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It is a cruel hoax that those on the margins of society should derive vicarious pleasure from

the image of a black First Family, no matter how compelling, when their material

condition continues to decline. Racial pride cannot be a substitute for the material

benefits—food, clothing, shelter—and dignity that come from struggle.



What Ails the Black Body Politic

 Challenges to Movement Building

By James Thindwa


The direction the Obama administration takes in the next two years depends in part on the sources of popular pressure. A key question to consider is: Can Black America, experiencing newfound pride in the first black president—and scared to death of Republicans!—challenge a Democratic Party in the grip of neoliberal orthodoxy?

It is a tragic irony of our time that those who suffer the most are the least politically agitated. This disjuncture is evident in the uncritical support President Obama receives from large swaths of the black body politic. Polls show that 9 in 10 African Americans approve of the president’s job performance, compared to 40 percent of white Democrats.

Measured against indices of economic well-being, black support for the president seems incongruous, even counterintuitive. Black unemployment is a staggering 16.1 percent. Home foreclosures will consume between 71 and 122 billion dollars from black communities. Homelessness has increased dramatically, with disproportionate impact on black adults and children.

This grim reality is mocked by historically high corporate profits, skyrocketing CEO compensation, and renewed corporate mergers and acquisitions, thanks to government bailouts. Juxtaposed with administration concessions to the right—tax giveaways to the wealthiest, a health bill stripped of its redeeming progressive elements, freeze on federal employee pay, moratorium on Social Security tax, unending wars, and expansion of the national security state—such a status quo should provoke anxiety, not approval.

To be sure, there is sympathy for the president across the board, with 71 percent of the electorate still blaming G.W. Bush for the economic crisis. Also, Obama inherited an economy in crisis, and has endured scurrilous, often racially charged torment from the right. And certainly, other progressive forces have been too willing to compromise—witness defeat of the Dream Act and collapse of comprehensive immigration, a watered down health reform bill, unrelenting wars, and failure of climate legislation.

The question of black political engagement must be raised because it is indispensable to the movement-building necessary for a real progressive alternative. Throughout history, African Americans have been a critical part of dissent, advocacy and protest, and translating it into public policy.

In the current environment, that tradition faces a challenge. There is resistance to criticizing the president. Black writer Ishmael Reed portrays white, liberal and left critics of Obama as affluent, racially insensitive and “out of touch” with Obama’s base of blacks and Latinos. The New York Times columnist Charles Blow berates the “far left” for “foaming at the mouth” over the 2010 budget compromise, with its dramatic tax giveaways to the rich and its threat to Social Security. In These Times columnist Salim Muwakkil recalls a caller to his radio show who mocks Obama's critics as fair-weather friends who abandoned Obama “when it got tough.”

There are black dissenting voices who feel stifled. CNN commentator Roland Martin describes fissures in the “complex relationship” between black leadership and President Obama. Martin recalls how black leaders were angered by Obama’s failure to seriously consider black women for the Supreme Court. But the leaders, he says, avoid direct criticism and aim at “those around the president” fearing they will be “cut off from the administration” or face community backlash.

Last July, seven prominent civil rights organizations announced their opposition to President Obama’s “Race to the Top,” citing the education plan’s overreliance on “competitive funding and hand-picking winners.” But that critique has since evaporated. Word has it that the White House quickly pressured these errant civil rights leaders to tow the line.

It is worth noting that the black electorate similarly indulged Bill Clinton, whose carefully managed stagecraft convinced many he was one of them. Though the racial dynamics were different, the results were just as tragic, as Clinton almost singlehandedly repositioned the Democratic Party to the right. That shift effectively jettisoned the party’s historical commitment to social and economic egalitarianism.

Indeed, Clinton ushered in the era when Democrats would pay only lip service to labor rights, promote “free trade” deals that flout human rights, environmental and labor standards to the disadvantage of American workers, impose neoliberal “welfare reform” that further marginalized the poor, champion financial deregulation—such as collapse of Glass-Steagall—that gave way to the current financial crisis, enact crime legislation that catalyzed the prison boom, and ratify American imperial adventurism. For their loyalty, black people saw a Democratic Party in flight from core progressive principles.

