Thursday, October 22, 2009

Million Man March Youth Speaker

Demitri Hester speaks in Memphis Sunday Oct. 18, 2009 ahead of the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan at the 14th anniversary observance of the Million Man March and Holy Day of Atonement 2009. Photos by Ansar Muhammad.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Long Live the Spirit of the Million Man March!

This photograph was taken at Mid Day. Notice the shadows in the foreground, the men standing on the West Steps of the U.S. Capitol. The shadows are perpendicular to the National Mall, cast by the Sun overhead in the South. The Sun is in this position, shortly after Noon at this time of year.
Notice also the people on the side streets, as well as people all the way back to the Washington Monument at 16th Street. This photo was taken several hours before The Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan spoke at approximately 6:00 p.m. at a time when tens of thousands of men were still arriving. Long Live the Spirit of the Million Man March!

John Brown's Body

If I had lived in the time of John Brown, I wonder what I would have done.
On Oct. 16, 1859 “Captain” John Brown, led a small column of men consisting of 16 Whites, three free Blacks, one freed slave and one fugitive slave on what was tactically an unsuccessful attack, but which hastened the onset of the Civil War, and the end of what was delicately referred to as America’s “Peculiar Institution.”
John Brown was a bold captain, a role model for Brother Malcolm X and militant North Carolina NAACP leader Robert Williams (author of Negroes With Guns, published in 1962), among others.
Just about 100 years before Bob Williams and Brother Malcolm first saw the light and struck out on their own courses to bring liberation to Black people in America, Capt. Brown led small groups of volunteers during the Bloody Kansas border war in 1856.
John Brown called for violent action in response to Southern, slaveholder aggression against the abolition movement. “These men are all talk,” Brown reportedly said of his contemporaries. “What we need is action - action!” He was no pacifist.
When his raiders launched his boldest attack on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia)—for which he is remembered, and canonized in songs and anthems—the first casualty, ironically was a Black man, a train baggage handler named Hayward Shepherd who challenged the liberators.
His plan was to strike that arsenal, liberate its weapons so he could arm a cadre of slaves, whom he believed would rise up and join his rebellion, in order to free themselves from the shackles of servitude slavery.
When word of the capture of the arsenal by Brown and his men reached Washington, President James Buchanan ordered a column of Marines led by none other than then Col. Robert E. Lee to put down the insurrection and restore federal authority.
Within three days the raid was put down and Brown was captured. He was tried in nearby Charles Town, and on found guilty of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. On Dec. 2, 1859 Capt. John Brown was hanged, an execution that was witnessed by none other than John Wilkes Booth, the actor, who five and a half years later assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
If you had lived in the time of John Brown and Robert E. Lee and John Wilkes Booth, which side would you have been on?
On Oct. 16, 1995, 136 years after the Harper’s Ferry Raid led by John Brown, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan convened the Million Man March. I was there, with 2 million other men! Thank Allah.
If you had lived in the time of John Brown and Robert E. Lee and John Wilkes Booth, which side would you have been on?
Long live the spirit of John Brown!
Long live the spirit of the Million Man March!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Edward Kennedy's Last Quorum Call

Where did they hide their tears? I wondered as I watched Senator Edward Moore Kennedy's family members assemble for a brief prayer outside the Senate chamber Aug. 29. It was to be his last Quorum Call at the place. He joined the ancestors on Aug. 25.
His family seemed so stoic now at the departure of the patriarch of one of America's most iconic political dynasties. It was, after all, their hurt, their loss, their father, their uncle whose remains were at the front of that long, long cortege.
Dozens in the audience who knew him only by reputation, wiped away tears or sobbed silently. How did his family members retain their composure? Where were their tears? Had they cried themselves out in private?
The sun dipped behind the Capitol Building before his body arrived. There were periods of sun, then the buttermilk sky looked like it might rain. Onlookers reminded one another that rain at a funeral was a good sign, from Heaven.
Like his martyred older brothers—President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy—Edward Kennedy earned a reputation as a champion of liberal and progressive causes, a defender of the downtrodden, a fierce advocate of Civil Rights legislation, and a supporter of universal health care for American citizens for more than 40 of his 46 years in the Senate. He was buried near his brothers in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On 83rd Birthday: Fidel Castro "Strong"

(Pictured L-R: IFCO co-founder The Rev. Lucius Walker, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, and IFCO's Ellen Bernstein and the Rev. Tom Smith, Havana July 31, 2009)

Cuban revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro “looks good,” is “strong,” is “taking care of himself,” and the Cuban people remain committed to “the revolution,” according to the founder of a New York based church group that opposes the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
“Because of the negative news in so many corners in the U.S. media, I didn’t know what to expect,” The Rev. Lucius Walker, Co-Founder of IFCO Pastors for Peace told The Final Call. “(Former President Fidel Castro) looks good! He has obviously gained weight, based on the images we saw two or three years ago.
“He’s strong, strong, handshake. Very alert mind. Just talking about a range of issues as always. He talked about his diet and his exercise regimen. So, he’s taking care of himself and he’s enjoying the opportunity to write and read and reflect,” the Rev. Walker continued, describing his July 31 meeting, which lasted several hours with Mr. Castro at a home near Havana.
The IFCO delegation also met with Cuban President Raul Castro on July 26, one of Cuba’s major national holidays. It is the date of the attack on the Moncada Barracks by a group of young revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro in 1953.
“He looked good, like he had gained weight, was sharp and articulate. I hadn't seen him for three or four years. He showed tremendous signs of recovery from a very serious illness.” The IFCO delegation was in Cuba to organize a 130-ton humanitarian aid shipment, the 20th organized by Pastors for Peace.
The Rev. Walker said he and Fidel Castro touched on health care, and U.S.-Cuba relations. “He spoke of the respect and appreciation he has for the president of the United States and has a recognition of the many responsibilities being faced by the Obama administration right now.”
During his delegation’s nine-day visit to Cuba, Pastors for Peace members fanned out to sample Cuban life. “The people across the country—we scattered, we went to three different provinces—and everywhere we went, people are with the revolution. It’s a major commitment. Old, young, and all in between,” the Rev. Walker said.
“So, the spirit of revolution among the people is undaunted, in our view. I was just, on every level impressed with the way things are moving forward."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dr. Ron Walters on race and Obama healthcare

