Posts Tagged ‘poor’

Occupy Wall Street Head Count: Who’s representing the 99?

For weeks now I’ve been observing Occupy Wall Street along with the rest of the world. I’ve sat back, a bit stand-offish, watching my Twitter timeline, news and the internet pulsing while I just try to grasp who/what this movement is about. True to my character, I’m always down for some opposition to any form of oppression and the status quo. The momentum OWS has created can only be attributed to the disenchantment of the American people. So in principle, #OWS has my moral support. But…

For one thing, I read an article which was bemoaning appearances of solidarity from entertainers such as Kanye West, but lauded that of others. The main gripe was that Kanye flaunts his material possessions in his music and dresses rather flamboyantly. Hmmm. Even as I consider all of this, I have to recognize Kanye is in no way comparatively as wealthy as billionaire bankers or those who own the media companies which distribute his music.

So, if Kanye is not a part of the 99% because he is rich today, then who makes up the 99%. Is there a certain income bracket that qualifies in that number? I have to ask. If rappers or athletes who grew up in poverty are now not allowed to represent for that faction, who gets to make that call. Who is setting the bar for the 99%?

See, I still need clarity on a few other things like the vision of outcomes. For me, growing up poor, I need to connect a few things. I need tangible follow up actions and demands that impacts the working class and the poor.

Now, I understand what it means to have presence in a march and/or demonstration, still what are the demands/action plan beyond that? What are the desired outcomes?

Because honestly vacant houses, evictions, no access to preventive health care and jobs, compounded by the shittiest education in the world has been reality of many Americans.

I mean, clearly, Katrina aftermath painted the picture of a huge percentage overlooked in the equation of slices cut from the American pie.

And while there may be those who require statistics to relate to the way poverty and systematic injustice crushes a large percentage of us, there are those who are living it. Everyday… for generations. Among that class of people, mortgages, 401Ks, college tuition, jobs are as familiar as Mars water. I mean, there’s some talk of it all, but the likelihood of experiencing any of it is yet a distant possibility in their lifetime.

This is what I am closest to. More than those who work on Wall Street, and little more than those who are typically identified as the middle class, I can relate to the working class and poor.

And many among us are asking the questions. If the 99% are rising up now, did they not feel any outrage or cause to do so after Katrina or perhaps at the fallacy of our education system- the perpetual pipeline to prisons that also profits not only corporations but middle class law enforcement personnel and rural blue collar towns across this country?

Isn’t it natural to look for the thread, feel compelled by a need to understand how #OWS trickles down to folks who are truly at the bottom, those who have been systematically locked out?

It begs the question, is there a flaw in the mathematics of the 99%?

Historically, working class/poor have ALWAYS marched and protested. Let us not ignore the history lesson of poor Blacks. We lead full revolutions that benefit America, yet marginalize us in terms of policy and systematic injustices.

They may not feel inclined to join the current “struggle.” Perhaps they have a hard time occupying anything when they have to report to a job everyday that only pays minimum wage with no benefits in which to take off to occupy a doctor’s office with their very sick child poses a calculated, catch 20/20 decision. Perhaps they want to join, but must occupy the home registered to the ankle bracelet they are forcibly wearing due to house arrest. Or maybe, even, they cannot afford bus fare to ride to the areas where the occupation is taking place in their cities. These maybes are very real for many. Can you relate to that?

Now don’t misread my commentary. There are those who believe as I do, that it is not cool to allow anyone else to fight your battles. We want nothing more than to take our swing in the ring with institutionalized injustice and systemic oppression.

Still there is the quandary: if we go all in, will we be invited to the table when they slice the pie or will get the traditional crumbs?

I’ll admit, #OWS has my admiration and appreciation. There is power in its symbolism.

And while, I am still left with doubts of how things will play out for poor Blacks in the hood, it pleased me to see this well stated article that addressed some of my concerns. And this one really is impressive.

What about you? Do you think Americans can side step historical context of racial oppression and how it feeds the system to unite in a fight that revolutionizes our country in a way it has not since the Revolutionary War?

And I promise not to sit idly by waiting to see, I’ll join and give support (resources/expertise). On the other hand though, the Black hand side, I’ll keep posing these questions.

