*The epilogue to Ava DuVernay’s stirring, Academy Award-nominated movie Selma reminds us of what became of the heroes and villains of the wrenching 1965 voting rights struggle. Andrew Young, one of Dr. King’s leading lieutenants, became US ambassador to the United Nations and two-term mayor of Atlanta. John Lewis embarked upon his longrunning service in the US House of Representatives. And Sheriff Jim Clark, whose brutal bigotry set the blueprint for the vicious response of Alabama’s white racists, Sheriff Clark was voted out of office due to the huge turnout of black voters!
This footnote about Sheriff Clark’s fate bookends a monologue near the beginning of film in which Martin Luther King – played masterfully by David Oyelowo — tells President Johnson that black Southerners must have the vote to secure justice from an oppressive criminal justice system that was dedicated to white supremacy. Sheriff Jim Clark getting the boot was early proof of what the Civil Rights soldiers knew – that the vote was power!
Eight years before the Selma campaign, in 1957, Dr. King spoke at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, DC and told our nation’s leaders: “Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will… Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.”
The film Selma reminds us not only of the bitter sacrifices that were made to secure our voting rights – but also of the necessity for us to exercise those voting rights to pursue, maintain and reinforce fragile justice, fairness and opportunity. It’s a message that some of us on the left need to reconnect with. In recent years, some liberals and progressives have done a better job of organizing protest marches than organizing voter turnout. Marching continues to be an important method of expressing our grievances, but far too often we’ve hit the pavement without substantive objectives.
Protestors at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle clashed with police, but failed to mobilize supporters around a set of actions that could influence policy. The Occupy movement started as an inspiring grassroots response to corporate practices that solidify income inequality. But without a clear and unifying agenda, set of demands or any strategy for action beyond urban camp-ins, Occupy withered to insignificance.
Recent demonstrations against police violence in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings have united Americans across racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines in bold and beautiful statements against biased law enforcement and in declaration of the value of black men’s lives. However, some of the demonstrations have perplexed me. It’s difficult for me to see the benefit of walking out onto a freeway in Los Angeles or Berkeley, California or interrupting people at brunch in New York City. Such actions do not engage power brokers in talks to bring about change.
Now on the other side of the political spectrum, conservatives don’t march very often. They promote their ideology through the media – especially talk radio and Fox News – and they organize and motivate their base to participate in elections.
Voting is still one of the most potent forms of power in our democracy. Conservatives know this, and I believe that’s why they’ve been working overtime to undercut that power in recent years. The election of President Obama in 2008 frightened the right wing because it represented a massive coming together, a uniting of Americans of all stripes around a bold, populist agenda focused on change. Since then, Republican state legislators and governors have enacted overly-strict voter identification laws which have the effect of suppressing election day participation among groups that traditionally support Democrats – young people, the poor, low income elderly and Latino and black folks. It was in the midst of this unabashed voter suppression, that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court extracted the teeth from the 1965 Voting Rights Act on the false grounds that it is no longer needed.
And yet, while the forces of regression are burning the midnight oil implementing schemes to disempower us at the polls, many of us have simply given away our power by not going to the polls. Republicans swept the November 2014 midterm elections in large part because two-thirds of the electorate – including many left-leaning voters — stayed at home. That cleared the field for GOP candidates to sprint across the electoral goal line seizing control of the Senate, expanding their majority in the House, and taking several governors’ mansions.
Marching can be a good thing. But if we, as liberals, are going to advance our agenda and bring about real change then marching cannot be a primary course of action. We must develop more effective means to influence the hearts and minds of the general public as well as our elected officials. And, most important of all, we must vote consistently in large numbers in every election – not just in Presidential elections. So, when we march, we must do so not only in the streets but we must heed Martin Luther King’s admonition to “march on ballot boxes!” That’s what the Selma campaign was all about. And that is how we will impact the direction of our nation.
Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.
Using Vernon Jones As An Example: How Much Should We Let Party Affiliation Define Us?
*Vernon Jones, a Democratic member of the Georgia House of Representatives has quickly become a household name.
Jones rose to the national spotlight in April 2020 after publicly criticizing his own Party and endorsed Trump for reelection. He later spoke at the Republican National Convention, garnering both criticism and adulation from amongst his peers and the public.
Now once again Jones is catching the eyes of the public as his actions in recent weeks have left many people in repudiation or admiration of him. Jones has busied himself with peddling the false narrative of the U.S Presidential Election being hijacked by those on the “left.”
Speaking to a crowd of Trump supporters in Georgia a few days after the election, the state representative shared his false and misguided view of the election being manipulated, specifically focusing on ballots cast and counted in the state which he believed to be illegitimate.
However, wide consensus states that no voter fraud took place and that the allegations currently being pushed by Mr. Jones and even the White House are simply unsubstantiated. But I digress, the point of me writing this piece is to say that Jones’ actions are an enigma to Democratic leaders and to everyday affiliates of the party.
Nikema Williams, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia called him: “An embarrassment” who fails at representing the values of the party.
