|Left, March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963; right, 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Washington (AP Photo/File)|
Never having risen to King's level of leadership or inspirational prominence during his life or death, the Right Reverend Al, in cooperation with Martin Luther King III, leap-frogged all the other organizations with whom Dr. King collaborated in 1963 -- to be the first out of the gate with his, "Okay y'all, look at me now," rolling National Action Network (NAN) advertisement on Saturday.
Like many others, I mistakenly thought the Changeling would be speaking at the weekend event and despite the fact that I think he is the antithesis of everything for which Dr. King stood, and as much as hearing him speak feels like fingernails on a chalkboard for me (particularly when he tries to channel MLK in talking to Black folk), I spent an inordinate amount of time watching so I could hear the lies he would undoubtedly tell in order to honestly critique them (which now, doesn't seem that important).
Instead, in what I can only describe as a poorly prepared, "speed-dating" event, person after person came to the dais with only two minutes to speak, the majority of whom were cut-off by a band before they were finished -- played off the stage á la the Sandman at Showtime at the Apollo. This was nothing more than a sideshow.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...
|Top, March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963; bottom, 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Washington (AP Photo/File)|
Those who convened this event surely took their eyes off the prize a long time ago. By embracing this "thing-oriented society" against which Dr. King railed (that corporate-sponsored statue of him being a case in point) and particularly, having the warmongering, Murderer-in-Chief participate as if he's some realization of "The Dream" -- makes that fact abundantly clear.
I dreaded the fact he'd be there. I knew they'd invite him though. They had to. Why? Because to the "faithful," symbolism trumps jobs, homes, a living wage, food and even humanity -- all so they can lay claim to the first, Black president. The crowd, bathed in Obamalove, presented the perfect opportunity to distract from the issues, those who need to be paying attention to them the most. And it worked like a charm. As with the dedication of the statue, the "faithful" yet again, allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by an empty "commemoration" in service to white supremacy.
In his, President Obama should not be welcomed at March on Washington commemoration, Ajamu Baraka succinctly hit the many problems that made my jaw tight about his participation. Here are a few:
The fact that Barack Obama will be standing in the shadow of Dr. King, his presence conveying the impression that he somehow represents the values and self-sacrificing lives of Dr. King, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks and many of the thousands gathered that afternoon on the national mall, should be taken as an insult by everyone who has struggled and continues to struggle for human rights, peace and social justice. (emphasis mine)I don't know about you, but I'm sure insulted. Everybody always gets heir panties in a knot when folk like me say he hijacked the Black struggle for his own political expediency. Get over it, he did.
Surrendering to Barack Obama the podium that King stood before allows the State to close the circle of meaning on an important chapter of the African American story, and what is possible in that story. Linking the demands and aspirations of African Americans in 1963 to the ascendency of Barack Obama as President of the United States within the still-dominant white supremacist structure, affirms a limitation that reflects the oppressive reality of African American life. It brings a clear message, even though it is not acknowledged on a conscious level, that the highest aspiration and possible achievement for an African American is to be able to serve white power – to be a servant. That is the “positive” role model for the new black leadership class. (emphasis mine)Read that whole thing again, especially those of you who have problems with movies like The Help or The Butler and their portrayals of hard-working, honest Black folk with no choice in, nor necessarily, love for, the kind of work they had to do -- unlike the Changeling.
What those so-called Black leaders and even many progressives and radicals don’t understand is that, in ongoing ideological and cultural battles in which capitalism and its minions are systematically engaging to maintain their dominance, symbols have meaning. When Barack Obama delivers his speech that day, he will complete the process, starting with the King national holiday, of symbolically merging the civil rights struggle with the interests of the U.S. State and the capitalist order. The political and ideological consequence of this is that it effectively eliminates any substantive critique of the links between white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy and continued African American oppression, and reduces the range of acceptable discourse related to the plight of African Americans to reforms within the existing order.For those of you who count the "symbolism" of the little boy touching the Changeling's hair as something fantastically meaningful, kindly consider the "symbolism" about which Mr. Baraka spoke above and tell me which matters most for a people still struggling to realize even a small part of the "dream." To my mind, they are mutually exclusive -- and intentionally engineered to be so. The White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy's (WSCP) keeping the meaningfulness of the former in the forefront of the minds and souls of Black folk, makes the latter unrecognizable. It is distraction pure and simple.