While we’re contemplating, these maybe convincing for some

Perhaps if our President moved beyond rhetoric and offered decisive leadership, the movement would swell to a full-blown revolution. Maybe….

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Closing Catherine Ferguson Academy: Robbing the Cradle of Hope & Promise Part II

It seems like this story has been written for us since we were forced upon the shores of these United States of America. A grotesque picture book with chapter and verse depicting African men, who before being sold away or savagely beaten to death, granted only the freedom to breed Black children with the African women that would be left alone. The story, ripe with illustrations of these women held hostage by the sweet pain of mothering past loneliness-struggling to survive the harshest realities, the umbra of birthing babies void of hope.

Seems like the story was a grand mastermind of intentional design…and today the story lives on, yet told in epic portrayal.

So I instantaneously connected to that story when I began seriously contemplating the fate of Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for teen mothers and their children. To catch up on the struggle of CFA, read my previous post. But as I was saying, CFA is a school for teen mothers and their small children. We know from any evening news broadcast, the whereabouts of the fathers are highly likely behind prison walls and in detention centers, the new American plantation.We know this because our tragically failing education system disproportionately cripples our children, driving our boys into the prison pipeline and our girls into teen pregnancy and welfare dependency.

A hopeless cycle that has repeated itself unto our community so many times it has become the norm for too many across the African Diaspora. And so it is in Detroit. Yet, when vested and progressive educators got back to the basics, enhancing core curriculum by teaching economic development, agriculture and farming; honing affirmative parenting skills; encouraging breastfeeding (as we know the nutritional and research-based cognitive and sociological benefits this provides both mother and child); the results have stagnated the cycle of destitution and dependency. Now that the village of Catherine Ferguson Academy has found a way to slowly reverse a generational legacy of teenage pregnancy and dropout rates that buoy functional illiteracy, the system that created the “grand mastermind of intentional design” is interrupting progress and success.

Threatening the school with closure.

Now, granted not all Black girls are experience teen pregnancy or consider dropping out of high school. Many flourish, from being recognized as the brightest in their class to being accepted into distinguished universities to receiving Gates Scholarships. And so it may be very easy to separate the girls in our family on our block from those attending CFA. Maybe…

CFA girls and others like them may live a harsh life that when glanced at seem perpetuated by bad choices. However, we know inherently these are our little sisters…and we know their children are our children and future. What they become has strong implications on our community. We also know what plays out at CFA, is but a microcosm of the greater plan (call me a conspiracy theorist) to destruct the moral fabric and cultural fortitude that are implicit in our contributions to this country, and moreover the world. So much is invested in exacerbating vicious cycle of poverty and culpability to government. Many pockets are lined from the devastation of the poor. Jailhouses are built with the poor in mind, grants are written to big foundations, checks cut to lobby for the vices of the poor (tobacco, alcohol, gambling,). Poor people are preyed upon for the almighty green dollar. No question.

WHERE IS THE LOVE?

But here is where I become angry and a sinister dread hangs in my spirit. It is because of the obvious silence, or dare I say total disregard, in relation to the struggle of poor black girls by other Blacks.

Now, the Black community turned Jena Louisiana into a Mecca for the quest of justice when Back boys were damned into the bowels of a racist judicial system deep in the heart of Dixie. I was right there, so I know how we chartered buses, posse’d up our motorcycle clubs, and stepped into the fight with our sorority sisters and frat brothers. We braved KKK deep back roads to free our boys. Let us not forget the countless public voices that gave their platform to rally the community and urge us to keep up the fight. No proof or discernment was necessary. We fought the good fight.

Add to countless times we have swooped in to rally around Black boys in trouble. The Tookie’s and Genarlow’s and Troy’s.

I can even point out the cries of anguish as black boy after black boy is gunned down in our inner city streets. We cry hard when we’ve lost our fearless warriors. Oscar, Sean, Derrion, Amadou.

When we are threatened to lose our Black boys, we lose our collective minds. And this is as it should be.

Yet, on the other side of that, why is it, that the squalid life prospects we are losing our sisters to only renders us silent.

Where is the outrage? Yes, we hold a few conferences and have intellectual intercourse over subjects from films like Precious and Colored Girls. We wax poetic when a verbal injustice is done to our revered celebrity sisters. And we seem to come alive in all our fiery colorfulness if we discuss domestic violence of a high profile sister.