“I don't think it has much to do with the health debate,” Dr. Ronald Walters, professor of political science at the University of Maryland told The Final Call. “What we see in the health debate is these town hall meetings have opened up the first opportunity the radical right has had to come back and mobilize against Barack Obama. So, when you look at what people are saying, some of it has to do with the broad outlines of all of his public policy.

“What we have to look at is this: It really is political opposition to Barack Obama. To that extent, some of it is racial. Some people are using racial slogans, and some are using party slogans. The two are mixed. Some of it has to do with race, there's no question about that. But I put this in the general category of their opposition to the fact that he's in the White House. Period,” Dr. Walters continued.

White, working-class voters have been organized by the right wing, according to Dr. Walters, and have been “egged-on by their leadership, to oppose everything that he's done,” even when it's against their own interests.

“The thing that the Republicans have had a tradition of doing, is mobilizing poor people against their own interests,” Dr. Walters said. “That's one of the amazing things to me that they have been able to do it. What it appears they're able to sell them, is a subtle version of White supremacy, which allows them to privilege that over any policy gains they might make.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Farrakhan: Michael Jackson's 'Prophetic Voice'

During these years in the Nation of Islam (more years than I’m ready to confess) this is the first time I recall sitting in the front row for a speech by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, or even a speech by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad! So I got to see and hear it all without obstruction! These pictures are what I could see. Not only was I seated on the front row, I was sitting directly in front of the speaker’s rostrum. How sweet it is.
These reactions were posted—via the miracle of modern technology—as Minister Farrakhan spoke.
Anxiously waiting to see and hear Min. Louis Farrakhan speak on "Cruxifiction of Michael Jackson" at Mosque Maryam in Chicago. I’m sitting next to fellow journalists Herb Boyd, Bill Reed, George Curry, and Brian Muhammad.
Sisters singing tribute to Michael Jackson, thrilling! It was almost too good to be a religious service. But then again, what would choirs of angels look and sound like anyway?
The shouts, the cheers, of the faithful--Bearing Witness to The Truth--adds an exciting element to Min. Farrakhan's lecture. Teach us! Wake us up! what a live and living show this is. Min. Farrakhan's subject: "Crucifixtion of Michael Jackson." Why compare MJ to crucifixion of Jesus, Min. asked.
Before Michael Jackson, others crucified included Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, W.E.B. DBois, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad. Min. Farrakhan is firing on all 8 cylinders!
"Michael Jackson was a warrior!"
“Outside appearance of MJ went from Black to White, inside MJ went from White to Black,” the Minister said. WOW!
MJ did not sing "Man in the Mirror" at Million Man Mach, but donated $100,000.
Pres Obama's "blackness" came out concerning Skip Gates.
Michael Jackson had a prophetic voice, so does Barack Obama: Louis Farrakhan said.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Nation of Islam welcome

The South Loop Chicago Hotel in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood is one of the Windy City's newest fine hotels. It is owned by a Black man, who appreciates the patronage of the Nation of Islam and does not run from it, the way far too many African American businesses too often do. That is a refreshing sign.

Great Day in Farrakhan's Chicago

The Star and Crescent sign at the Salaam Restaurant, stands out against a buttermilk sky. A great feat of engineering facing one of the countless great feats of Nature. God is Great.

Monday, May 11, 2009

On charity, Lessons from a Mother of The Faithful

It is said there are Five Pillars of Islam: Shahada, the profession of belief in the One God (Allah) and His Messenger (Muhammad); Salah, prayer; Zakat, charity; Fasting during Ramadan; and Hajj, the Pilgrimage to Mecca.
When I accepted the Teaching of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, we had a wonderful Secretary at Muhammad Mosque No. 26 in San Francisco.
Brother Harold 2X would always teach us on Charity. “Charity is second only to Prayer,” Brother Harold would say again and again. Charity is second only to Prayer.
That means that Charity is a very important part of being a true Muslim and that the only thing more important than charity to a Muslim believer, is prayer.
Years later, I met a very special woman in Islam, first in Chicago at Saviour’s Day, and then I got to visit her with a mutual friend in her home in Boston, and finally I got to know how wonderful and wise she was in the home of her son in Chicago.
She was Mother Maryam Farrakhan, the beloved Mother of the Nation of Islam leader, and deservedly, a “Mother of The Faithful” in the Nation of Islam.
Mother Farrakhan taught me that we all can always find something to give in charity no matter how modest may be our means. She said she had once been on welfare. After her youngest son (the Minister) graduated from high school, she said she went down to the Welfare Office and told them to take her name off the roll. “I can take it from here,” she said.
But while she was on welfare, she said, she took in laundry—washing and ironing. With her meager earnings from doing the laundry of others, she paid for music lessons—piano for Alvan and violin for Louis—for her sons, saved a few pennies, and managed to give something to the church offering.
“No matter how little you get,” she would say, “you can always put a little something aside.”
Be a cheerful giver.
Charity in Islam is second only to Prayer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cheney v. Powell: Chicken Hawk v. War Hero