“Black people saw a Democratic Party in flight from core progressive principles.”

To be sure, then, as now, key Democratic Party constituent groups opposed the party’s rightward slide. The minority caucuses, for example, opposed Nafta, “welfare reform” and other Clinton policies they deemed insufficiently progressive, if not regressive. Many caucus members have expressed misgivings about President Obama’s concessions to the GOP on health care reform, extension of Bush-era tax cuts, moratorium on Social Security tax and freezing of federal workers’ pay, his lackluster support for progressive immigration reform, and the escalation in Afghanistan. And earlier in the term, they criticized, albeit in measured fashion, the president’s choice of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner as economic advisers, and the retention of Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chair.

Other black leaders and opinion makers, including writer-educator Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert and veteran civil rights activist Harry Belafonte have also criticized the president for policies weighted toward Wall Street. Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford warned during the 2008 election that Obama was a “corporate politician” not committed to a progressive agenda. Television host Tavis Smiley has criticized “Race to the Top” and warned that education “is not a race but a right” [emphasis added]. Invoking how Frederick Douglass relentlessly pressured Lincoln to free the slaves, Smiley is challenging black Americans to “…push Obama to address issues important to them.” Great presidents are not born, he says, “Great presidents are made.”

When scholar-activist Cornel West told NPR he had “second thoughts” about President Obama and questioned his “obsession” with Wall Street, he said Obama “talked to me like I was a cub scout and he was the pack master.” West laments that too many black folk are too “well-adjusted to Obama's presidency” and worries they might be “well-adjusted to injustice.” He is flabbergasted that the president does not talk about “the new Jim Crow, the prison-industrial complex.”

Thus, a critique of the left’s opposition to Obama focused on white critics, though pertinent at times, belies a long history of broad, multiracial opposition to conservative tendencies within the Democratic Party. The party’s flight from progressive values—not racial insensitivity—drives much of the left’s criticism of President of Obama. Surely Reed and others are not suggesting the president’s black and Latino critics are racially insensitive!

But surely, there is a way for African Americans to celebrate the momentous symbolism of Obama’s presidency and still honor the rich tradition of protest and agitation that has enriched this country’s social, economic and political life. By inhibiting criticism, Obama’ defenders insinuate a false choice that damages that tradition. But even more troubling, they ignore serious shortcomings in the way Obama has governed: his team of top economic advisors does not include blacks or progressives; Guantanamo is still open for business, and extraordinary rendition is alive and well; an official policy of impunity has shielded Bush-era crimes from investigation (contrast that with FBI raids against antiwar demonstrators or WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange); the White House is lukewarm toward any gun control, even in the aftermath of Arizona tragedy; now Obama is reviewing the role of regulations in stifling job creation—a standard canard of the right.

Then there is the reluctance to acknowledge and talk about the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on African Americans. But the statistics are so overwhelming they speak for themselves. If he is uncomfortable with a race-specific discourse, the president could still make case for targeted action based on the unimpeachable economic data.

At critical moments, Obama has failed to capitalize on the mandate of 2008 to stand up to the GOP and drum up public support for his policies. To the dismay of progressives and others who had hoped for a real fight against an increasingly radical and marginal Republican Party, Obama resorted to the same backdoor horse trading that has turned off so many voters. Instead of rallying voters in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Nebraska to get their senators to stop opposing the public option, Obama obliged the obstructionist lawmakers and showered them with gifts.

As if that was not enough, the president turned his sights on Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat who held out on principle against his health plan. An ardent champion of single payer or Medicare-for-all type program, the congressman opposed the plan because it did not include a public option. But Kucinich caved after Obama held a huge rally in his district and urged the crowd to support his health care plan. Having arrived at the rally on Air Force One as the president’s guest, how could Kucinich resist? If the president could go to such lengths to strong- arm Kucinich, why couldn’t he similarly target those defiant Blue Dog Democrats. It is obvious the president knows how to use his bully pulpit. Sadly, he uses it against the wrong targets—progressive critics.