So why can’t we muster a single sentence or tweet or Facebook status or magazine spread for the sisters among us who struggle with some very real shit every single day of their young lives? How cheap do we play ourselves, and these sisters, who if not by the grace of God we could be sitting in their shoes. The little sisters at Catherine Ferguson Academy and ghettos across the country, Black girls like me and you, are living straight out of the Good Times theme song. Keeping their heads above water. Water that in their lives is a cesspool of abuse, broken hearts, hopelessness, neglect, welfare, toxic and temptation of cigarettes and alcohol, debris from failed education systems, and all the dank funk of poverty.

I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that CFA being a village of promise, where young mothers are given the tools to become self-sufficient with a vision of the future, is set to close yet I’ve not read or seen a single mention across my social networks dedicated to this issue. Is it because no one cares? Or have we too lost hope for our girls. But how can we? We’ve seen this story before… we know Maya Angelou, poor teen mother without a father for her child, high school drop out. We know Oprah, molested as a teen and left pregnant. What hope did they have…who pulled them along?

Our living legends give us a dazzling example as proof that the future can be bright for these girls, who among their alumna has produced doctors and PhD students. Let us not dim it by ignoring the present fight that we must engage. It is the responsibility of us all to put on the full armor. Put some gloss and add real shine to our lip service. Save Catherine Ferguson Academy. Save our community!

So I know the reason is not that there is no love for poor Black girls. It has to lie in that I am just not connected to the right folks in my virtual network. It’s simply because I have not reached you, but now that this has made its way to you…please take it personal. Catherine Ferguson Academy needs you to see the connection it has to you.

We need action! Many are gathering for a protest rally at the school today. Still, others around the country can support from afar. Sign the petition. Spread the word. Write letters to congressman and legislator, Detroit city officials and Detroit Public School administrators.

Beyond this travesty, let us please make meaningful connections to our little sisters in the struggle, before they ever believe they can walk a college campus. Join the National Cares Mentoring Movement in your city. Volunteer at a public school in your area. Invite a group from a girls’ home to lunch with you and your colleagues at work. We have more work to do. Need to add some shine to our lip service. For real!

Kanye, quite unnecessary but big of you to apologize to the little man

Just for clarity and background…I am an extreme critic when it comes to art and culture. It is not easy to impress me. That’s why in the summer of  2003, I was the ultimate critic of a new kid on the hip hop scene. There was a popular concert series here in Chicago called Neo Soul Explosion that featured up and coming “neo-soul” artists. Folks like Eric Roberson, Ledisi, Raheem Devaughn, Anthony David,  and Floetry. I was producing for WVON, who was the media sponsor. There was this guy joining one of the series and everyone was making a big deal over…Kanye West. My intial thoughts were “The rapper guy? Affiliated with Jay Z? Why is he performing in a neo soul concert series?” One of my excited colleagues even asked him for his autograph. I’m thinking, again, “dude is a rapper…and he is affiliated with Jay Z.” Now personal hang ups with Jay Z aside, I’d heard his single, “Through the Wire,” and while I thought is was an interesting sample and great story telling, I hadn’t heard any particular line that inspired nor empowered me, my measurements of good hip hop.

But later in the summer I heard Jesus Walks! That was the moment I cared who Kanye West was. This certified dude for me. Ever since then, I have been a Kanye West fan. he is my Chi-Town brethren and I am biased, so you should know that before reading further.

Now that we’ve got that out-of-the-way, shall I proceed? Thank you for the digital head nod.

Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation on NOLA, there was a collective sense of helplessness; a shared sense of neglect; a communicable outrage at the lack of emergency assistance, and moreover the outright disdain shown for the American people struck by this natural disaster. Looking at news coverage, it was obvious that a disproportionate amount of those Americans had a couple of things in common. One, many were poor. More than half hey were Black. It was heartbreaking to watch, especially when you heard the words refugee and looters media notables like CNN’s Anderson Cooper used to label the survivors.

