Thursday, November 20, 2014

Congratulations to my favorite, homeless, Homeless Advocate!!!

Tuesday morning at City Hall, the Washington DC Council honored my friend, Mr. Eric Jonathan Sheptock, enacting ceremonial Bill 200283, which proclaimed December 31 -- "Eric Sheptock Day" (you can read the text of the bill at the link).

Last Thursday evening, Eric sent me this:
November 18th: DC Council to Honor My homeless Advocacy (and I THOUGHT Others' Work Too)


I received word on October 20th that the DC Council would honor the work of myself and possibly other advocates as well. I received the date for the event earlier today. It will take place on Tuesday, November 18th, though I haven't been given a time.

DC Council sessions generally begin around 10 AM, sometimes at 11. I'll publish the exact time when I have it. You are invited. I'll be sure to put in a plug for other advocates.

I've begun to go to work on the Bowser administration:
My initial reaction was a swelling sense of pride deep in my heart (I've had that feeling often since I met and interviewed him for a class paper I was writing while working on my M.A. in Journalism back in 2009).  I emailed him back about an hour later saying:
Congratulations!!! Be careful though, Man.  Folk like them tend to think they can massage activists into silence with honors! Keep your eyes open and your head up!

He emailed me back to say he'd call me in about 45 minutes and he did. We talked for an hour, catching up on current events and talking about his upcoming big day.  It was wonderful!  I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I am so proud of this young man!  He's not only been talking the talk for as long as I've known him, he's definitely been walking the walk (not too many people I can say that about these days!).

On Monday he sent me this email:

On November 18th, 2014 in the DC Council chamber I will be recognized for my 8.5 and counting years of homeless advocacy. They will declare December 31st, 2014 to be Eric Jonathan Sheptock Day. Councilman Jim Graham's office just called for a list of my closest associates. I gave about a dozen names that might include YOU. It would be great if YOU were there. I've attached my speech and a copy of the resolution which you'll also find here: Washington D.C. CER20-0283 | 2013-2014 | 20th Council.
He was excited, and two hours later, I replied:
If I could afford to make the 9-hour drive tonight so I could be there in the morning, you know, or ought to know that I would. As a matter of fact, I sat down and took a look at my finances after our telephone call the other day to see if I could surprise you, but I realized I couldn't make it work because I'm driving down to Florida this weekend to spend the week with my husband — we're celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary on Nov. 28th (gotta honor that long damned time together, Man)!!

Like I've told you many times before — I am so-o-o-o damned proud of you Eric!! From our first meeting at Cosi's near the library, UP UNTIL TODAY -- you have been the man you said you were!!!! I am so grateful to have been able to call you my friend. I enjoyed meeting your friends in the park that day (How's "Better Believe Steve doing?), I felt privileged when we all went to see "The Soloist" because I was with people who really, really knew the life Jamie Foxx was trying to portray.

I know that little laptop is probably long-dead by now, but I hope it lasted long enough to keep you pecking away at this wonderfully, meaningful work to which you are committed. While I've always been a homeless advocate, I've never been as activist an advocate as you! Knowing you my Brother, has enriched my life wa-a-a-y more than you will ever know and for that, I thank you.

Have a great day tomorrow Eric, you deserve it! But, remember what I said, "Be careful, Man. Folk like them tend to think they can massage activists into silence with honors! Keep your eyes open and your head up!" -- and of course — KEEP GIVIN' 'EM HELL!!

Take care of yourself,

P.S. Great speech! Would you mind if I posted it along with the text of the resolution (I'll post the resolution today and update the post with your speech after the event is over)? Please let me know. I think it's important that more people than those in DC recognize not only the work, but the kind of man you are.

He responded:
Feel free to post my speech -- written and video. I'll send you the latter soon.

I'm using the laptop you bought me right now. it's 4 years and 2 months old. I've had to do major non-invasive work on it at times (clean out files, remove viruses etc.); but, it's still working.

happy anniversary! My parents did 41 years until he passed in 2000. I'm sure you'll surpass the number in 8 years.
I wouldn't trouble you to come for this event. I haven't forgotten that you said you'd drop what you're doing and catch a plane to DC if something revolutionary jumped off in a big way. I WILL call you for THAT.

Better Believe Steve is having mobility issues and is in an unstable housing situation right now. He's often in pain due to lower back and leg issues. he's still advocating though. He uses a walker now. I'll tell him you asked about him.

Through coincidence...err Divine providence, this event occurs at 9 AM and then some of its participants will enter Shitty..City Hall for my ceremony and legislation that is before the council concerning affordable housing. It's gonna be a great day!!!
I'm late in posting both (due to some dental work from which today, I've recovered), but I replied:
Thanks Eric. I'll post the resolution tonight. Damn, I'm glad it's still working!! I tell you Man, that was the best investment I ever made given what you've done with it! Again, Man -- I'm very proud of you. I s-o-o-o look forward to your work with this "new/old administration!"

Thanks for the happy anniversary wish! When we began, 34 years of longevity would've seemed a long time. But now, given your parents' 41 years and his parents' over 60 years before his father passed last year, I think, as my Grandmama used to say, "God willin' and the creek don't rise!" -- we'll get there!

"I wouldn't trouble you to come for this event. I haven't forgotten that you said you'd drop what you're doing and catch a plane to DC if something revolutionary jumped off in a big way. I WILL call you for THAT."

If I could've, I would've, but I'm glad you understand. And yes, particularly since I'm closer in SC now than I was in Texas, I will certainly answer THAT call! Hate to hear about Steve. Isn't he an Air Force Vet? Couldn't he get PSH from some of those gazillion dollars the Changeling proposed in his FY 2010 budget proposal for housing and homeless programs? {smdh} Yes, please do tell him I asked about him.