But even more damning for the development of an oppositional consciousness and a movement of resistance among African Americans and progressive politics in the U.S. is the fact that Obama is the living negation of everything, from his domestic to foreign policy, that Dr. King and the movement stood for in 1963. (emphasis mine)
Do read Mr. Baraka's entire piece. I'm sure you'll find much there with which to agree if you believe in truth, instead of the smoke and mirrors that is the Changeling. His point about the way in which substantive critique of the WSCP is eliminated in conjunction with a reduction of acceptable discourse related to the plight of Blacks, is beautifully made by Mychal Denzel Smith in his March on Washington at 50: Commemoration vs. Movement over at The Nation:
I had little interest in the March on Washington fiftieth-anniversary festivities. I have no problem with taking time out to honor those who came before us and struggled and fought for what gains we have made in terms of racial and economic justice. I’m all for it. But I also believe that the greatest way to honor those folks is by continuing the work to ensure that future generations will have the privilege of looking back into history in horror and not seeing any parallels to their present. However, after Saturday’s events, it was hard not to feel, as Brittney Cooper of Salon put it, that what took place was “eulogy for a bygone era, [rather] than a call to action.”This young brother hit the nail on its proverbial head and I agree with him 200 per cent! Sharpton's NAN-a-thon wasn't about to let anybody get up there and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Not only would it have spoiled his day in the sun in continued service to white supremacy, it may have even jeopardized his MSNBC hustle (and you know he wasn't having that!).
That feeling of ambivalence and mourning was only furthered yesterday, on the official anniversary of the march, when word came down that Philip Agnew of the Dream Defenders and Sofia Campos of United We Dream had been cut from the roster of speakers. The young people, my generation, were shut out.
The speeches that were given were generally fine speeches, as far as speeches go, but none came close to capturing the spirit of the times in which we live or setting a vision for where we need to go. That’s the purpose of youth voices and that’s what was lacking once Agnew and Campos were told there wouldn’t be enough time for their two-minute speeches. But it also made all the more clear what yesterday was and was not.
Yesterday was not about indicting America. It was a celebration. It was about paying lip service to the myriad forms of oppression that plague this country, without any specific agenda for how to eradicate them. Yesterday was about America patting itself on the back for finding one speech given by one black man to be important to its history. It was not about what brought more than 200,000 people to Washington, DC, that day, or the actual content of that speech, which was a radical call for justice, equality and freedom. Yesterday was not about updating the dream. It was about finding complacency in our progress. (emphasis mine)
I even found myself talking back at the TV screen when John Lewis rose for his two minutes. While he seemed energized as Tom Joyner introduced him, I could not stomach the hypocrisy of all his years spent in Congress against the backdrop of an unemployment rate for his state ranking 48 out of 51 (which includes the District of Columbia) in August. He was certainly not the John Lewis Julian Bond wrote about in that last "related" piece below but, it was obvious by his comments, he missed that guy.
I neither listened to, nor read the Changeling's speech and I refuse to be complicit in his hanging onto Dr. King by posting it here. Instead, I think Philip Agnew's "Two Minutes" below should be shared with pride and respect for those younguns who are truly committed to the issues for which Dr. King lived and died:
I can't help but believe that A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. King would have been extremely proud of this young man. It is obvious he understands what Mr. Randolph meant when he said:
"Justice is never given; it is exacted and the struggle must be continuous for freedom is never a final fact, but a continuing evolving process to higher and higher levels of human, social, economic, political and religious relationship."Thank you my young brother -- very well done. This old head totally believes you are ready! I hope to see, and hear more from all of you Dream Defenders in the very near future.
- The Rev King didn't dream of better people; he dreamed of a better system
- Dr. King Was A Man, “The Dreamer” Is A Zombie
- March on Washington Anniversary: Great Reads on Racial Justice
- Marches won’t cut it anymore: Why this week’s feels like a funeral
- Remembering my time at the 1963 March on Washington
- Seeing 'New Jim Crow' Placards Seized by Police & More From the March on Washington
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. v. Barack Obama
- This is the Day: The 1963 March on Washington by Julian Bond