Instead of believing that a more progressive vision is achievable, too many of Obama’s black defenders are accepting limitations. They will not question the wisdom of a president making an ideologically consequential budget deal without consulting his own party’s elected representatives. They will not question why Obama failed to strong arm recalcitrant legislators by rallying their constituents. Nor will they question why a crucial policy debate was subjected to last minute, end-of-year brinkmanship.

The right is disingenuous when it labels Obama “elitist” But it is arrogant for any president to declare exclusive knowledge of the parameters of a public policy debate, based on his observations. But, question we must. Blacks, who are disproportionately affected by regressive tax policy, must hold Obama accountable for his capitulation to corporate rightwing interests at their expense. Now, how will Democrats let Bush-era tax cuts and the freeze on Social Security taxes expire in 2012—a presidential election year?! How will they overcome the predictable charge of “Democrats want to raise your taxes?”

The issue of Bush-era tax cuts is more than just a short-term political debate. Tax policy sits on the ideological fault line between progressive and conservative political philosophy, and cuts to the core of what Democrats should stand for. Compromising on it not only cedes ground on a core principle, but it also gives legitimacy to a discredited “trickle down” economic theory. The verdict on that theory—what George Bush Sr. famously derided as “voodoo economics”—has been rendered. George W. Bush’s massive tax cuts yielded a meager 1 million jobs. By contrast, in one of its redeeming accomplishments, the Clinton administration created 22.5 million jobs after raising taxes.

In this moment, it is worth recalling Martin Luther King’s declaration of the “Poor People’s Campaign: "We are going to bring the tired, the poor… those who have known long years of hurt and demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty.”

King was going to Washington to demand a reorientation of the nation’s priorities towards jobs and economic justice. Today, he would be outraged by the obscene wealth divide, chronic joblessness, homelessness, endless wars and bloated military budgets, racism, and alienation of undocumented immigrants. And he would certainly wonder how, in such an environment, anyone would discourage protest.

Thirty years of conservative dogma—regressive taxation, privatization, deregulation, unbridled free trade, deficit fundamentalism, assault on labor unions, frayed social safety net, environmental roll back, hyper-incarceration, and imperial adventurism—have taken a toll, and urgent action is needed. Rather than spend time defending “the most powerful office in the world” victims of economic injustice—and those who purport to care about them—should be fighting for social and economic redress.

It is a cruel hoax that those on the margins of society should derive vicarious pleasure from the image of a black First Family, no matter how compelling, when their material condition continues to decline. Racial pride cannot be a substitute for the material benefits—food, clothing, shelter—and dignity that come from struggle. As King said, "If a man doesn't have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists."

Progressive critics of President Obama are following a rich tradition of challenging authority championed by King and others. Like King, they should not let anything—not racial solidarity, fear of the rightwing, or the administration’s self-preservation interests—stand in the way of the hell-raising, marching and organizing needed to transform our world for the better.

The stakes are simply too high

Source: BlackAgendaReport

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Bill Moyers Interviews with James Thindwa

Bill Moyers: Organizing is James Thindwa's mission in life, what he considers his calling. Thindwa's been at it for nearly thirty years. Organizing takes him all over townthe South Side, the West Wide, City Hall, any place where working people are fighting to get ahead.  Thindwa heads Chicago's Jobs with Justice, one of over 40 coalitions nationwide, largely funded by labor unions and allied with religious organizations, veterans and other community groups. Here he is at the Teamster's hall, with steel workers, pipe fitters, brick layers, even musicians, planning a rally. . . .

He was in the thick of things recently when local factory workers stood up to a deadbeat employer. The company they worked for, Republic Windows and Doors, suddenly announced it was closing up shop and leaving town. By law, Republic's unionized employees were entitled to 60 days notice and some parting benefits. Instead, the owners gave them three days notice and cut off their health insurance. The angry workers took over their factory. Backed by their union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America or U.E., they called it a "peaceful occupation" and announced they wouldn't budge until the company did right by them. . . .