Divine providence — at least you'll have a larger audience! Yes, my friend, it IS gonna be a great day! Enjoy and savor it, then — get back to work!!!

Take care,
He replied about Steve's situation and then continued:
...PSH it is just another waiting list for housing, though it's shorter than at the Housing Authority. If they determine his condition is not as bad as someone else's, he moves down the list. That said, I know he's on some housing list but don't know if it's PSH.

DC has come up with a combined assessment for all of the housing lists. That makes applying easier but doesn't necessarily get you housed sooner. I'm not sure if Steve has done this consolidated assessment which is only a few months old called the VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index something, something something Assessment Tool)."
With that, I took my ass to bed -- fully planning to post all this the day before it happened. But as I said earlier, the tooth slayed me. I'm feeling better now -- and there's no way I wouldn't pay homage to this man who never, ever gives up -- "Homeless Advocate, thy name is Eric Sheptock!"

Here's his speech:

Eric Jonathan Sheptock – Advocacy Award Acceptance Speech for Nov. 18th, 2014

First of all, I'd like to thank you for this award. It's nice to know that my work hasn't gone unnoticed, though I've been involved in at least a couple of Facebook debates as to whether or not my virtually unpaid advocacy qualifies as work. But I can't say that it's a thankless job; as, many homeless people have stooped me in hallways or on the sidewalk to tell me how much they appreciate what I do sometimes three or four of DC's nearly 9,000 homeless people per day.

I stand on the shoulders of Mitch Snyder and others who worked with him. I'd also like to recognize the dozens of other current day advocates for the rights of the homeless, for living-wage jobs, for affordable housing and for the many other human rights which this city claimed to support on December 10th, 2008. Some of them hearken back to the days of Mitch Snyder and the Reagan Revolution.

While congratulating all advocates – myself and others -- for having an unwavering commitment to ensuring that all people have all of their basic human necessities, you should take pause to recognize what may very well be the grimmest reality of our time – that in this land of plenty there are those who go without.

No worries; for the other advocates and I will continue to fight the good fight as we transition into the Bowser administration. After 15 months in office, Fenty committed to and oversaw the housing of the most vulnerable homeless singles. After 38 months in office, Gray committed to and drew up a plan for providing better shelter to homeless families. I hope that by the time Ms. Bowser has been mayor for six months we'll have a plan for connecting able-bodied homeless adults to living-wage jobs and affordable housing which they can pay for without subsidies.

So, while I appreciate this award and the recognition from the DC Council, the work of the advocates is far from over. We actually have about time-and-a-half as many homeless people now as we had when the Inter-agency Council on Homelessness first met in June 2006 and probably twice as many as we had in 2004 when we adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness by next month (December 2014). Needless to say, I don't have any faith in 10-year plans.

My commitment to real solutions is proven in part by the fact that I've already attempted to connect with the Bowser transition team so as to offer guidance on how to actually DECREASE homelessness in the city. In January we need to hit the ground running – especially if the weather is anything like it is today.

Thank you.

While I do believe the new administration is trying to get out in front of Eric's relentlessness by stroking him (they've no idea with whom they're dealing!)  -- I must say again, I'm so damned proud and privileged to call him -- "FRIEND."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Homelessness in the seat of power, during and after the Age of Obama

I remember a mere three months after the Changeling's "selection" and their move into the Big House, my favorite homeless, homeless advocate, Eric Sheptock called me excitedly saying that Michelle Obama had come to Miriam's Kitchen in DC to feed the homeless.

It was his hope the "selection," coupled with her show of some interest in homelessness (vis-à-vis her one-day visit to the soup-kitchen) -- that the DC government apparatchiks (former mayor, Adrian Fenty in particular) would "turn to" (Navy slang for "Get to work!") regarding the homeless.  I didn't share his enthusiasm and said so.

Then, two months later, a funny thing happened from deus ex machina to actual Trojan Horse-dom regarding the Changeling.  According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness:
Today, May 7, President Obama released his budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2010. The budget included funding proposals for housing and homeless programs....Highlights of the funding for homeless programs include:
• $1.8 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, an increase of $117 million over FY 2009;
•$46.3 billion for HUD programs, an 11 percent increase;
•$1 billion for a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
•$68 million for the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program, an $8 million increase over the FY 2009 level;
•$19 million for a new DC Housing First Initiative to provide supportive housing to homeless individuals and families;
•$26 million for a pilot program to prevent homelessness for veterans.
That's a lot of damn money, no??!!

Yet, when I read this piece at OpEdNews on Election Day -- 90-year-old man, two pastors cited for feeding homeless in Florida, I immediately thought about two things:  this visual from Truthdig's, 'Somebody Called the Cops on Jesus' (Audio) story earlier this year...

The Rev. David Buck sits next to the Jesus the Homeless statue that was installed in front of his church, St. Alban's Episcopal, in Davidson, N.C.
...and this more recent post in early October from Eric, which he graciously allowed me to repost:
Job Discrimination Against the Homeless: Shirley Contracting and DC's First-Source Law

It's been said by social justice advocates and activists that, “There are 20 years that don't make a day; and then, there's that day that makes 20 years”. I think I just had my day that makes 20 years on October 3rd, 2014. I attended a hearing at Washington, DC's City Hall (The John A. Wilson Building). It was about the 41% cut to TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) that went into effect on October 1st, 2014. I didn't plan to testify, only to observe. However, as I heard various homeless or poor mothers and one single woman from the non-profit community testify, the gears began turning and I gave into tempation.