Jones has frequently stated in interviews and public speeches that his advocacy on the part of Trump stems from what he views as the President’s championing of Black issues. Arguing that Trump’s work in the areas of education and criminal justice reform is admirable and should incentivize Blacks to vote Republican. Such work includes permanent annual funding for HBCUs and school choice, along with the First Step Act.
Like Mrs. Williams, I also do not agree with Jones’ political views or his support for Trump, but I challenge her (and others) when it comes to a party-by-ideology characterization of him. I believe the displeasure Democrats hold towards Jones lies solely not in his misguided support of an incompetent President and conspiracy theories, but rather in that he identifies as a Democrat while heavily advocating for Republicans and their platform along with him possibly being Black. However, people need to realize that political affiliation and race do not always coincide with beliefs and opinions.
It is possible to be both a Democrat and a pro-life supporter just as much as it is to be a Republican and a pro-choice defender. It’s also possible to be Black and anti-police reform or White and for police-reform. You cannot attach expectations onto people due to a label. Left, Right, Liberal, and Conservative are just pointless classifications used to categorize people in order to simplify their sometimes-unique beliefs and opinions. While, people’s association with Democrats and Republicans is merely based on what party they feel at a point in time is more closely aligned with their personal beliefs and doctrines. In other words, people’s connection to such labels can change at a moment’s whim.
In any case, Jones has done nothing of significance to earn widespread attention. Frankly, he would not even be a topic of conversation if he was registered as a Republican supporting Donald Trump or White. Therefore, it’s hard not to assume that Jones has largely only been given media attention due to his labels: Democrat, Black, and a Trump supporter. With the latter two labels possibly playing a substantial role in his given attention due to: 1) There not being a high volume of Black Trump supporters and 2) Confusion as to why a Black politician would back a President who repeatedly indulges White Supremacists.
Jones is an example of why Democrats and Republicans need to accept the fact that ideologies differ amongst their members because if they do not, they risk a lifetime of alienating people based on assumption.
So, do not take this piece as me saying, “You can’t be mad at Jones for his political views and the policies he supports.” After all, if you voted him into office and he changed his agenda after elected you have every right to be angry with him. But, if you strictly dislike him because he is a registered Democrat and or a Black guy siding with Republicans, then you need to rethink how you approach politics because something tells me Jones did not just start leaning to the “right.” He was probably always there, and you simply voted for him with the assumption that his associated party affiliation or race would determine his thinking on political matters.
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David Anthony is a new graduate of Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government. A self-designated history buff and random fact finder, David could rattle your ear for hours with information. Born and raised in the City of Angels he is a huge fan of the city’s culture and hometown NBA team, the L.A. Clippers. A future attorney, businessman, and civil servant, he hopes to be an impactful individual in life. Contact David: [email protected]
The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Clyburn and Black People Mad At Biden Already / WATCH
*For a man who was born in the Jim Crow south, lived most of his 80 years in South Carolina and has spent the last 27 years as a U.S. Congressman, James Clyburn should have realized one thing: You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you can negotiate or what you demand. And while there are plenty of disappointments one could list about Joe Biden‘s pending presidency, with all his experience in life and politics Clyburn should be the last person voicing disappointments with President-elect Biden’s cabinet picks so far.
Yet in recent interviews, Clyburn claimed Black people are feeling like the middle of a donut – left out – when it comes to cabinet appointments and leadership positions in the pending Biden administration. It’s surprising that Clyburn feels that way after all he did to revive Biden’s dying presidential campaign during the primaries in South Carolina.
When Clyburn endorsed Biden and urged voters in his state to support him they did. During the general election campaign season, the octogenarian risked his health during a pandemic to campaign for Biden, whom he’s known since Biden was a U.S. Senator.
Even though President Donald Trump won South Carolina in the general election it wasn’t for Clyburn’s lack of support for Biden. So the least the future president can do to show gratitude would be to appoint more Black cabinet members and choose more Black young Democrats for leadership roles in his administration. But expecting a politician to do the right thing – just because – is like Nate Robinson expecting to never see another meme of him getting knocked the f*ck out in that boxing match: It’s unrealistic!
The issue becomes what did Clyburn – with all his life experience and political savvy – negotiate or demand of Biden before the votes were tallied? Did he negotiate for Black political appointees and White House positions before the votes were counted? Did he demand Biden create federal funds to incentivize community policing programs to undo what his 1994 Crime Bill tore down in mostly Black households? Or did Clyburn merely hope, wish and pray that Biden would do the right thing?
Although police departments are funded on the local level, Biden’s crime bill was the national catalyst that criminalized Black men and led to mass hiring of law enforcement around the country, and mass incarceration of Black men and women. These are some of the bully, liar, killer cops that commit legalized genocide of Black people today. I want to know if Clyburn demanded that Biden put a stop to what he started decades ago!
