Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hustling, Flowing and Repairing Our Minds

A few weeks ago, I saw a sneak preview of Hustle and Flow and left the preview feeling the same way I did after seeing Denzel Washington's Oscar winning performance in Training Day: raving about the acting and sick to the stomach about its theme.

In case you haven't been on earth for the past two weeks, Hustle and Flow is a film that won accolades at the Sundance Film Festival about pimping in Memphis. Terence Howard, the lead actor gives an awesome performance as a Black Memphis pimp with the always good Taraji Henson in a mesmerizing performance as well. But this isn't a movie review. It is a partial deconstruction of how, as psychologist Wade Nobles says "Afrikans have been taught to drink generously of the vomit of white supremacy."

It is interesting to note that in a quick review of the reviews of the film, white critics are informally retitling the film "Craig Brewer's 'Hustle and Flow'". Craig Brewer is the film's director and is white. He is the deux ex machina of the film, the raison d'etre the hustler if you please, who sold the film for $9 million at Sundance and got it made. White critics are not calling this "John Singleton's 'Hustle and Flow'". John Singleton is the film's producer and is Black and received support for the film by Spike Lee as well. Stanley Crouch, whom I usually disagree with said that he was troubled by this fact alone, since Singleton and Lee are arguably the most influential Black directors in Hollywood.

In my book, Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2003) I write that reparations are not only about repairing the economic damage wrought by the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, but also attempting to heal the "Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome" that affects (infects?) most Afrikans in the Maafa. "Hustle and Flow" is an example of how white supremacy mixed with willing Black participants can create a witches brew that is toxic in Ourcommunities.

It is interesting that some of the most virulent criticism of the film has come from Afrikan women and directed toward Terence Howard (the lead actor and pimp in the film) because of his being married to a white woman in real life. Howard's main money maker ("investor" as he calls her in the film) is a trailer trash white girl who ultimately is responsible for his getting the necessary air play for the music he creates. In a white supremacist world that sees white women being its most valuable commodity, this is an appropriate ending for a film about "Black life" by a white director.

Like Monster's Ball, Hustle and Flow is a white man's fantasy of how the Afrikan world works. It demeans Blackwomen, laughs at Blackmen and once again elevates white trailer trash women as the key to a Blackman's success.

Perhaps all of us, especially artists, entertainers and athletes need to reread Langston Hughes' classic essay on the the obligation of the Afrikan artist to his/her community. Repairing our minds and understanding how white supremacy works are important tasks in the struggle for reparations...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Wachovia's "Reparations Efforts"

Yesterday, Wachovia announced its feeble attempt to "atone" for its past ties to American enslavement. Wachovia had earlier done a study to show that its predecessor banks had held slaves. "The resulting research revealed that two of our predecessor institutions, the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company and the Bank of Charleston, owned slaves."...they write on their website and for that slaveholding past they are offering to "spend" $10 million in "safe" ways to the NAACP, the National Urban League, UNCF, Thurgood Marshall Fund and ASAALH. Now while all of these groups have been important in seeking justice for Afrikans in Amerikkka, it is the "safe road" to give a paltry $10 million to all six of them (the other is a local North Carolina group) for the purposes stipulated at the above referenced link. Philosophically, this would be $2.25 for the approximate 4 million Afrikans emancipated from enslavement in 1865.

It is clear that corporations will and should be sued to force them to justice in this struggle. It is also important that Black organizations like the NAACP see these "reparations" as a form of "hush money" so that the offending companies won't be sued. White supremacist have historically been very good at dividing Afrikans with gestures of money and it is no different today. Starving two people then offering one of them a crust of bread while letting the other remain on the brink of starvation is a good way to kill *both* individuals and create animosity between them. This divide and conquer strategy has worked during enslavement, apartheid and under *all* systems of white supremacy and continues to exist today...

I've had conversations during the past few days with various people in the reparations movement and meetings will be held with officials in the traditional civil rights groups to discuss these issues. Reparations are *not* just another program to be funded over the next five years and afterwards the company is left off the hook. Boycotts are going to be discussed in these meetings and a highly publicized "don't buy from your former slave owners" campaign will be mounted.

More on this later...

Monday, July 25, 2005

DNA, Genetics and Reparations

Today, the NYTimes published an article about Afrikans in Amerikkka making our DNA connections to Africa (see http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/25/science/25genes.html?pagewanted=1) it is interesting how *white* researchers discourage this research as if bragging about their ancestors being "aboard the Mayflower" isn't in the same category. I believe whites are afraid of this research for two fundamental reasons: 1) it may raise the frightening possibility that they have Afrikan ancestry and 2) if links can be made between their ancestors and our enslaved ancestor, heir property, inherited wealth and reparations may be the next step in seeking justice for the TransAtlantic Slave Trade.

When I taught at Fisk there was ample evidence that a very powerful elected official had Afrikan ancestry and he was terrified that such information would be made public and would lose him votes among his racist supporters. It's somewhat akin to Dave Chappelle's skit about the blind "white" supremacist who finds out he is Black and what it does to him and his relationships.