Well, I guess the future of the Republican Party has now been forever sealed. Chicken Hawk Dick “Lord Darth Vader” Cheney says he'd rather follow pill-popping broadcaster Rush “I Hope (Obama) Fails” Limbaugh over a cliff into an abyss rather than decorated combat veteran and former Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell if he has to march into political battle over the future of the Republican Party.
So this, with Mr. Limbaugh’s body slam of Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, followed by Mr. Steele’s two apologies—one just for even being born, the other for questioning the Corpulent Radio Commentator—makes the score: Rabid-Nutty-Right-Wing Republicans 2 vs. Black Republicans -2 (would be Zero except for the apologia).
“If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh. My take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican,” Shoot-Friend-in-the-Face-on-Friendly-Hunting-Trip; Tell-Pat-Leahy-to-go-F***-Yourself-on-the-Senate-Floor Darth said, when asked about the verbal fisticuffs between the “Brown Bomber” and the “Pillsbury Dough Boy” on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”
Mr. Powell—secretary of state under President George W. (for Worst in History) Bush and the nation’s top soldier under his father, President George H.W. Bush—endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president last year. Nonetheless, since the election he has described himself as a Republican and a right-of-center conservative, though “not as right as others would like.”
Mr. Powell’s remarks seem more “correct” than they are purely “right.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Justice like Thurgood Marshall

Now that Justice David Souter has announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, I’ve been thinking about the retirement announcement 18-years ago, of Justice Thurgood Marshall. He was salty, and he took no prisoners that day. Me, the “Race Man” in attendance, I was a little put-off by his brusque, almost bitter comments about race.
“My dad told me way back that you can't use race,” Justice Marshall snapped when pressed as to whether or not his successor should be Black. “For example, there's no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They'll both bite. So I don't want to use race as an excuse.” Ouch.
And he was right. Look what we got when President George H.W. Bush scraped the barrel to find a confirmable Black candidate who was compatible with his conservative agenda.
So now, I’d like President Barack Obama to nominate a Black woman, who exemplifies some of Justice Marshall’s finer qualities.
He was a successful trial lawyer, arguing 32 cases himself, before the Supreme Court. His side prevailed in 29 of them! He fought on the side of the downtrodden and dispossessed. I applaud that.
He went to Howard University Law School, not Harvard University Law or the other federal “judicial monastery” Yale Law School!
Because of racism in his home state of Maryland, “The Free State’s” policy when young Thurgood came along, was to pay the tuition for qualified Black students to attend any law school in the world, so long as they did not go to the University of Maryland Law School. At Howard, young Marshall fell into the clutches of a dean who was a cum laude graduate, Harvard Law Review (the “Original Barack Obama”) trained and an Amherst valedictorian—Charles Hamilton Houston. So much for Jim Crow laws.
Current University of Maryland Law School professor and—like Justice Marshall—civil rights lawyer, Sherrilyn Ifill lists a number of other excellent qualities Justice Marshall possessed when he was named to the court in a commentary on CNN.
I still long to see a “real” Black person on The Court. This time, how about a woman who reflects Thurgood Marshall’s principles and ideals?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do we love the First Lady more than the President?

It was a thrilling event Tuesday April 28, the unveiling of the bust of Sojourner Truth in Emancipation Hall of the new U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. While it was a decidedly Black affair—organized for the most part by Dr. E. Faye Williams and her troops in the National Congress of Black Women, I also detected what felt like a strong “feminist (if not Suffragist)” sentiment in the room.
First Lady Michelle Obama (whose family was the largest single private donor to the years-long project) was the really big star of the show bar none: which included three of the four most powerful women in America (Oprah Winfrey was not there) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Oscar-winning actress Cicely Tyson.
Now, I could be wrong about this, but it seems like the ovation for Secretary Clinton was equal to that given to the absent President Barack Obama himself. Hm-m-m.
The late Dr. C. Delores Tucker, founder of NCBW would have been ecstatic!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Larger conspiracy re: ‘executive compensation’

The national debate about executive compensation is woefully inadequate. Most of the talk has been about CEO pay to companies receiving government “bailout” funds. But the problem goes much, much deeper.

Each of the Fortune 1,000 companies has a CEO, right? Plus, a CFO, a CIO, and a COO, right? Not to mention various and sundry Executive Vice Presidents and Vice Presidents. Then they all have boards of directors with upwards of 20 compensated board members each, right? So now, according to my calculations, we have a class of 30,000-40,000 or so individuals nationally with an interest in not having the government regulate executive compensation.

That’s big. That’s a lot of concerned individuals—all of whom have “friends” in Congress and the executive branch and they are spending millions, even as we speak, lobbying the government to keep their interests in mind. That’s more than just a one or two “rogue” CEOs.

Some companies, after receiving government bailout money, straightened out their bottom lines, and then decided to pay the government back, so as to keep the feds from meddling in their companies’ affairs. They seem most interested in keeping the executive compensation issue, out of the public discussion.

It’s not just a few CEOs who have a “nickel in this quarter.”

Let me describe their conundrum in my own version of “Faux Ebonics,” as if spoken by “Big Mama,” the grandmother, matriarch and head of a typical three-generation, inner-city household.

“Honey, I ain’t takin’ no mo’ that Gov’mint Cheese. De’Onte doin’ good now. Him an’ his frien’s down to the Rec Center, makin’ good money now. So we’s givin’ back dat Gov’mint Cheese, cuz we don’ wont none dem Social Wu’kers sniffin’ roun’ here no mo’.”

