and others.  They delivered to his office a petition with one million signatures demanding impeachment.  After conferring briefly with a few of them, including former CIA agent Ray McGovern, congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan, and the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the of the National Hip Hop Caucus, Conyers announced that despite his prior public statements, impeachment would remain “off the table.”  The demonstrators sang, prayed, and sat down in the congressional office, refusing to move. Forty-five of them were arrested

Since then, Larry Pinkney over at Black Commentator, our former home on the internet, has penned two consecutive columns of junk political science and wacky analysis in defense of the Congressman from Detroit.  In the first, Pinkney displays his tenuous grasp of current public opinion and procedure on impeachment:

“It should be clearly understood that no politician, Democrat or Republican, can, if the overwhelming majority of the masses actively demand it, put the issue of impeachment off or on the table."

Wrong.  Impeachment is not a revolution.  It's a legal process, one that a majority of the American people favor, if available polling data is to be believed.  But as long as the officials with the legal power to push that paper refuse to carry out the popular will, nothing will happen.  Nada.  And right now the two procedural roadblocks to impeachment, the two people with the most say in the matter are Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman John Conyers.  They and only they can begin the legal process which might result in a takedown of the most lawless administration in US history.  And they won’t.

Pinkney also labels David Swanson "arrogant" and "racist" for no other evident reasons than his whiteness and his public disagreement with Conyers on the issue of impeachment.  In a follow-up column the next week, misleadingly labeled an "Impeachment Strategy Debate," Pinkney repeats his weak, but alarming defense of the Detroit congressman: 

Black youth, have far too few publicly known and respected progressive Black men and women as it is; publicly attacking Rep. Conyers was ill conceived, unnecessary, and divisive . . . he . . . has only one vote. To have publicly targeted him and not the other Committee members . . . was... 'tactically and strategically incorrect.' Whether intended or not, it gave the distinct impression of active white racism.

Whoa.  It’s wrong for black folks to put Conyers on the spot because there are too few known and respected black progressives?  Committee chairmen are just another vote?  And whites who publicly disagree with Conyers are pretty much automatically racist?   Brother Pinkney is probably a smart guy, but what he’s saying is dumb and dangerous.

John Conyers was not sent to DC for twenty-two terms so the young folks would have somebody black to look up to.  He was sent there to carry the political will of black and progressive Detroit, of black and progressive America to the halls of power, whether the powerful were ready to hear it or not.  Indisputably, over forty years in Congress Conyers has served ably and well.  But everybody knows Congressional power is based on seniority.  His constituents re-elected him twenty-one times in the hope that with seniority he would gain the power to someday act decisively on their behalf.  This is the season when that bill has finally come due.  The phone is ringing now, and the collection folks are at the door.  And sadly, John Conyers is ducking and hiding. 

To be fair, this does not erase any of the great work Conyers has done over forty years.  Neither do those good works excuse what looks for all the world like a betrayal of the congressman’s own words, a contravention of his black and progressive constituents’ clearly expressed will on the issue of impeachment.  No constituency is as heavily in favor of impeachment as Black America, and Detroit is arguably the blackest big city in the nation.  This should be the high point of Conyers' career

Furthermore, despite what Mr. Pinkney at Black Commentator would have us believe, pointing these facts out, if you’re white, does not make you a racist.  That’s a cowardly, baseless and craven defense of what is otherwise indefensible.  And it seems to be the only card in Brother Pinkney’s deck.  We wonder if Pinkney thinks the Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the HipHop Caucus, a predominantly black organization, who took part in and was arrested at Conyers’ office is racist too?

For what it’s worth, Pinkney has some white company --- white guys ready to co-sign the notion that any public disagreement with African Americans automagically makes them racist.  Check out Mark Solomon in Portside:

…a statement by a prominent leader of the protest that Conyers "is no Martin Luther King" is racist. As many have noted, that statement is a crude reflection of the historic practice of empowered whites to arrogantly select and define Black leadership. By linking Conyers to King, the impeachment controversy was framed in racist terms -- terms that insulted both Conyers and King. The statement by another protest leader that Conyers "betrayed the American people" is more subtle in its negative implications, but perhaps no less racist. It reflects a historic posture of dominant white entitlement in commanding prescribed behavior from African Americans.

Here’s a news flash.  John Conyers really is NOT Martin Luther King.  Think about it.  One is a living elected official, the other a leader of a broadly based popular movement martyred forty years ago.  One passes legislation and leads election campaigns.  The other led often illegal boycotts, demonstrations and marches of all kinds.  The elections that one of these guys engages in are time-limited, decorous legal exercises bound by centuries of custom and regulated by libraries of case law, statute, administrative regulation and lots of corporate cash.  The political mass movement that the other was part of existed outside and often in defiance of the law, and like any mass movement continued until some of its objectives were achieved, some of its the leaders betrayed their followers, and until the balance of social forces which gave birth to it changed.