I encourage *all* Afrikans to get such testing done. You can find out more information about this at africanancestry.com which it the best place to have your DNA tested. I did, and found out that on my mother's side I have genetic links with the Tikar People of Cameroon and on my father's side with the Bubi People of Equatorial Guinea. Both groups were violently opposed to enslavement and were known for fomenting slave rebellions when/if they were captured. I am proud to carry on the tradition with the work I do in reparations...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Politics and Judges in Reparations Cases

It was interesting to note that in the decision made by Judge Norgle in the corporate reparations trial in Chicago, that he quotes much of the decision on a paper authored by legal scholar Eric J. Miller (see link to abstract) who has worked closely with Charles Ogletree at Harvard on reparations cases. It shows how many of the decisions that will come from judges dealing with reparations cases will be political with an eye toward public
repercussions rather than the merits of the case. Even more interesting is how these recent cases are viewed as "setbacks" by reporters (Black and white), pundits and white supremacists ignoring the fact that *all* cases involving the rights of Afrikans the world order were rarely won in *one* trial, but were the product of several cases taking place over several years. Dred Scott, Homer Plessy were both *right* in their pursuit of justice despite what the courts ruled. History proved them correct just as history will view Farmer-Paellmann and the Tulsa Massacre Survivors as correct in their pursuit of justice.

Ray Winbush Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Interview with Black Issues in Higher Education

I did an interview today with Crystal Keels the Assistant Editor of Black Issues in Higher Education on the status of the reparations struggle. I find that Black journalists doing interviews on reparations are far more sincer in trying to learn and uncover substantive issues on the subject while many white reporters have a far more cynical and skeptical view of reparations. (A typical white interview can be found with Bill Reilly at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,162511,00.html). Dr. Keels and I talked for about 20 minutes and it is good to know that there are publications other than the mainstream press (read "white") where reparations scholars and activists can have their ideas reflected accurately.

Journalism, be it print or broadcast is not only biased, but reflects the ideology of the writer. That is a truism, but bears repeating over and over as more and more stories appear about reparations.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

CBC will Continue to Press Reparations Issue

I received a call last night from a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. We talked strategy concerning John Conyers' HR-40 bill which calls for the United States to do a study on the impact of slavery.

I'm always struck that whites who oppose reparations never view their inherited wealth, white privilege and false feelings of superiority as being a by-product of slavery. Richard America an Afrikan economist who teaches at Georgetown estimates that $8-10 trillion that is part of white America's wealth is directly attributable for slavery. Many whites will quickly say, "My ancestors didn't own slaves, so why should I pay for reparations?", but will look dumbfounded when you tell them how their ancestors worked for corporations who benefited from slavery, landowners whose wealth derived from slavery allowed them to have a job, and held jobs that Afrikans were far more qualified for, but because of white supremacy, were not allowed to work. Thinking is in short supply with whites who are opposed to reparations...

It is clear that this coming fall will see a several resolutions in Congress that will be directly related to reparations. Like Brown v. Board, ten years from now people will say that the non-support of reparations was a mistake. It will be interesting to see how members of Congress will rationalize why they did not support reparations then when they have a chance to do so now...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Boycotts, Writing and Reparations

Yesterday, I finally finished the 10,000 word essay on the history of reparations for the Schomburg in New York. It will shed light on how the reparations struggle is a "river" through the history of Afrikans in Amerikkka. I'll put the finishing touches on it this weekend.

I received a call early on Friday from a friend of mine who had taken a telephone survey from Wachovia Financial Services. During the survey she told the interviewer that she wanted to know what Wachovia was actually going to do now that they had disclosed and apologized for their direct connection and profiteering from the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. She also told them that she would be moving her funds from Wachovia if something "tangible" was not done. The interviewer was alarmed and told her that she would be receiving a call from a "higher up" concerning her "concerns".

She did. From her conversation it is clear that Wachovia and other corporations involved with the enslavement of Our Ancestors are terrified of the mention of a boycott. I was impressed with my friend telling the "higher up" that from a business standpoint it made no sense for her to continue doing business with a corporation that had only apologized and not done anything substantive about its crimes against humanity. The "higher up", of course said that the apology was a big deal (it isn't) and that a major meeting will be held "next week" concerning "this matter". She also had given the Wachovia executive my phone number to call and discuss this matter further.

He hasn't called (and I doubt if he will) because these folks are protecting the business interests of their corporations.

Within three minutes of hanging up the phone, I received a telephone call from a Brother identifying himself as a "reporter" from a major southern newspaper. Coincidence? I'm not sure. Though Afrikan, he asked some terribly naive questions about reparations. Though not totally skeptical, he clearly felt doubts about whether they would be won. I'm always struck how some middle-class Afrikans feel that reparations are a "handout" and have nothing to do with justice. It would be like someone breaking into your home, stealing everything, trashing it and when you have a postitive ID of the intruder, they "apologize" to you. After you start the process of restitution however, they accuse you of of wanting a "handout"! Reparations have nothing to do with a handout, and everything to do with the inherited privilege that white Amerikkkans enjoy as they built their individual, collective and ultimately inherited wealth on the benefits they received from the TransAtlantic Slave Trade.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Strategies are Forming after the NAACP Announcement....Bush Appears at BlackExpo

It will be important for grassroots reparations activists and other advocates to be a part of the NAACP's strategy for suing corporations that have ties to the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. I had conversations with several activists today who expressed their concerns about how and where the NAACP should enter the struggle.