James Thindwa first saw the power of organizing when he was growing up in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. . . . Thindwa won a scholarship to Kentucky's Berea College and went on to a master's degree at Miami University in Ohio, protesting as a student against the Ku Klux Klan and apartheid in South Africa. Soon he moved to Chicago, where he advocated for senior citizens before joining Jobs with Justice. These days he's deeply involved in organized labor's campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, EFCA, now pending in Congress. He says the billsimplifying how workers can sign up for a unionwill do more than anything to strengthen their collective voice in the workplace. Union organizing can be a tough sell, even among workers Thindwa thinks it would help. When he came to America as a student, his classmates equated unions with the notorious Jimmy Hoffa, the mob and corruption.

Now he's making the case that in hard times workers need to stand together more than ever. Over 100 thousand people have lost their jobs in Chicago over the past year. Around town, long lines of people look for work, and Thindwa says a destructive spiral is gathering momentum. . . .  Then . . .Thindwa was taken aback when civil rights hero Andrew Young rode into town on Wal-Mart's side. Young had been with Martin Luther King when King was assassinated after marching with striking sanitation workers in Memphis, and had gone on to become mayor of Atlanta, three-term congressman, and ambassador to the United Nations. Now the world's largest discount store had hired him to head a group called Working Families for Wal-Mart, funded by the company and its suppliers. Young's argument was that Wal-Mart's low-paying jobs could put working people on a path up the economic ladder. 

James Thindwa Speaks

I'm a community organizer because I believe that people need a voice. They need to have institutions that speak for them. . . .  Institutions through which their own concerns, their grievances, their interests, can be represented. . . .

Lobbying for Working People

You know, you take folks who live in communities on the South Side of Chicago, West Side of Chicago. Your average person is getting up every day to go to work, and to care for a family, doesn't have a lobbyist in Washington. They don't have a lobbyist in the city council. They don't have a lobbyist at the state legislature. The community organization gathers facts for them. They call meetings. They invite people to come. They invite elected officials to come, attend those meetings, so that they can listen to the community's grievance. It makes for participation. It creates opportunity for individuals to participate in the political process who otherwise might not have the wherewithal to show up at City Hall, or to show up at the doorsteps of Congress to agitate and organize. . . .

Struggle with Republic Windows and Doors

We were going to use Republic Windows as an example.

That if you're thinking about walking away from workers, you know, walking away from your obligation to pay workers wages and their benefits, and that you're going to have a fight on your hands. That we're going to bring the entire communitythe wrath of the community was going to come and express itself. Chicago is a union town. And we like to say that here. And so we drew a line in the sand and said- it was snowing outside, we drew a line in the snow, and said that you can't do this in Chicago. . . .

The Republic Windows and Doors struggle here was so momentous, was such an important event, that we don't want to lose that momentum. We really think that this is a story that needs to be told. So Jobs with Justice has mountedhas launched a tour of the workers, to take them around the country to speak to groups, speak to union members and speak to community people. . . . 

Family Influence

Activism, I think, is in my DNA. I don't know too many people who grow up in Zimbabwe or any of those countries that have experienced the, sort of, the rough-and-tumble of our racial politics who emerge out of it without being politically conscious.

This is me, James [pointing to a family portrait]. This is my twin brother, Geoffrey. This is my dad. My dad was born in the country of Malawi and he actually migrated to Zimbabwe. My parents, you could say, they were clearly middle class by African standards. They just were very serious people, well read. They loved to read, and they taught us how to take education seriously. . . .

Federal Laws Against Labor

Right now the environment for workers is very, very difficult. Workers are facing intimidation when they try to join unions. One out of five workers in the United States is fired for trying to organize a union. . . .  There are rallies planned right here in Chicago. And across the country, Jobs with Justice is collecting cards intended to demonstrate the public support for the Employee Free Choice Act. It's a card that says, "I, as a resident of this country, am in favor of passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and I want Congress to move quickly to pass that law." 

I just found this hostility, this antipathy, towards unions. I think what I've tried to, when pushing back in these debates, was to say, "Fine. Certain leaders are corrupt. But you're not suggesting that unions are not relevant in society, are you?" And then so we'd have the debate about the importance of having a counter-weight to what I think clearly has been growing corporate power that really conspired for a long time to demonize and undermine unions. . . .