A woman on the previous four-person panel set things off when she shifted from talking about the increased hardships that she and her child will endure as a result of the near-half reduction in public benefits to talking about how she doesn't believe that city officials really want to end homelessness or poverty. She even talked about how the system that creates or deepens people's poverty then blames those people for their poverty and was one of at least two mothers who talked about how more poor people will commit crimes of survival as their public benefits are cut. They went on to mention the prison-industrial complex and how that, as people commit crimes of survival, prisons are being built and expanded and police are at the ready to arrest the poor and throw them in jail where money can be made off of them.

I shared the testimony table with three mothers. Naila (nah – EE – lah) is still relatively new to advocacy. Other long-term advocates and I have been offering our support to get her started. She sat to my right. Naila was the first person on our panel to speak. She told of homeless parents being intimidated by staff for speaking out about shelter conditions and of how the homeless families at the Quality Inn, courtesy of DC Government, had received notices of eviction with nowhere to go and no one to talk to. I fleshed out what the woman on the previous panel said by giving some very specific examples of systemic failures that add up to poor people being gentrified out of the city or that make their lives harder. After all, I've dealt with DC Government for eight years and some change. I know about their major SNAFU's since June 2006 first-hand and have heard about others that occurred prior to my becoming a homeless advocate. A woman who shares my mother's name and put herself through professional schooling while homeless sat to my left. A woman who suffers from Dyslexia but has three gifted children sat to the right of Naila who broke into tears as she heard the mother of three speak. I held and comforted her.

Councilman Jim Graham was so impressed with the testimonies of our panel that he strongly advised us to organize for power. Immediately after our panel was finished, the four of us stood, exchanged hugs (which is uncommon at a hearing) and walked into the hall to exchange contact info and plan when we would meet to organize. (That will happen on Monday, October 6th at 1 PM at the MLK, Jr. Library in Room A-9.) I was impressed by the fluidity of our collective testimonies even though we hadn't collaborated on them. I was also impressed by the critique of the capitalist system that took place during the hearing. It was reminiscent of the hearing a day earlier before the same councilman concerning the future of the CCNV Shelter. During that hearing a man who is new to advocacy talked mainly about the hurtful effects of the capitalist system and the fact that much of what city officials claim to do out of concern for homeless people is just a facade. While myself and other advocates have known these things for years, it is unusual for a person who is testifying to exit the topic of the hearing and give a general critique of the system; and, it is almost unheard of to have several people's testimonies so unintentionally and coincidentally build the case for an indictment against the same.

During my testimony I mentioned the fact that there weren't many homeless families present at a hearing that directly affects them; because, they don't have enough money to ride the transit system – that the problem we were there to discuss was self-compounding insomuch as the decreased funds decrease the ability of the poor to attend events where they should be speaking out about their plight. I also said that,though it's rather pie-in-the-sky, maybe we should approach the transit authority about assisting homeless families by giving them free rides or reduced fares, especially when attending such a meeting. Councilman Graham would later say that he can help with transportation. I also mentioned the fact that,with homeless families at the Quality Inn having been told to leave with nowhere to go and no one to talk to about their plight, we were returning to the atrocities of the winter of 2010-11.

During that winter, homeless mothers were turned away from an over-crowded shelter with their infants and toddlers in tow and given tokens to ride the bus all night. (The buses stop between 2 and 5 AM.) One particular boy who was born on February 10th spent his first month of life homeless as his mother slept with him in her storage unit, the Greyhound station and the stairwell of an unsecured apartment building. I too mentioned the insufficient political will to end homelessness, as I had the day before. At both hearings I mentioned Shirley Contracting which has begun a large 10-year building project right across the road from the shelter and only made a token effort to hire homeless people. I'm left to wonder if they've made any more of an effort to hire other Washingtonians.

I left the hearing at about 1:20 PM to go to an interview with an American University student who wanted to know about the phenomenon whereby homeless people are made to feelinvisible. Along with one other man, I told her about how the general public often tries not to notice a homeless person. I told her of how homeless parents often sleep in the bushes of various parks for fear that if they apply for shelter, the shelter is full and they are honest about not having anywhere to sleep indoors, then theirchildren will be taken away. This causes homeless parents to want to become “invisible”. I also told her about FEMA camps that are being erected in various cities, ostensibly in preparation for a disaster, and are being used as homeless shelters where a homeless person must go and is not allowed to leave without an escort in a van.

Then it was on to the radio station where I was one of three people on an hour-long show that centered around the book by my good friend, former Cleveland resident and current American University professor Dan Kerr called “DerelictParadise”. His book addresses poverty pimping from an academic standpoint. It shows the connection between the cheap labor afforded by day labor halls, the race to the bottom in terms of wages and the increase in homelessness since 1945. Dan, a Caucasian, beat me to the punch by being the first to mention that “urban renewal” is actually”negro removal”. (I really WAS getting ready to say that in my next comment when he said it. Great minds think alike.) It was here at WPFW 89.3 FM during the show with Garland Nixon from 6 to 7PM on October 3rd, 2014 that I mentioned the indictment of Shirley Contracting for the third time in two days (all three times having been taped and made available in the public domain.) The indictment is as follows:

In late August or early September 2014 Shirley Contracting which is a subsidiary of Clark Construction began work on a 10-year project near the 200 block of E Street NW in Washington, DC. There is a shelter building which holds up to 1,350 of the city's 8,000+ homeless people which is located diagonally across the road on the southeast corner of the same intersection. It contains three separate shelters, a clinic, a drug program and a kitchen that feeds 5,000 poor people per day and is collectively known as the Federal City Shelter. The CCNV (Community for Creative Non-Violence) is one of those shelters in the building with 950 of the beds. There are probably 300 people in that building who are fully capable of doing construction labor. There may be upwards of 100 who have skills in the construction trades.