Today, Bush appeared at the Black Expo in Indianapolis rather than making an appearance at the NAACP Annual Convention in Milwaukee. This is exactly what you would expect from an Alfred E. Neuman (Hillary's words not mine) president. As usual, white supremacists like Bush seek to divide Afrikans over *any* issue that benefits them. In this case, the NAACP cannot criticize the Black Expo organizers for having Baby Bush at their convention. It would have been nice, however if the Expo organizers would have simply refused his presence. Afrikans must overcome being in awe of white supremacists and their minions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

NEWS BULLETIN! NAACP to Target Private Business for Reparations

On my way from Morgan, I received a call from Deadria Farmer-Paellmann telling me that The Washington Times (of all papers) did a front page story about the NAACP targeting private businesses for reparations. I was excited enough to stop by a store and for the first time in my life, purchase a copy of the paper. Sure enough Brian DeBose, a Brother who I met at the NAACP convention on Sunday and who I had encouraged to be aggressive with his newspaper in getting the word out about reparations wrote a comprehensive story about what the NAACP was going to do. It is clear that our presentation on Sunday had a direct influence on the NAACP and I'm happy about that. More importantly, this will be the added "clout" that the movement needs. I called Deadria after I got home and she *had already* written a letter thanking the NAACP for their help. We must make sure that we follow-up on this breakthrough since it can easily be derailed by those both in and out of the NAACP. There is so much at stake here as well as the politics that will be played with this. Stay tuned...

The NAACP and Reparations, Part II

I was invited to speak at the National Convention of the NAACP in Milwaukee on July 10. There were about 200 attorneys (majority Afrikan but not all) attending a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class on a host of issues involving Afrikans in America. I was struck by the number of *whites* at the meeting who seemed to be "authorities" on reparations. Presenting on the panel was Adjoa Aiyetoro, old friend and now teaching at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, Keenan Keller from Congressman Conyers office, and me. I went first and gave history, Keenan second with the status of cases and Adjoa gave a passionate overview of the Tulsa case. Adjoa told about the political nature of the decisions being made by judges, particularly on the issue of "equitable tolling". She underscored how it was important for us to recognized that these decisions were made with an eye toward "opening the floodgates" to reparations lawsuits.

The presentation was very well received. Afterwards, one of the white "experts" on reparations (from Australia no less) challenged us about whether nations could be sued from crimes against humanity. I cited studies outlined by Jon Van Dyke in my book, "Should America Pay?: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations, but he seen oblivious AND opposed to the idea that nations can be held liable for crimes against humanity. He clearly didn't know what he was talking about and later we found that he was only a "legal intern" and had not even passed the bar!

I gave the group Deadria Farmer-Paellmann's phone number and told them that they needed to help in the litigation. Several of the attorneys present wrote her number down. We will see if they follow through.

All in all it was an important day for the NAACP. Even though they passively embraced to support the reparations struggle in 1991, the took a big step today in inviting us for a three hour discussion on the subject...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The NAACP and Reparations, Part I

I've been invited and am on my way to the National Convention of the NAACP in Milwaukee. They asked Congressman Conyers, Adjoa Aiyetoro and I to do a *three hour panel* on repations for the conference. This is a major invitation since just a few years ago, many executives at the NAACP were opposed to an organized effort of the nation's oldest civil rights organization being involved in the reparations struggle. I've prepared a summary paper on the history of the struggle and in light of the recent dismissal of the corporate reparations case in Chicago, the meeting should be interesting.

I'll report the results of the meeting tomorrow...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Reparations Case Dismissed from Chicago Court

Two days ago the corporate reparations case was dismissed by the Federal Court in Chicago. Norgle, the judge has *never* ruled in favor of an Afrikan in *any* case, so it was not that big of a surprise. It will be appealed all the way to the White Supremacist Court. This will *ignite* rather than discourage reparations activists. Dr. Conrad Worrill came out strong as he should have about the judge's immersion in white supremacy.

Also on this day, there was the bombing in London during the G-8 Summit. A tragedy and I am struck by how the white world disconnects its crimes against people of color from its own suffering. Palestinians, Iraqis and Afrikans continue to pay the price of white supremacist lust for more, bigger and better...

...and the beat goes on...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth of You Lie

Today, Amerikkka celebrates its 229 "birthday"...I went to see "War of the Worlds" and thought about how it would actually be if that were to happen. I feel absolutely no loyalty to this country and want to become more tangible in making plans to leave it. I wonder about how Blackfolk could sing "God Bless Amerikkka" as I was looking at the NY celebration on TV.

I've got jury duty tomorrow, and I've never done that before. I'm torn between trying to get out of it and being there in case a Blackperson needs an advocate in the courtroom. I'll play it by ear and see what happens tomorrow...