Work and Education

Last July in 2008 in July, 62 young African-American men were shot dead in their neighborhoods. Now the media can just dismiss this as the acts of individuals who just want to be bad people. But we know, as Julius Wilson has writtenthe sociologist from Harvardhas written that much of this social instability can be linked to disappearing work. What you're seeing right now are parents who are working, oftentimes, two, three jobs at the minimum wage. One of the consequences is that they're going to be less and less invested in their kids. Not because they're bad parents, but because they've got to get out and work. And someone has to care for those kids. And who's going to do that? They're going to be out on the streets most of the time, and ending up in trouble. So those are some of the connections that we try to make. That the question of good wages, decent wages for workers, isn't just a question of economic justice, isn't just a question of fairness for that worker, that it does have broad implications for social stability. . . .

Wal-Mart and a Living Wage

So there's this phenomenon across the country of Wal-Mart family members who are having to be subsidized by public dollars because they work for a corporation that refuses to pay them a decent wage and provide healthcare benefits. So we think that workers like that are kind of forgotten. They're forgotten because their employers have told everyone that they're part of a service sector, and that the service sector somehow doesn't matter. The service sector is inherently low wage. And what we're saying is, "No, we need to focus on them, because there're millions of these folks."

The opposition to the living wage was based on a couple of things they were saying. One of them was that if we passed a living wage ordinance in Chicago, that we're going to drive businesses away, the Wal-Mart would not build a store in Chicago. . . .

The second one was that when there is a job, and you're out of work, you don't have the luxury to pick, you don't have the luxury to choose. And so we had to convince people that, no, it wasn't just about a job. The job has to be dignified, has to have meaning, and furthermore, corporations don't have a right to exploit people in a neighborhood just because those people are desperate, just because they're vulnerable, just because they're jobless. And so the task for us was for us to go out and talk to our allies and to convince them, to give them a good reason why this was not an obstructionist proposal. But that in fact this is in the long-term interest of the city and of its communities. So it was a huge battle.

Opposition to Living Wage

His job [civil rights hero Andrew Young] was to go across the country rallying the troops, rallying clergy, community leaders, black leaders, to oppose what, in effect, is really a pay hike for workers. You know, in these cities when you're talking about workers with big box stores, you're talking about black workers, Latino workers. These are people of color who work in these stores. So there's very odd enterprise for him. But he came to Chicago and he sponsored a big clergy luncheon on the South Side of Chicago and invited some aldermen, invited clergy members and tried to convince them to oppose the living wage ordinance. . . . A few days after that, in fact, one of the pastors on the South Side of Chicago actually held a rally at his church. And a thousand people showed up. . . .

The opposition to the living wage became so intense that I can concede right now that I had these private moments of doubt. I really doubted whether we were going to pull this off. But we continued. We had done our job. We had we went out and talked to people. In fact- Jobs with Justice and some of the other organizations, we actually went door to door. We went out and talked to people on the West Side of Chicago about why we needed a living wage. Most people thought it's fair to ask to a corporation that makes $350 billion in sales every year, and makes a profit of $12.5 billion every year, to pay a living wage to the workers. . . .

And so we won. It was a huge victory for us. As a matter of fact, we were in the city counsel when the vote was taken and there was just jubilation. We just- we hugged each other. And just- everybody was just really, really happy. This is it, you know. We have won!

Living Wage Ordinance in Chicago

The interesting thing about the ordinance is that after the Mayor vetoed it, the public actually got to have the last word, because some of the aldermen in the African American community who voted against the ordinance were subsequently voted out of office. Activists just went out in the neighborhoods back into the wards and explained to people what happened, right? That you're sending an alderman to downtown to the city counsel to represent your interests. "Are your rents going up?" "Yes." "Are your utility rates going up?" "Yes." "Gas prices going up?" "Yes." "Well, your alderman voted against a pay raise for workers. What do you think about that?" And people decided that they were going to go out and vote them out of office. And so several aldermen are now unemployed as a result of that. . . .