This is the same Clyburn who opposes reparations for ADOS/African Descendants of Slaves. How does an old Black man who grew up in the Jim Crow south and witness first-hand the political scheming that mishandles billions of tax-payer dollars not support reparations? If he doesn’t support that how can Black America trust him to support us on any other front with fervor and conviction?
Instead of continuing to beg the same old politicians for reciprocity we should start a new FUBU political party whereby we hand-pick our politicians, create our own political agenda and push it on the local, state-wide and national levels. Let’s ensure our own quid-pro-quo success.
Those who oppose this third-party idea claim doing so would dilute the vote and stifle progress. Only voters who get something in exchange for their support want things to stay the way they are. That’s not Black people. We shouldn’t remain loyal to a system that for 400 years never has been loyal to us. I don’t want to wait another 400 years hoping and wishing for political power and economic wealth. I’m willing to wait just four more years, as long as we start the FUBU party now.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with your questions, comments and speaking inquiries. Follow her @TCBStef on Twitter and Instagram.
The Crenshaw Mall Battle is Far More Than A Battle Over One Mall
*The instant that a major outside development company announced that it would bid to buy the Crenshaw Mall, the battle was on. Here are the familiar charges. It is a naked money-making grab by outsiders. It will jack up rents for struggling small Black-owned businesses. It will usher in a rash of chic, high priced, new housing for mostly young upscale whites. It will drive even more lower-income, working-class out of their community. It will continue to send the wrong signal that inner-city Black neighborhoods are ripe for major outside development dollar pickings.
Outside Developers say just the opposite. They claim that their purchase of the Crenshaw Mall will boost minority-owned businesses, spur economic growth, and provide quality retail outlets and restaurants for the Crenshaw community
The developer who toyed with putting that bid in for the mall got the message and backed out. Now there’s another developer who reportedly has put up the cash for the Mall. The same pro and con arguments on both sides are being shouted. The battle to send this developer packing by some community activists is even fiercer. Whether it’s the fight over ownership of the Crenshaw Mall or any other inner major business and residential area, the watchword that rings on all lips is this word: gentrification.
Like any other controversial, hotly debated, and divisive issue that bursts on the public policy scene, there’s a history. Gentrification is no different. It didn’t start in the late 1990s with young whites pouring into mostly Black and poor neighborhoods in America’s central cities and buying up rundown houses and apartment buildings. Then soaring the rents and home prices thereby driving the Blacks out. Or developers hungrily eyeing prime commercial space and land in neighborhoods such as the Crenshaw district.
The Urban Land Institute in the first major study in 1976 on gentrification that year found that a rising number of big cities experienced some form of gentrification. There were lots of new rehabbed housing and apartments in almost all cases occupied by affluent, educated young professionals. The report noted that the newcomers were “establishing a new investment climate.”
This was not lost on investors and developers who see bigger profits to be made selling to the young affluent whites interested in moving back into these areas. It didn’t take long for the first rumblings of protest to be heard. The rumblings came from residents and community activists. They demanded to know, what about the folk who live in these neighborhoods, what happens to those who can no longer afford homes and apartments there? There were warnings that the transformation had consequences, mostly dire for those residents and for cities. There would be even more distinct areas carved out for the rich and poor, this time not out of the city, but within the cities.
A decade later the ante jumped on inner-city real estate. The influx of young affluent whites snapping up distressed properties in inner-city neighborhoods turned gentrification into a major growth industry. The properties bought often at fire-sale prices in distressed areas became solid financial investments for the present and future for investors and speculators. The ramp-up in tax revenue and fees was a windfall for municipal and county governments. The sweetener for investors and developers was to offer an even greater goodie bag of tax breaks and incentives to spur them to gobble up even more land in these areas.
There was scant if any attention paid to the effect of the make-over of these areas on the increasingly displaced Blacks and Hispanics, and the poor in what were fast becoming nouveau rich neighborhoods. Instead, there were countless articles and stories and features on the lifestyles and habits of the new urban elite in these neighborhoods. The words” increased poverty,” “displacement,” “racial disparity” was nearly totally absent from the gentrification conversation.
With gentrification now becoming a buzzword for seismic urban change, the battle lines were now tightly drawn in the debate over whether gentrification and development or at least the types of development it brought were a good or bad thing for poor Black and Hispanic communities. Developers, a slew of government officials, and real estate moguls are solidly on one side repeatedly citing the supposed benefits: more jobs, a spur to businesses, more and better housing, schools, and services, and spruced up public space. Community activists, legions of residents, counter with their checklist of bad things it purportedly will bring: homelessness, displacement, unaffordability, racial tensions, and erosion of the decades of racial and cultural cohesion that ironically forced confinement to racially segregated neighborhoods engendered.
The fierce battle over the Crenshaw Mall is set hard against the backdrop of class and race, and the rapidly changing demographics of America’s cities. The debate will continue to sharpen over the best use of valued land in and near central cities. Locally, the Crenshaw Mall is simply the flashpoint of this debate; a debate that will only grow fiercer with time.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Gentrification Wars (Amazon) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network
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