There’s a lot of “Cheese,” government and otherwise, on these executives’ tables too. A lot of Cheese is on the table.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama: Shared destiny? Separate destinies?

The elevation of Barack Hussein Obama to be the 44th President of the United States makes for some interesting deliberations. He’s a Black man. That goes without saying, but that fact has meaning beyond its historical “first-ness.”
Brother Malcolm X once said, and the statement still speaks for me: “I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I don’t even know if I’m and American.” President Obama is obviously a Democrat.
The reason that statement is pertinent to me is because of the promise in the Bible: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Now if that promise is also true of nations, then I personally don’t want any parts of the American inheritance for capturing, transporting, and subjugating hundreds of millions of Africans (incidentally murdering tens of millions during the Middle Passage) for more than 400 years; nor do I want America’s heritage for committing genocide against the native Indians; for despoiling the earth’s air and water; and for ruining the world’s economy with America’s thieving brand of robber-baron Capitalism.
But that’s just me.
Many people of the world, including many Africans have since chosen to come to this land, presumably because they wanted to participate in the American Promise. That is their choice. My fore parents were kidnapped and were given no choice in the matter. Now, as I survey the situation—with judgment potentially at hand—I have made my choice. I want my own destiny, thank you very much.
Unlike my forbearers, Pres. Obama’s African father came willingly to America, and his mother’s parents and grandparents, were also willing Americans.
I wonder about him. Is he going to get the same “reward” as previous presidents? Will Mr. Obama’s reward be the same as what’s coming to George W. (for Worst in history) Bush? Will Bill Clinton’s reward be the same as Ronald Reagan’s? Does Franklin Roosevelt have the same thing coming to him as Herbert Hoover?
How about Abraham Lincoln, who effectively “freed” the slaves? Is his portion the same as that of slave-holding Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Have these men already gotten what’s coming to them?
For us today, these are complex questions because Black folks are absolutely giddy over “a Brother” in the White House, not as a butler or servant as we would have been when I was a child, but now as Resident-in-Chief. We did not know “who” we were before his election and inauguration. Now, some of us who thought we knew are absolutely confused.
Our condition is understandable. Dr. W.E.B. DuBois described us in his seminal book The Souls of Black Folks, written in 1896 or thereabouts. He asked: “Are we Black? Are we American?” and he described our dilemma as having “two warring ideals in one dark body.” That’s us, alright.
But Brother Malcolm made some harsh pronouncements based on today’s standards. Months ago, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two man in Al Qaeda tried to invoke one of the radical American Muslim’s most famous clich├ęs, against Pres. Obama, referring to our “Brother President” as a “House Negro.” Not! Still, Brother Barack is not just IN the House; he is now Head of The House. That is complex.
Brother Malcolm also reminded us of the “chickens coming home to roost,” and what-not. Are America’s chickens yet to come home to roost for all Americans? What about us?
More interestingly from my perspective, Brother Malcolm said of the House Negro, that the House Negro identifies with the slave master more than the master himself. When the master gets sick, the House Negro asks: “What’s the matter boss? We sick?”
When the slave master’s house catches on fire, Brother Malcolm said, the House Negro will help put the fire out. But he said there was another kind of Negro slave—the Field Negro. Unlike the privileged House Negro who got to wear clothes like the master wore, and eat the leftovers of the food the master ate, the Field Negro suffered the worst of conditions, such, that when the master’s house would catch on fire, the Field Negro would not only, NOT help put the fire out, he would pray for a strong wind. A wind which would accelerate the fire, hastening the destruction of the mansion. Is that how we feel about General Motors and Chrysler?
So, in the conversation about the “Brother President,” the discussion should not be about who he is and what he does for us, but rather, who “we” are, and whether we want our destiny to be the same as those in the Big House, or those in the Field.
Remember the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who told singer Harry Belafonte and others (paraphrasing): "I am afraid I am leading our people to integrate into a burning house..."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