Organizing Communities

I think, for many of us, we just get more and more motivated to get back on the street, to get back in these communities and organize people. Because we know that we're on the right side of this debate. We think people should get work. People should. It's good to get a job, but that job has to pay a decent wage.

Source: Bill Moyer’s Journal / 27 March  2009

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James Thindwa—Jobs with Justice

This interview was conducted by a fellow participant at the US Human Rights Network National conference in Chicago April 17th-20th, 2008. James Thindwa discusses the work of "Jobs with Justice.

Jobs with Justice engages workers and allies in campaigns to win justice in workplaces and in communities where working families live. JwJ was founded in 1987 with the vision of lifting up workers’ rights struggles as part of a larger campaign for economic and social justice. We believe in long-term multi-issue coalition building , grassroots base-building and organizing and strategic militant action as the foundation for building a grassroots movement, and we believe that by engaging a broad community of allies, we can win bigger victories. We reach working people through the organizations that represent them—unions, congregations, community organizations—and directly as JwJ activists. Nearly 100,000 people have signed the Jobs with Justice pledge to Be There at least five times a year for someone else’s struggle as well as their own.

In more than 40 cities in 25 states across the country, we are building coalitions of labor, religious, student and community organizations that are committed to each other for the long haul. Our campaigns make a difference for workers facing hostile bosses, knowing they are not alone in their struggle. At JwJ, solidarity is a two-way street: when communities come out for unions, they can expect unions to come out for them. Union victories are crucial, but they are not enough. We must maintain a strong commitment that our coalitions will weigh in on community fights.

In 2005, Jobs with Justice coalitions worked on 197 workplace justice campaigns affecting more than 243,400 workers. JwJ Coalitions supported more than 135,000 workers in 107 organizing and first contract campaigns, we denounced employer harassment of immigrant workers, and we resisted cost-shifting of health care benefits. Local coalitions also worked on 169 social justice campaigns on critical issues, supporting community organizations’ efforts to secure affordable housing and defend public services, and leading proactive campaigns that can only be won when we fight togethersuch as economic development policies, living wage ordinances, and statewide fights to win health care for all.

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Unequal Protection

The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

By Thom Hartmann

Corporations rule the world, claims Thom Hartmann, and they are despoiling it for profit. He traces the historical friction between individual rights and the corporation, culminating in a landmark 1886 court case that altered the course of constitutional protection forever. Since then corporations have steadily acquired power, shifted an unfair share of the tax burden, taken control of the media, and co-opted the regulatory process for their own purposes, according to Hartmann. Hartmann cites examples of the absurd and frightening power: sterile streams and undrinkable water, poisonous neighborhoods, deathtrap trucks for an extra $2 in profit. To end the abuses, Hartmann calls for a grassroots revolution. He says its time to understand the true costs of our consumerist society, take back the government, and shift to a values-based economy. Pre-drafted legal templates encourage individuals to begin work at the local level.—Rodale Books (October 4, 2002) 

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Amiri Baraka:”Resistance and The Arts” live interview at Boulder, CO


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The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music

By Amiri Baraka

For almost half a century, Amiri Baraka has ranked among the most important commentators on African American music and culture. In this brilliant assemblage of his writings on music, the first such collection in nearly twenty years, Baraka blends autobiography, history, musical analysis, and political commentary to recall the sounds, people, times, and places he's encountered. As in his earlier classics, Blues People and Black Music, Baraka offers essays on the famous—Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane—and on those whose names are known mainly by jazz aficionados—Alan Shorter, Jon Jang, and Malachi Thompson. Baraka's literary style, with its deep roots in poetry, makes palpable his love and respect for his jazz musician friends. His energy and enthusiasm show us again how much Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and the others he lovingly considers mattered. He brings home to us how music itself matters, and how musicians carry and extend that knowledge from generation to generation, providing us, their listeners, with a sense of meaning and belonging.—University of California Press

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Archival Documentary 1-2 The Black Power Mixtape

Scarred Justice: the Orangeburg Massacre 1968 (video)

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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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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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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posted 10 February 2010




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