More than anything, watching as a Black person, it became crystal clear…this country has yet to value or embrace Blacks as first class citizens.  Watching as a Black person, one could not help but imagine them self in the same predicament, abandoned by their government, ridiculed and exploited by their fellow countrymen. It was a time of collective suffering for Black Americans. At what to do when you are wounded and hurting? Lash out. So it came as no surprise to me that Kanye West seized his opportunity to speak truth to power during NBC’s Concert for Hurricane Relief.

Kanye’s proclamation that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” was quite fitting. Hell it is exactly what I was thinking and what our audience on WVON had been calling in to say since the levees broke and drowned the lower 9th ward of NOLA.

Too bad more influential Blacks did not come forth to speak that same truth. Kanye’s delivery may have been brash and ill-timed. But he stepped up to shed light on a dark place in America’s history-making moments. The moment that gave yet another entry into the plight of race in our Nation.

So I find it very telling that George W. Bush would take Kanye West’s opinion of him as one of the “most disgusting” moments of his presidency. Really?

Now I’m a person one either loves or hates. I accept that about myself. There have been some pretty mean things said about me, hell but that is true about anyone who lives more than a month on this planet. Not even crying, colicky babies get a pass.  Still, most mature people understand that not everyone is going to like them. Mature and rational people totally accept that they cannot please everyone, that folks will feel some kinda way about them. That’s human nature. You chalk it up and keep moving…that is unless there is a strand of truth in their assessment of you. Well, then their evaluation haunts you.

Judging from Bush’s congratulatory remarks to FEMA executive Mike Brown telling him he was doing a “Heck of a job,” and his analysis of his administration’s response, Bush has not given a second thought to the people who had suffered.  And again, those people disproportionately were Black and poor.

The media genius Rachel Maddow shares with us how Bush in his own words proves Kanye’s theory:

I’d like to hear what legislation, commitments, initiatives, resources he developed and lead during his 8 year administration that would discredit Kanye’s observations.

Crickets….

Fast forward to 2010 when NBC’s Matt Lauer decides to take Kanye to task for his passionate remarks made in 2005. First of all, I watched the tape several times. Virtually I gave a high five to Kanye on Myspace and Facebook for his accurate summary of George W. Bush and all those who identify with his “cowboy” oil-slicked mentality. Kanye never used the word racist. Though if we could hear some of the hunting conversations between Bush and his buddies, and by analyzing some of his Presidential priorities, that point could be proven, too. But don’t put that in Kanye’s lap. He did not call George W. Bush a racist…he said the man does not care about Black people. Huge difference.

Furthermore, as a producer, I recognize the effect The Today Show team was going for when they staged Kanye’s previous remarks to play under his present interview. Every decision made by the executive producer and tech director is for effect, one that does not require the knowledge or input of the subject. And Kanye, being the intelligent Black man that he is, understood he was indeed a subject trying to be manipulated. I am proud of him for thinking through his responses and for asserting himself to Matt Laurer.

Yet, even more than his own defense, I was proud to see Hip Hip mogul and cultural influencer, Russell Simmons, send out a support signal to his young brother.

Unfortunately, not many others have seen fit to do so. Black intellectuals love to pontificate on matters like the death of hip hop and misogyny, but even James Baldwin would’ve clearly seen the juxtaposition of Black celebrity and corporate media. The thought that Black culture is to be exploited and celebrated if/when it mocks itself. When Black artists portray themselves as villains and helpless, then they are “cool.” But let them have an opinion that is remotely political and they are Muhammad Ali’d.

Not to mention the corporate triangle in all this that my boy, Davey D connected for us.

Kanye has made albums in which he questions himself and his contradictions, speaking about his tendencies to fall for the patriarchal leanings of this society when he refers to women in derogative terms. But I don’t see anyone taking him to task for that.

But I digress. All of this to say, America needs to knock it off. Stop the damn farce. Be honest about where Blacks stand in this country and how we are tolerated only if we don’t step out of the boxes deemed for us.

Then too, I’d like to give George W. Bush a few other disgusting moments from his presidency. I found this site, one of several, that gave a very thorough account of all the disgusting missteps of this duck-brain. http://www.netrootsmass.net/hughs-bush-scandals-list/

Feel free to add your own.

Oh, and just to make a point, look at how he insults a blind journalist.

Let’s face it. Bush owes the American people an apology for (fill in the blank).

Blind man insult