‘Black Power’ and shallow scholarship at the Smithsonian

If I may be so bold, I would like to put all the shucking and jiving so-called “Public Intellectuals” who pimp their snake-oil brand of Black history around the country, which excludes the heroic role of the Nation of Islam in their accounts, I would like to put them on notice that at least one writer—yours truly—will not countenance their shallow scholarship and faux intellectualism. Not without a complaint. Not without a scream!
To put it mildly, I am sick and tired of the cheap prevailing Black intellectual view of the Nation of Islam. It’s not just the Neo-Cons and the White Evangelicals of the World who have problems with Muslims, our own Black intelligentsia have issues with the Islamic influence–particularly the Nation of Islam–on Black literature and culture in the United States and they refuse to admit it.
To be fair, there are a few young, curious scholars who (as one told me) “make a living by reading and telling people what I’ve read,” who decry the pernicious exclusion of all positive references to the Nation of Islam’s contribution to the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s and who exclude NOI scholars from their discussions of it. These scholars describe the omission as “anti-historical.” They’re correct. And the Muslim haters are fake, bogus, scholars in my opinion!
Three years ago, I was the skunk at a garden party organized by English professor and English department “legend,” Eleanor Traylor at Howard University. I was rudely escorted from the room when I respectfully demanded to know during the public comment session of a panel, why the Nation’s contribution had been omitted.
Now, here comes the vaunted Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture with a two day colloquium March 30-31 it calls: “1968 and Beyond: A Symposium on the Impact of the Black Power Movement in America.”
I predict there will be many devout references and libations over the name of Malcolm X, but only scorn and derision (if his name is mentioned at all) of Brother Malcolm’s mentor and teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Shallow Black intellectuals and academics love to lionize Brother Malcolm, highlighting only the 14 months or so of his life after he broke with the Nation of Islam, while trying to wipe out his 12 years of steadfast service and leadership within the Nation—and to the Black Liberation Movement inside and outside the U.S.—which was his platform for earning national attention in the first place. They do the same with Muhammad Ali.
When I saw the Smithsonian’s 2009 announcement, just as I had done when I saw Howard University’s program in March 2006, I went bonkers! “They’ve done it again. They’ve kicked the Nation of Islam’s contribution to Black intellectual development to the curb.”
At these events they always get a truckload of fake Ph.D. candidates chaperoned by real professors, presenting papers and performances for days on end, talking about the Black intellectual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s–the Black Arts Movement, Black Power and such.
The topics sometimes even reflect the prevailing mood of that period: “It’s Nation Time.”
“Nation Time” that is, without “The Nation.”
As unseemly as it is for me to do so, I take personal umbrage at the insinuation when Muslims are excluded, that all these well educated organizers can’t find any “smart people” from within the circle of the Nation of Islam to talk about its role. Well, call me “ill mannered” then.
I’m not angry at the panelists themselves, they do not organize these shallow intellectual events and call them academic exercises. But at some point some of them (especially those who had personal experiences with the Nation of Islam in the 1960s and 1970s) ought to be curious enough when they go to seminar after seminar and only see the Nation’s contribution referred to anecdotally to at least ask once in a while if the Nation’s larger role shouldn’t be considered.
There are many living, breathing, members of the Nation who are much better speakers and presenters than me, who I will not embarrass by including their names in this personal rant, but I can say that for 40 years I’ve personally known of this Black “militant” intellectual bias against the Nation.
In 1970, after I had seen two of my poems published in subsequent Annual Poetry Editions, and a short story of mine featured in the Annual Fiction Edition with my portrait on the cover of Johnson Publishing Company’s Negro Digest and Black World magazines, I wrote Editor Hoyt Fuller over my joy at receiving my “X.” I had an X, “just like Brother Malcolm” I wrote. I never had another mumbling word published in any publication edited by Mr. Fuller.
But I went on with my career as a journalist who was involved in the Black Power movement, published in the pages of the Nation of Islam’s newspaper Muhammad Speaks. I can still put my hands on my original manuscript–sent by Western Union Telegram–of the article I wrote when Angela Davis was acquitted in San Jose California, June 4, 1972. I still have my manuscripts and photos from the funeral of Jonathan Jackson in 1970 and the murder of George Jackson in 1971.
Been there! Done that!
By the time I had reminded myself of my own role in the struggle and of my own fitness to recount it for a new generation of thinkers and writers, I was not just intellectually perturbed, I was personally offended all over again. Like I said: call me ill mannered.
Granted I wrote using the names Charles K. Moreland Jr. in poetry anthologies and magazines, and Charles 20X and Charles 67X in Muhammad Speaks before I was named Askia Muhammad. But we translated LeRoi Jones into Amiri Baraka, didn’t we? We know that Haki Madhubuti was Don L. Lee, don’t we? We know that Askia Muhammad Toure was Roland Snellings, don’t we? Of course we do, and the irony is that were it not for the influence of the Nation of Islam and the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, those giants of our struggle would still probably be known by their dreaded “slave names.”
The contradiction is, that the Black–just like the White–intellectual establishment does not want to know about Muslim writers, accept when they go against the Nation of Islam.
Maybe I should recognize that the Nation of Islam was simply a “change agent,” a catalyst like the War in Vietnam, like the Civil Rights movement–a completely unstudied change agent, I would complain–which helped make the climate in the Black community receptive to the Black Arts Movement and its new way of thinking. Maybe, I should concede that the Nation of Islam was a change agent and not the object of the change.
No. Heck no! The object remains the same, and in some vital ways it is independent of a religious label. It is to change the minds of Black people to realize what Mr. Muhammad taught us: that the six most important words for us in the English language today are: “Accept your own and be yourself.”
That is intellectually and artistically distinct. Name. Culture. Religion. Language. Diet. That is the new paradigm injected into our culture by the Nation of Islam, not by the NAACP, not by the SCLC, not by SNCC—as important as their contributions were. “Nation Time” is the thinking which the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s reflects. That is the 800 lb gorilla in the Black intellectual meeting room, which most scholars, even Black scholars and most recently those shallow thinkers at the Smithsonian apparently want to overlook, and try mightily to ignore.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What if Obama’s grandfather was Palestinian?