Washington, DC has what are called “First Source Laws” which mandate that employers make a good-faith effort to ensure that at least 51% of their employees are DC residents. After they make a good-faith effort to hire DC residents, they are allowed to hire people from outside of DC. The following amounts to what I suspect was a token effort to hire DC residents and one which uses homeless people in ways that the homeless might not be aware.

I was told by a man who, along with his co-workers, comes from the Academy of Sciences during his lunch break to help homeless people write resumes and apply on-line for jobs that Shirley Contracting had indeed contacted the shelter administration to inform them that the company was hiring. This friend had been led to believe that the company wanted to hire a large number of people from the shelter. The shelter administration did not make it their business to convey this information to all residents, though I have no complaint about the man who told me.

I went to the company's website, sent them a message expressing my desire to discuss them hiring homeless people, made a flier with their contact info along with what I'd been told and posted those fliers at the shelter. On or around September 10th I called Shirley Contracting. I was put through to a certain Carrie Carr-Maina (703-550-1127) and explained my understanding of the matter. She seemed rather friendly, for what that's worth to you. (She works in HR.) She said that, while she doesn't know who from her company contacted the shelter, she thinks that they might have simply told the shelter that Shirley is hiring but doubts that they stated a desire to hire any homeless people. She emphasized that anyone may apply. She explained that the application can be done on-line or in person at the office in Lorton Virginia which is beyond where the transit system goes and considerably difficult to get to – especially if you are a homeless person of limited means. (It stands to reason that the interview would be in Lorton even if one were to apply on-line.) Ms. Carr-Maina suggested getting a van and bringing 10 people out to apply in Lorton. She also told me that Shirley Contracting would be participating in a job fair at the Washington Convention Center on September 24th.

On September 23rd I called Carrie Carr-Maina to confirm that she would be at the job fair the next day. She said she would but then asked me if I'd seen her e-mail. I hadn't. She then proceeded to tell me that I was publishing bad information about Shirley Contracting that included the idea that the companywould transport homeless people to Lorton for the interview. I asked her when she sent it and she said the 15th. I thought that a mentally ill homeless advocate whom I know may have made his own version of my flier and sent it out in the name of SHARC, the advocate group that I chaired beginning at the group's inception in April 2011. When I went back and read the e-mail, it had a faxed copy of my flier and a company flier along with a message from Carrie about the large amount of human resources that were wasted dealing with people who were calling in based on bad information. My flier said nothing about the company having offered to ride homeless people to the office in Lorton.

During this conversation I asked her about the claim by a certain homeless man that Shirley Conracting was hiring through the Local 657 labor union for construction and general labor. She said, “No”. She also told me that many other Shirley jobs were coming to a close and that those workers would be transferred to the site near the shelter, leaving very few jobs for the homeless to obtain.

I received a text from a different number (702-358-0411) on September 23rd which said that the job fair was at the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City. The number belongs to what appears to be an identity protection firm in Las Vegas named “Level 3 VoIP”. I'm left to wonder why anybody from Las Vegas is contacting me, with me having no connections there. I didn't actually see the text until the morning of the 24th. I'd hung fliers directing people to the Washington Convention days earlier. I now had to write what I thought was the proper address on the fliers by hand. But it was too late. Some people had already made their way to the Convention Center.

I wrote this entire experience off as water under the bridge and decided that I would still do all that I could to connect homeless people to the jobs across the street from the shelter. I printed the company flier that Carrie had sent me, which had very scant information about the company's job offerings. Then I went to the hearing about the shelter's future on October 2nd. During my testimony, I mentioned the irony of it being so hard for homeless people to get the job across the street. I highlighted that there was an affordable housing issue on one side of the road and a living-wage issue on the other side of the road. What I would hear another man testify about moments later would cause the plot to thicken.

The last man to testify was new to advocacy. He made an indictment of the system as a whole and talked about how DC is being given to the wealthy and the well-to-do. Then he mentioned his experience dealing with Shirley Contracting. He'd initially been told that the job fair was in Crystal City. He claims that it actually took place in Pentagon City. At that moment I realized that I wasn't the only one to be given the run-around by Shirley Contracting and that it wasn't a matter of my own carelessness. I made sure to mention my updated assessment at the October 3rd hearing and during my October 3rd broadcast.

I've brought this matter up during several of my in-person conversations (as opposed to radio broadcasts). My friends and associates agree with me that, if Shirley has a project which I've been told will net them $2.8 billion and which will last for 10 years, they should have to establish a DC office or a mere office trailer on the job site where Washingtonians can apply and interview. We also agree that Shirley just used the homeless. Irrespective of their homeless status, the 1,350 people at the Federal City Shelter are DC residents. Shirley could, in theory, call the shelter director to say that they are hiring and then put that down as having reached out to over 1,000 DC residents about prospective employment with the company. Not only would it bring them closer to reaching the bare minimum of DC residents so as to justify them looking outside of the city for employees, in accordance with the First Source Laws. It might also bring them closer to satisfying some federal law that mandates that they reach out to depressed communities and other disadvantaged groups – such as “Equality Opportunity Laws”.