I feel the need to say that again.  John Conyers has been an exemplary congressman up till now.  But he is not now and never was a Martin Luther King.  For that matter, if Martin Luther King had been elected to the US Congress, he wouldn’t be Martin Luther King either.

It's high time we, as African American progressives, stopped confusing elected officials with movement leaders, and conflating our voter registration drives and electoral campaigns with mass movements like the historic Freedom Movement of the fifties, sixties and early seventies.  They just aren't the same thing, and participation in neither one buys you a pass from criticism.  Dr. King took his lumps from all sides.  As a former member of the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Africa back in the day as his bio says, Pinkney almost certainly co-signed some radical critiques of Dr. King's life and work.  How can he tell us now that Congressman Conyers is beyond principled criticism?

Conyers himself has on many occasions told audiences that it's up to all of us to hold him accountable, that it's up to us to write him, to fax him, to email him, to buttonhole and to visit him and let him know what he'd better do --- just like every other elected official.  We should take John at his word.  That's what Rev. Lennox Yearwood, the Hip Hop Caucus and the 400 demonstrators at Conyers' door last month were doing.  And it's what we all must continue to do. As Yearwood said:

The Hip Hop community and the Hip Hop Caucus are making a visible stand for impeachment.  We invite Congressman Conyers to come back home, and to rejoin his constituents and long-time supporters on this vital issue. 

We urge everybody with access to a phone, an email account or a fax machine to call Chairman Conyers at (202) 225-5126.  Tell him that thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced after Katrina were enough.  It's time to impeach.  Email him at This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it and tell him that illegal wars and war crimes are enough.  It's time to impeach.  Bush-Cheney might even give us a new war in the months they have left.  Fax Chairman Conyers at (202) 225-0072.  Tell him this is why we sent him to Washington, this is why Democrats were elected to Congress.  Tell John Conyers that his place in history is waiting, and so are those of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez.  It's time to send them there.

We at BAR think that Rev. Yearwood has it about right.  This is the time to put the heat on John Conyers.  Even our political giants sometimes have little clay feet which must be held firmly to the fire until they turn into something more solid. "As people of color, and in the spirit of our ancestors, we refuse to become the path of least resistance for the Bush administration, for the democratic establishment, and for the status quo," concluded Rev. Yearwood.

We stand up for justice in the 21st century, and we need our brothers and sisters to join us in the struggle for impeachment.  For our generation this is our lunch-counter moment.  This is not about black or white, it is about right or wrong.  We will not sit down on this, and we will not shut up.  It's time for Congressman Conyers to step up, and it's time to impeach.

The HipHop Caucus and the HipHop Institute  can be reached on the web at 

Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report.  Email him at 

Source: Black Agenda Report

posted 15 August 2007

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Impeachment Controversy

To mention MLK's "moral courage" one expects one to go up rather than down. One does not expect, then, support  or a restatement of Bill Fletcher and the Black Commentator's position on Impeachment, which is primarily the position of the DP hacks. The excuse or argument of these DP conservatives is that there is something more important than the impeachment of the President for his "crimes" (which are readily acknowledged by their research and study), namely, the passing of needed legislation and that legislation is much more feasible than "ousting" the president.

Here is what is likely: neither worthwhile legislation will be passed by this Congress or the next; nor will the Congress exercise its sworn right to uphold the Constitution. These are cynical times indeed. You may think it is "crass" of me to suggest that Pelosi and her Posse are more concerned about winning the White House than Justice. If it is crass to state such a position, it is one derived from an observation of party politics and seems to be well-grounded on the values that the DP expresses and upholds. It seems to be much crasser to know of “crimes” and do nothing.

It is true that I am neither a party faithful nor a supporter of John Conyers in whatever he does. To attack Sheehan because of her whiteness, and to accuse other white liberals as racist because they sought to pressure Conyers and the DP to do their duty, seem to me rather over the top. One then is relegated to hatchet men for the Party. There is nothing noble in such roles. Conyers in his choice (or his Party's choice) betrays what is right for what is expedient and in this he and his party lack "moral courage."

They are sworn to do what is clearly right, that is, exercising their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. If it was right for Conyers to initiate proceedings of impeachment when the Republicans held the Congressional agenda; it is just as right now when the DPers now hold power. In these matters, Conyers is a moral coward, a party hack, a pansy for cynical politics.

When Conyers stalls in doing his duty he is no MLK, nor is he acting as a "black leader" but rather as a party faithful, operating under the discipline of Pelosi and her Posse. When he behaves cynically he is not deserving of loyalty or special consideration because of his color or past deeds. He should not be mentioned in the same breath as MLK.—Rudy

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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