Could President Barack Hussein Obama’s “historical memory”—inherited from his paternal grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama—of the brutal British suppression of the Kenyan independence movement in the 1950s affect the “special relationship” between the United States and America’s long time ally, the United Kingdom?
But what if his grandfather had been Palestinian? Would Mr. Obama ever have been able to become President in the first place? I doubt it very seriously.
After reporting on the barbaric torture inflicted on Hussein Onyango Obama in a Dec. 3, 2008 article published online by The Times of London, writer Ben Macintyre says that the first African American President’s views towards the United Kingdom just might be different from those of the previous 43 White U.S. presidents.
“Barack Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned and brutally tortured by the British during the violent struggle for Kenyan independence,” Mr. Macintyre and co-author Paul Orengoh reported. “He was arrested in 1949 and jailed for two years in a high-security prison where, according to his family, he was subjected to horrific violence to extract information about the growing insurgency,” they wrote.
“The African warders were instructed by the White soldiers to whip him every morning and evening till he confessed,” said Sarah Onyango, Hussein Onyango’s third wife, the woman the President refers to as “Granny Sarah,” the article states.
Hussein Onyango Obama, a Kenyan Muslim, served with the British Army in Burma during World War II, yet just four years after the war, his employer, a British Army officer for whom he served as a cook, rewarded his loyal manservant by firing him, then denouncing him to the authorities on suspicion of “consorting with troublemakers.”
The irony is that Mr. Obama was a member of the Luo people from Western Kenya, not the dominant Kikuyu people. Some Kikuyu persons took secret oaths and formed the dreaded Mau Mau, which conducted a bloody rebellion against British colonial rule. The country’s first President Jomo Kenyatta was accused and put on trial for being a Mau Mau. Jamaican attorney Dudley Thompson successfully represented Mr. Kenyatta at trial.
The British soldiers “would sometimes squeeze his testicles with parallel metallic rods. They also pierced his nails and buttocks with a sharp pin, with his hands and legs tied together with his head facing down,” Granny Sarah told The Times of London. “The alleged torture was said to have left Mr. Onyango permanently scarred, and bitterly anti-British,” the authors wrote. “That was the time we realized that the British were actually not friends but, instead, enemies,” Mrs. Onyango said. “My husband had worked so diligently for them, only to be arrested and detained.”
The President writes of his Black Muslim grandfather in his best-selling memoir Dreams From My Father. He says only that his grandfather was “found innocent” and held for “more than six months.”
While a total of only 32 Europeans were killed by the Mau Mau, the British slaughtered as many as 50,000 Africans during the seven year state of emergency which they imposed, trying to maintain their unjust, racist, colonial rule. But the American body politic did not hold the President accountable for any potential anti-Anglo-ism.
Now. Just suppose that Barack Hussein Obama’s grandfather had been a Palestinian Muslim, arrested in Palestine in 1949, or expelled from Jerusalem in 1948 by Zionist authorities in that colonial settler territory which was annexed in defiance of the British Palestinian mandate and which declared itself to be the state of Israel—the Jewish state. Would that simple difference in paternal geography have made any difference at all in United States history?
You bet it would have! This article would never have been written, because Barack Hussein Obama Jr. would never, never, never have been elected President of the United States had his grandfather been Palestinian, a people who suffered an almost identical or worse oppression at the hands of the Israelis (which continues until this very day) than that which was inflicted on the Kenyans by the British.
Never mind Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, his kindly, Kansas-born, Caucasian maternal grandparents. If Mr. Obama had an Arab-Muslim (even an Arab Christian) paternal grandfather, that would have made him categorically ineligible for the presidency, by definition.
Talk about “historical memory!”
We’d probably be talking about history-making President Hillary Clinton now, because Barack Obama might have graduated Magna Cum Laude and been President of the Harvard Law Review, but he would never have even been elected dogcatcher in this country, let alone to the U.S. Senate, or to the U.S. presidency had his grandfather been a Palestinian Arab, instead of a Black African.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saviouors' Day 2009 photos and thoughts

It was 28 years ago in late February 1981 when, at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, Minister Louis Farrakhan announced the “Rebirth of the Nation of Islam.”
Thousands of members and supporters of the Nation of Islam—some traveling they said on their “lean camels”—flocked to Rosemont, a suburban town north of Chicago to participate in the Nation of Islam’s four-day annual Saviours’ Day 2009 convention.
As in years past, elders and children alike attended dozens of workshops, seminars, a town-hall meeting, fairs, and righteous entertainment events, culminating with a stirring three-hour address by the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan, to commemorate the 132nd birth anniversary of Master W. Fard Muhammad—the founder of the Nation of Islam in North America—on Feb. 26, 1877.
Several activists, intellectuals and entertainers were in attendance. Calvin Broadus, known popularly as Snoop Dogg, credited Min. Farrakhan with helping bring peace to the Hip-Hop community after rapper Notorious B.I.G. was killed in 1997.
“That's why I'm here today: to show my support,” Mr. Broadus said. He also showed his support by making a $1,000 contribution to the Nation.
Hip-Hop artist Clifford Harris—known as T.I.—who was unable to make a scheduled travel connection to be at the meeting in person, showed his support by speaking via recorded video, telling attendees and his fans that education is the key to success in all of life’s ventures.
Min. Farrakhan’s message has continually evolved during this past 28 years. Even before Pres. Barack Obama’s election created a national obsession to proclaim a “post racial” America because a Black man was elected president, the Minister’s message has been one that appeals to Blacks of course, as well as to many, many Latinos, Asians, and even Caucasians who were in attendance.
“I think it was one of the Minister’s most enlightening” speeches, the Rev. Dr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina’s Faith Community told me.
“The courage in it, facing us and calling us to deal with the truth, and America to deal with the truth, as well as the charge that we have to come together, that we need to be the stimulus for this country, but it has to be based on truth, and it has to be based on facing what is destroying America,” said Father Pfleger, a White Catholic priest.
It is the new-old Nation of Islam in a new day and time, celebrating the 28th anniversary of the rebirth of a something with no birth record, a movement which never really died.
Pictured at top, Calvin Broadus (a.k.a. Snoop Dogg) with renowned Black Nationalist scholars: 92-year-old Ambassador Dudley Thompson of Jamaica who defended Kenyan President Jomo Kenyata when he was accused of being a Mau Mau during Kenya's independence struggle; and Dr. Conrad Worrill, of Chicago's Center for Inner City Studies. Below, attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, leader of the New Black Panther Party greets Palestinian writer Ali Baghdadi.