We can't let this token effort pass as a satisfaction of either law. Let's strengthen either law so as to require Shirley Contracting to establish a DC-based employment office and to visit the shelter and talk directly to groups of prospective employees at the shelter across the road. Let's take it a step further by strictly defining the real employment opportunities that they must offer and the reasonable accommodations that they must make to enable homeless people to obtain employment at the site across the road. They should also have to help them make it through until their first check – namely with cash advances against their hours worked. They should have to do this last thing for at least two weeks and, at most, five or six weeks. I've picked a fight with Shirley. Who will join that fight?????
Unfortunately Eric, I doubt there are many (if any) residents in the now, nearly completely gentrified (read "bleached," thanks to Jefe at an Abagond post some time ago), decidedly unaffordable District of Columbia -- including the newly "selected" mayor, Muriel Bowser who will likely join that fight. {smdh}

Now, if the afore-mentioned instances are not excellent enough reminders of how so totally un-Christlike, these self-professed Christians, living in and running this so-called Christian nation really are, I don't know what else you need.  Not only is homelessness criminalized (pretty much everywhere the gentrifiers slide in), they're also involved in all sorts of schemes to totally crush people's spirit -- and keep them homeless!!!  I just gotta ask all you God-fearin', Scripture-spoutin',  saved hypocrites two things:  Is this what Jesus would do and -- what the hell happened to all that money??!!

Wake the hell up Family!  After the current  mid-terms, where Republicans have gained total control of an already, do-nothing' Congress, it's not going to get any better for humanity in this country!  Corporations as people and how much your "brand" is worth, is unfortunately, the order of the day -- unless of course, we all "join that fight."

Please check out Eric's blog on homelessness in the seat of power in these alleged United States of America at: Tick Tock Sheptock.

- Give 'er HADES: Innundate Muriel Bowser with the Demands of the Poor
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- Can a ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’ End the Criminalization of LA’s Most Vulnerable Residents?
- From Super Bowl Champion to Homeless Retiree

Monday, October 13, 2014

In honor of lying, murderous, thuggish, plundering, didn't-discover-a-damned thing Day...

I was re-reading Dr. John Henrik Clarke's, "Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust:  Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism" and I remembered I'd saved a video a while ago, based almost word-for-word on it:

Now, while I highly suggest you read this little, 109-page primer for the many other book titles he references, I can certainly understand if you'd prefer to listen to his highly entertaining and thought-provoking oratory (I know I do!) -- so here you go:

Though I've not yet paid written homage to my brothers and sisters in Ferguson, Missouri here (for a variety of reasons into which I will go in my next post), I hope they'll accept for now, my deepest and sincerest Solidarity, Love and Respect for what they are continuing to do, not only in Michael Brown's name -- but in mine.

I am SO damned humbled and extremely proud, because they've proven they understand exactly what Dr. Clarke so eloquently states between the 23:09 to the 23:21 click above:
"And you keep approaching someone, thinking somebody, out of their goodness, gon' give up something they took from you.  They took it from you, you got to take it back."

Okay, just in case Dr. Clarke wasn't enough, easily verifiable truth for you -- stay with me.  As a matter of fact -- just sit back, relax and hold the hell on, because Dr. Ivan Van Sertima's, "They Came Before Columbus" lecture, based on his book of the same name follows.  It should, at the very least, send your non-critically thinking minds into a tizzy and, at most -- awaken a thirst for some knowledge, NOT of European, la-la-land making (Bro. Amenta, I see you noddin' your head sayin', "Damn Deb!  That's all I was tryin' to tell you! :-D).  Enjoy, Family:

- Columbus gets his comeuppance: Why his holiday is in deep jeopardy
- Before Columbus: How Africans Brought Civilization to America
- North America is a crime scene: The untold history of America this Columbus Day

Friday, September 12, 2014

As I've said here before -- "Our young people get it!"

There Is No Future in War: Youth Rise Up, a Manifesto

(Statement written by Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman, Ashley Lopez)

A peace sign printed on the American Flag is raised during a protest against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Archive / History Channel)

Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq.

We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts—declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people—are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.

There is no future in war.

We, the youth of America, are taking a stand against war and reclaiming our future.

War does not work. Period.

War does not work from an economic perspective

In 2003 US politicians orchestrated the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq based on blatant lies—lies that have cost the American people over $3 trillion.

Imagine what we could have done with this money:

With $3 trillion dollars, we could have guaranteed free higher education for all interested Americans. Instead, we are wallowing in over $1 trillion in outstanding college loan debt.
With $3 trillion, we could have created a system of universal health care. Instead, affordable health care is still out of reach for many Americans and we have no idea if there will even be a Medicare system when we are old enough to retire.
With $3 trillion we could have renovated our decrepit public schools and crumbling public infrastructure, giving us the kind of foundation we need for a thriving nation in the decades to come.
With $3 trillion we could have created a national energy grid based not upon environmentally destructive fossil fuels, but upon renewable energy sources--something that our generation cares passionately about.
Our true foes—those endlessly gunning for war—have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools - which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow - and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

And war doesn’t even work to create jobs. Politicians say they can’t cut the Pentagon budget because the weapons manufacturers create much-needed jobs. Yes, our generation need jobs. But if members of Congress really wants to use federal spending to help us find employment, the military is the worst investment. A $1 billion investment in military spending nets 11,600 jobs. The same investment in education reaps 29,100 jobs. Whether it’s education, healthcare or clean energy, investments in those sectors create many more job opportunities than the military. The military-industrial complex does a great job lining the pockets of politicians; it does a lousy job creating an economy that works for all.

War does not work from a national security and defense perspective

The war apologists claim war makes our future “safer” and “freer.” But since the tragic 9/11 attack, the US military response has made the world a more dangerous place. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO bombing of Libya, the use of predator drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and countless other examples of military operations have only increased violence and hatred. Iraqis and Afghans are certainly no safer and freer; we are certainly no safer and freer.