Monday, March 2, 2009

If this ain’t treason…

If I had ever uttered some of the epithets against Presidents Ronald Reagan or George W. (for worst in history) Bush, which are being sworn loudly, by the hour by some of these right-wing radio talk show hosts against Pres. Barack Obama, then I would have surely ended up in a stockade somewhere.
The well known, corpulent talker with the drug addiction problem famously proclaimed that he did not need a 400-word essay to say what he felt about the President of the United States, less than a week after Mr. Obama took office. “I can say it in four words,” he brayed from his stable. “I hope he fails!”
The way I see it, to announce one’s desire that the leader of his or her country “fail,” in any dangerous endeavor is tantamount to wishing for the victory of the enemy of that person’s country.
That’s not like declaring that you think the President is wrong. That’s also different from observing, after the fact, what the effect of a dismal policy may be. That is a wish for the defeat of one’s own country’s leader, and all the patriots who follow that leader. Now, if that ain’t treason, then I don’t know what is.
Recall that Cindy Sheehan and all the Gold Star Mothers for Peace were unforgiving critics of former Pres. Bush. But Ms. Sheehan earned her Gold Star after her son was killed in the reckless, needless, immoral, and illegal war and occupation of Iraq, declared by Mr. Bush. Many other critics still hope to see him, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other members of that administration investigated and brought up on war crimes charges, either in this country or in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
But not even the Iraq war’s harshest critics publicly hoped for Mr. Bush’s defeat in Baghdad, or Fallujah, or Ballad, or Anbar. Not even when they declared the war hopeless, and victory unattainable, none of the critics publicly wished for the death of another U.S. soldier, as hopeless as each lost life was seen by them to be.
Back in 1765, Virginia Delegate Patrick Henry railed against a Stamp Act proposed against the American colonies by Britain’s King George III. In his first speech before the House of Burgess, Mr. Henry offered King George a bit of advice. “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third...may profit by their example,” Mr. Henry said after being interrupted by shouts of “Treason.” He had been making reference to two of Western history’s most famous victims of assassination.
“If this be treason, make the most of it,” Mr. Henry said calmly, in response to the taunts. Patrick Henry later apologized to the assembly and expressed his loyalty to the king.
But today, even as the Neo-con posse which led the country into that un-winnable war, fade off into the sunset—for a while even holding up the confirmation of Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder because some were concerned he might prosecute CIA agents for illegally torturing Iraqi prisoners and other atrocities against captured war prisoners—their acolytes in the Fourth Estate and the Talk Radio chattering class, continue to repeat their discredited policies.
The U.S. economy is in the worst shape it’s been in since The Great Depression. The official unemployment rate is hovering just below double digits. Tens of thousands of new layoffs are announce every week. The number of first-time unemployment claims is at a 26-year high. The wave of home foreclosures has become a flood and the robber bankers have pocketed hundreds of billions of dollars thrown to them to fix the problem, and have done nothing to make loans and credit available for destitute homeowners and business persons.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are still singing their same old tired, worn-out mantra: Yes! More tax cuts for the rich. No! Spending to repair the country’s dilapidated infrastructure, putting needy people back to work!
And some fat-mouthed prognosticators even have the nerve to publicly wish that Pres. Obama, elected with the widest electoral mandate for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, they publicly wish that the new President fails.
If that ain’t treason…then make the most of it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael

My friend Juan Williams is losing it if he thinks comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) is a bad thing! Furthermore, Black journalists and others who took offense at the Williams absurdity should do some research before they recoil in horror because Stokely Carmichael was and is a hero.
On a cable TV show, on a network I avoid watching like the plague, Mr. Williams baselessly attacked the First Lady recently, claiming that “her instinct is to start with this ‘blame America’ stuff.”
Well the cable, so-called “all news” channels really offer nothing “new.” That’s first. Rather they simulate the sound of the AM-talk-radio, junior varsity, locker room, echo chamber, where snide putdowns resound like the snap of towels on bare bottoms. The remark was intended to appeal to the White-guy, beer-guzzlers in the cheap seats.
The author of the television documentary “Eyes on the Prize,” and a biography of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall clearly forgot everything he learned doing research on those projects when he asserted that Michelle Obama’s “instinct” is to “blame America” or to be “the victim.” Then he said she has “this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going.” Rim-shot! Zinger!
He went on to say that she could be a “liability” or an “albatross” for President Barack Obama. Mister, please! He once previously claimed Michelle Obama sometimes uses “this kind of militant anger.”
Now, I personally like most expressions of Black militant anger.
Next, I can’t imagine that a woman as brilliant and self-assured as Michelle Obama could ever be anything but an asset to anyone with whom she was ever associated. In fact, Prof. Charles Ogletree—who taught both Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama at Harvard University’s law school—told me in an interview that at that time, he thought Michelle would eventually be more politically successful than Barack.
I don’t know either of the Obama’s personally, so I’ll take Prof. Ogletree’s word on the worthiness of their characters. And so far as I’ve been able to see from the public records, he’s been a pretty darn good President, and she’s been a very charming First Lady.
But I do know Stokely Carmichael. He was one of my very special all-time heroes! He was responsible for a number of detours in my life and career and I am eternally grateful (eternally grateful!) for having known him! He was a decent, honorable, principled, generous, and loving man who made a tremendous contribution to our struggle, making it possible for the likes of Juan Williams to even be at The Washington Post, or NPR, or PBS-TV, or Fox News in the first place.
In 1966, after his famous “Black Power” declaration, made literally while in the “teeth of the beast” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others on James Meredith’s Mississippi “March Against Fear,” he single-handedly began the full-employment- for-Negro- reporters- movement, by demanding that the National Press send only Black reporters to cover his events, otherwise they would not be admitted to his press conferences! Those bold declarations came after his heroic work in Lowndes County, Ala. where in just a few months Black voter registration increased from 70 to 2,600. I read no offense in comparing the First Lady to a great champion like that!
Before I ever met this hero of mine in the flesh, the subject of one of my first journalistic adventures while I was still in school at San Jose State University, taught me to revere Stokely Carmichael. I met and frequently interviewed then 70-plus-year old Lorna D. Smith, a White woman who lived in San Jose, who had been a researcher for renowned journalist and author Theodore Dreiser.
Miss Smith spent a summer working on the Mississippi Project in 1964 and was so inspired by Stokely Carmichael that she collected “All Things Carmichael” for the next 8 years, compiling more than a dozen huge (five linear feet-worth) scrapbooks, which are now a part of the permanent collection of the Stanford University Library!
I repeat, if Juan Williams meant to insult First Lady Michelle Obama by comparing her to my champion, then he missed the mark big time! And any young journalist in particular who takes the comparison of anyone to Stokely Carmichael as anything but the highest compliment, even in this “post racial” era needs to study more.
So, to my friend Juan Williams (of whom I never expect anything better), and to all other un-informed Blacks who trembled at Juan’s lame-brained remark, I ask simply: What’s wrong with being like Stokely Carmichael? Absolutely nothing! We need more thinkers and leaders like him!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama camp: 'Certain Muslims' need not apply