We refuse to let our brothers and sisters, both here and abroad, die for access to cheap Persian Gulf oil. The Iraqis, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Somalis, and the people of any other country our military circles like vultures, are not our enemies. They oppose terrorism more than we do; they are the ones who must bear its brunt. We must oppose US intervention not because we don’t care about them, but because we do.

War does not work from an environmental perspective.

War is not environmentally friendly. It never has been, and it never will be. Bombing destroys the environment. It damages forests and agricultural land. It ravages ecosystems, endangering species, even forcing some into extinction.

Bombing contaminates water and soil, often leaving it unsafe to use for centuries, even millennia. This is especially true with nuclear and chemical weapons, such as those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the missiles containing depleted uranium the US used in Iraq. And because of weapons like these, infant mortality, genetic mutation, and cancer rates are exponentially higher in the civilian areas targeted. Children in Fallujah, Iraq, a city hit hard by these weapons, are born without limbs and missing organs.

The environmental costs of war are clearly not limited to isolated moments; they persist for many lifetimes. Heavy military vehicles, in conjunction with deforestation and climate change, lead to the emission of toxic dust from the ground. Even if their homes and livelihoods haven’t been destroyed by bombs, citizens who inhale these toxins are much more susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and health problems.

The US Department of Defense has long been the country’s largest consumer of fossil fuels. Military vehicles consume obscene quantities of oil for even small tasks. If we truly care about reversing, or at least mitigating, anthropogenic climate change—what many scientists recognize as a literal threat to the future of the human species—eliminating war would be an incredibly effective first step.

War does not work from a human rights perspective

The world isn’t any safer and freer for the million Iraqi civilians who died. How is freedom supposed to come at the tip of a bomb?

The debate rages back and forth; “specialists” fill the TV airwaves, repackaging the same tired excuses we’ve heard for years. Most of these “experts” are old white males. The people actually affected by our bombs and our guns--mostly young people of color--are nowhere to be seen. Their voices are silenced, their voices shouted over by the corporate media, by hawkish politicians, and by the profit-hungry military contractors.

War does not work from a historical perspective

War has never been about freedom and liberation; war has always been about profit and empire. American historian Howard Zinn once said “Wars are fundamentally internal policies. Wars are fought in order to control the population at home.”

Military intervention gives US corporations free reign in the countries we destroy. We bomb the country, targeting public infrastructure, and our corporations build it back up again. Fat cat CEOs make millions, even billions; the country, the people of the country, are left with mountains of debt. Our corporations own their infrastructure, their industrial capital, their natural resources. War is always a lose-lose for the people. Economic and political elite in both countries will make a fortune; the people of both countries will be the ones who have to pay for this fortune.

Defenders and purveyors of war have always done empty lip service to ideals like “freedom” and “democracy”; they have always repeated tired, vacuous tropes about “assisting,” or even “liberating” peoples.

How can we trust a country that says its brutal military invasion and occupation is “humanitarian,” when, at the same moment, it is supporting repressive dictators around the world? Saddam Hussein was on the CIA payroll since the 1960s. While we were invading Iraq to “overthrow tyranny” and “free” the Iraqi people, we were supporting the King Fahd’s theocratic tyranny in Saudi Arabia, the brutally repressive Khalifa family in Bahrain, and Mubarak’s violent regime in Egypt, among countless other unsavory dictators.

When we invaded Afghanistan to “free” the Afghan people from the Taliban, the corporate media failed to mention that Ronald Reagan had supported the Mujahideen, who later became the Taliban, and the Contras throughout the 1980s. He called the latter “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers,” while they were disemboweling civilians in a campaign of terror.

These historical events are absolutely pertinent to contemporary discussions of war. We must learn from them, as to not repeat them in the future, as to not fall for the same past political tricks.

Our naysayers say we are against the troops. We are not against the troops. US troops are disproportionately from less-privileged backgrounds. Military recruiters target impoverished communities of color, and there are many recorded instances of them using deceptive tactics to get young citizens to sign long binding contracts. These are the troops that die in US military operations. They are not our enemies. We refuse to let our brothers and sisters be cannon fodder. The real people against the troops are the ones who send our country’s poor to die in rich people’s wars.

How many times do we have to be lied to, how many times do we have to be tricked, how many times do we have to be exploited until we say enough is enough? We are tired of war! War accomplishes nothing. War only fattens the wallets of economic and political elites, leaving millions dead in its wake. War only leads to more war, destroying the planet and emptying the national treasury in the process.

We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about the rest of the world; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our security; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our troops; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we aren’t concerned with our future; we oppose war precisely because we do.

There is no future in war.  (HT CodePink)

Now -- if only OUR old asses would listen...

How many more of your "Wounded Warriors" are you willing to sacrifice for this confused and used fool as he ramps up going to war against ISIL/ISIS (or whatever name the West chooses to call them on any given day anyway)?  And WHAT is Cheney talking about with his "our "inability to shape events" -- what has the alleged United States of America been doing BUT shaping events the world over???

- Say ‘No’ to War and Media Propaganda
- Neocons Revive Syria ‘Regime Change’ Plan
- The Islamic State (ISIS) Used to Justify Renewed U.S. “Humanitarian Bombings” in Iraq and Syria
- The Islamic State, the “Caliphate Project” and the “Global War on Terrorism”
- Mid-East In Depth: Did the U S "Engineer" the ISIS Attack on Iraq from Syria?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Mother's Day, my Sisters...