When it comes to being kicked out of some pretty fancy parties, I have an enviable track record.

“What are you doing having a Black Muslim call my office,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris demanded of Louis Martin, Editorial Director of The Chicago Daily Defender, after he sent me to Washington to cover the Jimmy Carter White House for that newspaper in 1977. But I was never thin-skinned about having a name which evokes a strong racial and religious identity.

But I didn’t just get kicked out then, I was never even invited to some pretty fancy parties in this town, I’ll have you know.

Such treatment goes with the territory.

A past president of the National Press Club once tried to get me declared ineligible for Club membership because of my relationship with The Final Call. I’ve been kicked out of some pretty fancy parties, but the Press Club Speaker’s Committee and my friends in the Club would have none of it. The former Press Club President was rebuked.

So, I thought I would have common cause when Sen. Barack Hussein Obama came to Washington after the 2004 elections, then four years later became the Democratic nominee for President, and then on January 20, 2009 was inaugurated the 44th President of the United States. He used to refer to himself as a “skinny guy with a funny name.” But that was then. This is now.

You see, maybe I was wrong. Maybe President Obama is just like all the rest of those folks in high office: judgmental, xenophobic, Islamophobic.

But why shouldn't he be? Was he born on the Planet Krypton or something? No. Was he born in a manger in Bethlehem? No. They called him everything but a child of God during the campaign. Lied and said he was a Muslim. So, during the presidential campaign he tried to stay as far away as he possibly could from all things Islamic. Despite the fact that as an acknowledged "Constitutional scholar" he should have known and should have told his critics at that time that the U.S. Constitution says very plainly in Article 6 that "there shall BE NO religious test" (emphasis mine) for any position in the Federal or any state government! But alas!

It got so, nobody wanted to be identified with “them”...that is us. That is until Gen. Colin Powell finally came out and said publicly there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim in America!

Still, the Obama campaign quickly accepted the resignation of an otherwise squeaky-clean Chicago lawyer, Mazen Asbahi, its coordinator of Muslim outreach, back in August. His sin? About six or seven years ago he served for three whole weeks on a committee with another, very suspicious Muslim. There were also “questions” about Mr. Asbahi's involvement in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups: "Certain Muslims" need not apply!

Then there were the two women with the Islamic head scarves removed from their seats at a rally so they wouldn’t be seen in a picture where then candidate Obama was speaking. The candidate called himself to personally apologize. He had to. Ray Charles could see that was wrong.

Once again, the Obama campaign got a little squeamish after its new director of Muslim outreach attended and made remarks at an event in September which was attended by Imam Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society and Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Both men are pictured here at a protest at the State Department in 2001.

What are Imam Bray's sins? He’s African American—a “Black Muslim” if you will (although he's not affiliated with the Nation of Islam), and he has a background of leadership in the Civil Rights movement. Scary huh?

Add to that, the fact that NBC news reported “he has a history of defending terrorists.” Huh? Sure. Mahdi Bray’s critics point to a video of him at a rally in 2000, in which he can be seen pumping his fist in the air in support of the "terrorist" groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

Stunning! Wow! Someone still watches all those old anti-war rally videos eight years later? Simply shocking! Obviously dangerous characters, right?

Do Mahdi Bray and Nihad Awad have Green Cards? (Well Mr. Bray was born in Georgia, I believe, so that makes him a natural-born "citizen." As punishment, he could of course be deported back to Dixie.) Do they have U.S. passports? Have they ever had their taxes audited? There must be something Western Civilization can do to defend itself from Muslims like Mahdi Bray and Nihad Awad.

Why once, Mahdi Bray reportedly said in a 2004 interview, that the Israeli assassination of a Hamas spiritual leader was an “unlawful, cowardly and dangerous act of state-sponsored terrorism.” Fancy that!

I thought the freedom of speech was protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution? Unless, of course, you’re a Certain Kind of Muslim. I guess you’re on your own, Imam Mahdi Bray. Never mind the White House briefings you attended during the Clinton, and/or early Bush administrations. You and others like you are officially Persona Non Grata. Do not ever rush to the mailbox looking for your engraved invitation to any White House State Dinner for any visiting foreign head of state.

Muslims like Mahdi Bray and Nihad Awad ought to "overstand" these things. Certain Muslims need not apply! But if they don't, I do "overstand" clearly. You see, I've been kicked out of fancier parties than this one.