I was in a club in San Antonio, Texas when the music stopped -- the DJ announced that Tupac Amaru Shakur was dead. When I got home, my sons were asleep. The next morning though, because they loved him and his music so damned much, they sadly told me what I already knew.  It was a bonding moment that I can't even begin to explain (so much love and respect for Afeni Shakur!):

The first time I heard this song from young Mr. Blacc, it was a snot-running-down-my-face affair.  My boys said, "Yeah, we knew you'd love this shit, Mom" --  and they were so right!!:

Happy Mother's Day, my Sisters (particularly those of you with sons cuz  -- "for a woman, it ain't easy tryin' to raise a man").  As commercialized as the day always was, and still is -- know that, without a doubt, there's some real love for you there, from those to whom you gave life!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The intended consequence of white supremacist-manufactured "symbolism?" -- our continued blissful ignorance

I can understand how "symbols" inspire many of us to aspire -- not only when what seems to be their deeply held truths appear to mirror our own, but particularly when they look like us!  But, once we see, by their deeds, that we've been staring "through a glass darkly," shouldn't blissful ignorance be kicked to the curb in search of some real truth?  Doesn't our successful survival as human beings depend upon it?
With most of the present sources of power controlled by the white race it behooves my race as well as the other subject races to learn the wisdom of the weak and to develop to the fullest that organ whereby weakness has been able to overcome strength; namely, the intellect.  It is not with our teeth that we will tear the white man out of our ancestral land.  It isn't with our jaws that we can wring from his hands consideration and respect.  It must be done by the upper and not by the lower parts of our heads.  Therefore, I have insisted ever since my entry into the arena of racial discussion that we Negroes must take to reading, study and the development of intelligence as we have never done before.  In this respect we must pattern ourselves after the Japanese who have gone to school to Europe but had never used Europe's education to make them the apes of Europe's culture.  They have absorbed, adopted transformed and utilized, and we Negroes must do the same.  The three editorials in this chapter and the articles which follows them were written to indicate from time to time the duty of the transplanted African in this respect. (emphasis mine)

Hubert Henry Harrison,  Chapter VIII. -- "When Africa Awakes"
Please read this book, Family.  Its mere 146 pages are chock-full of the kind of clarity we need to hear and heed.  And please, know that his reference to "Africa" in the title is not restricted to the Continent itself, but to the diaspora worldwide.  It was through Pan-Africanism that he saw us defeating white supremacy and benefitting from that struggle.   First published in 1920, Mr. Harrison's book was not only prescient, it is still very relevant today (though I'm certain he'd be sorely disappointed with many of us -- "New Negroes," for whom he held out such promise).

For the past month or so, I've been ruminating about Madiba's death, memorial service, interment and dedication of his statue in South Africa the day after.  Combined, they all totally reinforced for me, how white supremacist-manufactured "symbolism" continues to cripple many of us, Black folk across the diaspora.

If the ANC's 1955 Freedom Charter (demanding the nationalizing of banks, mining and other major industries, as well as the redistribution of land, among other things) had not been abandoned and, had they told the IMF, "Thanks, but no thanks, we don't need your loan money.  We've got gold, diamonds as well as plenty of those pesky rare earth minerals that YOU seem to need so much right here under our feet!  So, how 'bout let's talk some contract renegotiations m'kay?" -- I think we can all agree, the marginalized in South Africa would've been able to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" a long time ago!

John Pilger's, "Apartheid Did Not Die" deals with that inconvenient truth most effectively.  Take a listen:

After reading Ezili Dantò's most comprehensive, Madiba Is Dead: Condolences To Heroic Mother Winnie, I was more than good with my ruminations (Family, please take the time to read the entire piece, as well as the links).  She begins:
Now that Madiba is dead: Remember to remember that icons created by oppressors will never liberate the people. Madiba is dead: Condolences to heroic mother Winnie. (emphasis mine)
This is a sentiment with which I totally agree.  And it, consequently, represents an excellent example of that "white supremacist-manufactured symbolism" that's still confusing us.  According to them:  pre-prison, resistance warrior, Nelson Mandela, bad; post-27 years imprisoned, compliant Nelson Mandela -- good; pre- and post-prison, resistance warrior, Winnie Mandela?  All bad.

Ms. Dantò continues:
Since Mandela’s death, the same international powers that keep the structural conditions alive for Black suffering worldwide, are universally heralding the man and his great achievements. The same corporatocracy who helped keep South Africa and the global South in economic chains and political instability to increase their money-making profits, are lining up to have their pictures taken at the funeral. (emphasis mine)

Really, Family -- you just can't make this shit up!  

And rather than Black bloggers reaching back to the "temple of their familiar," knowing that in our culture, a funeral service is a solemn showing of respect for a life lived (after the wake, of course!),  there was a plethora of these kinds of pieces, mimicking the narrative of the oppressors.  Apparently, cultural amnesia has replaced what we know to be true -- for us.

I've not written much about Michelle Obama because early on, it was quite clear to me that she'd been reigned in and allowed herself to be made into the kind of "symbol" with which white supremacy is most comfortable.  But, the photo above speaks volumes -- not only about "from whence she came," but about her damned husband as a White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchal lemming as well.  Given his "selfie," it's obvious he never had a clue what our Blackness is, and has been, about.   He's just another one of those pieces of white supremacist-manufactured "symbolism" we really could have  done without. If we're honest (with ourselves and others), the answer to the question Ms. Dantò asks here...
Is putting a Black face in command of the same racist, profit-over-people economic system – as with President Barack Obama in the US – a great change? (emphasis mine) an unequivocal, "absolutely not!"
“Life was neither something you defended by hiding nor surrendered calmly on other people’s terms, but something you lived bravely, out in the open, and that if you had to lose it, you should lose it on your own terms.”

Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker
To my mind, having "lived bravely," must always involve telling the whole truth (to one's self as well as others), owning one's fears and muddling through to clarity -- despite them.  As I ponder young Sister Danticat's words, I wonder if Madiba did, in fact, lose his life on his own terms.  Thanks to the non-stop white-washing, I guess we'll never really know.

As I write this today --  on Martin Luther King Day -- I would be remiss in not mentioning white supremacy's machinations of Dr. King's "symbolism."  I've been pensive about it all day.  It seems to me that Dr. King was Black America's own, pre-prison Mandela (though he was not technically imprisoned in America for 27 years).  Instead of breaking him with jail, forcing him to finally disavow all for which he'd fought -- they killed him.  Perhaps they concluded that, no matter what they put him through (unlike the Changeling), they could not turn him against the interests of his people.

White supremacy has done everything they can -- to manufacture a Dr. King with whom they can feel comfortable -- and in some ways, we have been and continue to be, complicit in their success. If I hear one more, "content of their character" quote manipulation and misappropriation, I think my damned head will just explode!

While he was alive, they maligned, demeaned and castigated him for standing up for his people, his culture and what he believed was right -- and human.  After he died, they felt it their right and privilege to do whatever they wished with his memory, like they could, and can, still "own" people.

And just so other folk of color didn't get it twisted, they made certain to spread the bigotry around for those, thirsty to indulge in the "American Nightmare Dream."  Last week, my youngest called me as he was getting ready for work to say (trust me, I was not happy when he called because  I rarely "rise and shine" at that hour!), "Mom, I was watching the news and the weather guy came on and said, "for Martin Luther Coon Day, we expect it to warm up..."  I asked, "You sure he said that?" (the weather guy is a community-accepted, white supremacy-stamped -- descendant of Mexican immigrants!)

He said, "Yeah Mom, he said it.  My friend, Charlotte Redd recorded it on her phone from the TV and sent it to me."  Without a thought, I blurted out, "See, that's why I don't f*ck with Mexicans who think they're white -- send me that video so I can post it!"  He did, but my non-computer wonk self couldn't figure out how to convert it to a Youtube video so I could post it, so here's the article where the station insufficiently addressed it:  San Antonio weatherman says MLK slur was mistake.

Please!  I could give two shits about their, or his, bullshit apology.  Seems he thinks his white benefactors at Fox don't think something equally derogative about him (and his other Brown brethren crossing over the Rio Grande into the belly of the beast).  Let me just say, he's still at work.  Without a doubt, his thought processes benefit white supremacy immensely.

I'm ending this saying that, despite my disagreements with Dr. King's "respectability politics" -- I will always love him.  Why?  Because I've never doubted that he always stood -- and died -- for us.  And the struggle continues, Family...

- Cameron explains selfie at Mandela memorial
- South Africa: Mandela Is Dead - Why Hide the Truth About Apartheid?
- When Martin Luther King Jr. gave up his guns
- How we get Dr. King wrong: “We’ve deliberately dismembered him,” Michael Eric Dyson tells Salon
- The Martin Luther King Jr. They Don’t Want You to Remember

Thursday, December 5, 2013

'Rest in peace, Madiba. Thank you for everything.'

My youngest son called me today to tell me that Nelson Mandela had died. I didn't know.

I'd been almost totally tuning out all TV (except for The Dog Whisperer twice a day) because of all those, "Buy this! Buy that!  Get yourself knee-deep in debt you can't afford!" ads since the Black Friday madness began.  I thanked him, and then sat with myself to reflect on what I deemed my then, very small voice for divestment and revolution in South Africa after graduating from college in 1978.

My headline above, taken from The Daily Maverick, encapsulates Mandela's life for those younguns and others unfamiliar but, my most favorite take-away from the piece, comes from the Madiba I loved the most!:
On 12 June 1964 the judge found all but two of the prisoners guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment. Mandela was sent to Robben Island, where he would remain for the next 18 years. During his time there his mother and son died, his second wife Winnie was banned and subjected to relentless harassment by the apartheid police, and the ANC became a movement in exile. In March 1982, along with Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison. President PW Botha offered him conditional release in 1985, in return for renouncing the armed struggle, but he refused, saying: "What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts." (emphasis mine)
The Changeling will, no doubt, be in attendance at the funeral, totally oblivious to what that last emphasized sentence above even means -- much less, "taking history in his hands and bending the arc of the moral universe towards justice!"  Too bad.  Unlike the Emeli Sandé we see below, his half-white/half-African self was NEVER as socially conscious as she:

In this special edition of IDEAS, entitled "The Mandela Tapes" (a podcast which this old-head has still not figured out how to post!), Rick Stengel, a young reporter chosen to record Mandela's life story, was working in South Africa for Rolling Stone magazine. From 1992 to 1996, Stengel shadowed Mandela, using his small cassette machine to record the stories which would help in the writing of Mandela's autobiography, 'Long Walk to Freedom'.  Listen to it Family, then, draw your own conclusions.


- Mandela: a Dissenting Opinion
- Telling the Truth About Nelson Mandela
- U.S. Lionizes Mandela In Death … But Treated Him as a Terrorist While Alive
- Celebrating a life fully lived: Rest in power brother Madiba
- NYT Takes Mandela's Death as a Chance to Mock His Fight to Free His Country
- ANC on Mandela: 'The Large Baobab Tree Has Fallen'
- Nelson Mandela: Obama, Clinton, Cameron, Blair – Tributes of Shameful Hypocrisy
- Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel.
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