To: Dhoruba Bin Dhoruba Bin-Wahad
Brother Dhoruba, it has come to my attention that there are a number of issues that have been long standing in regards to the New Black Panther Party and its origins, as well as whose suppose too be in charge of the organization to date.
First, too all the brothers and sisters who have been involved with the organization that I created, and continued to try either in part or whole in making it an organization of principles and not “personalities” I salute you all. I must also add my discontent with the two mendacious individuals who have claimed the leadership of the organization without first of all talking with me first.
This letter is being written in hopes that anyone who read’s it, will get a better understanding and appreciative vantage point of all the sacrifice that had gone into re-creating the basic ideas of the founding beliefs of the voter registration movement which promoted the voter registration organization known as Black Panther Party from Lowndes County, Alabama and attributed to the idealistic formation of the Oakland, California group known as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
There are many tactical points that will be added to this lengthy letter, so that whomever reads it can at least follow the historical points and true history of this organization, and not “believe the hype” and non-sense of “Tweedle Dee-and Tweedle Dumber” (bka “The Ass-Holes from Down Under”).
First of all the New Black Panther Party was created in Dallas, Texas in October of 1987, after much research and contemplation; two and a half years later I met Dhoruba Bin Wahad, (a formerly incarcerated political prisoner) who became a comrade and special consultant of mines, and even greater ally of the New Black Panther Party. His unusual insight and first- hand experience with the COINTELPRO Program as well as the cruelties of the American legal system, law enforcement and the FBI opened the continued conversation for the need of an organization such as the New Black Panther Party; and in the continued political climate that all people and especially African-American’s were continuing to live in America.
I am going to add another point of view to this letter besides my own; an individual who continued to stay in the NBPP after I decided to diminish my role and leave the organization to keep confusion from being the growth of the this organization; Robert Williams took the task of being the Chairperson of the NBPP in Dallas and then a nation position before Malik and Hashim even became members of this group.
One of the problems this organization has is people who have joined it “want to be revolutionaries”, but have no military experience at all; which is part of the holistic problems and issue’s that continues to plague the NBPP to date.
I will add Robert William’s info into this letter, as historical record for those who were around at the time of the inception of the NBPP and continue to try to meander thru this group, and working in dim light.
From this point forward I will allow Robert Williams to give you some of the historical evidence that has taken place over the years; some of those issues allowed Khalid Muhammad to be invited to join the NBPP ranks, and there-by become the National Chairman of the NBPP…
Robert Williams Historical Perspective below has been added to this document to make sure you follow the truth, and not lies that are being perpetuated by the “So Called Leadership” of the NBPP…
“It was at one of these school board meetings that I was exposed to the impact the NBPP Truly had. During one of the meetings the school board members tried to stop a parent from continuing to voice concerns after the 3 minute buzzer and the NBPP had enough of the community from being silenced and took a forward position and told the board to let them speak and started a chain reaction thru-out the crowd and the school board responded by letting them speak. It was from that meeting onward that the NBPP begin to take action in the school board meetings and at one point shutting down a school board meeting… It was at this meeting the community went up to the board members seats and conducted their own school board meeting for the evening.
This action changed the way the school board meetings were conducted and they proceeded to get the Dallas Police involved to regain control of the meetings. It was also at this time the current school board president Bill Keever, began to prove his ineffectiveness for conducting school board leadership, and his board presidential duties.
The NBPP and the community called for his removal from office, due to the political positioning of the NBPP and the community at this time; the media began to attend the school board meetings and they began to get national press. Because of the NBPP’s position on self-defense and discipline with small arms Khallid Muhammad was visiting Dallas, Texas he was introduced to the NBPP; whom he asked to handle his personal security. Khallid did not trust the NOI and needed an armed defense team that wasn’t relicked to religious ideology. It was this time that Aaron Michaels was introduced to Khallid Muhammad by way of another organization called the “community Think-Tank” whom Hashim was a member of. Aaron and Khallid began to forge a friendship and working relationship… Khallid Muhammed would alwys aske for the NBPP to for his security if he was coming into the Dallas, Ft. Worth area, which garnered the NBPP with local and national press, because of the ideological differences Khallid had begun to talk about concerning many issues dealing with “white people” in general…
The NBPP had already established chapters in other cities including Indianapolis, Washington D.C. Fort Worth, and Houston; we merged with the Panther Vanguard in L.A. after a meeting with the leadership in 1996 ( Kwaku Duren, Boko Abar, and Tago) and formed the “New Panther Vanguard” movement. This collective was short lived because at the same time we were forming with the West Coast Panthers, brothers and sisters on the East Coast wanted to join and started working with Khallid Muhammad.
Kahllid began to demand that people who joined become “ultra-black revolutionaries” and choose sides with him because he was against Kwaku, because his wife was Anglo. We chose to work with Khallid, and lost connection with Kwaku.
Khallid began to work with us as we started to make national headlines, a move that would prove to be the catalyst of failure on many levels within and outside the ideology of the NBPP.
As we made national headlines with the church burnings in Greenville, Texas we continued to make national press with ongoing issues within the Dallas Independent School District and its school board.
After the nurder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper Texas, Aaron Michaels and the NBPP were about to make the move into that city; Khallid Muhammad called Aaron Michaels to make sure they showed up together to deal with this situation; and Khallid wanted to make sure he had a show of force with armed NBPP members, because he knew that’s how “we rolled”… This would solidify the NBPP in the history books and on nightly television.
We went into the city to protect the community once the police chief supported the KKK rally that was to take place in the black community. This action called the NBPP into adefensive posture in protecting the African-American community. At this time I was placed in charge of the maneuver under Aaron Michaels, I served as the Minister Of Defense of Field Operations; it was at this time that I had my first clash with Khallid Muhammad. With him not understanding “Panther Protocol”, he insisted to be head of the troops and serve as spokesman; this was against our structure and I told him he could not tell me how to coordinate the field operations. He then asked Aaron to remove me from the ranks !!! Aaron of course did not support him on this issue of my removal, but he did ask me to leave the room and Khallid was briefed on our structure by Aaron and David Foreman (The Dallas Chapter Chief Of Staff).
It was also during the organizing of this event that I first meet Malik Zulu Shabazz who stood in as the defense attorney during the event and it was my penal code manual he used to review Texas Laws for the field actions in place. We also had Quanell X. on board from Houston, Texas as the community liaison for the maneuver; he eventually became the Chairman of the Houston Chapter and once Aaron and Khallid decided that he needed to become a member of the NBPP if he wanted to have avoice within the organization; then Quanell X. was appointed National Minister of Information. Aaron agreed to be the National Minister of Defense and “gave” Khallid the position of National Chairman.
In the structure that was in place prior to Khallid taking the NBPP National Chairmanship; but Aaron and Khallid’s power within the group were equally distributed the Minister Of Defense and Chairman had the same level of power.
I, Aaron and David Foreman began to see the organization going into a different direction had. The moment Khallid publicly announced his appointment the organization began to grow exponentially. All the former NOI membership that supported Khallid left the ranks of the NOI and instantly became NBPP; without understanding “why they were joining” or the NBPP’s internal structure. We grew from organizing 6 chapters to over 20 chapters; this big jump in membership was great on the surface but came at a destructive cost. Consider the fact that Khallid’s influence was so strong that masses of NOI membership religiously blindly followed Khallid form one uniform to the next, the NBPP was not based in religion and Khallid had to fill the void of this transition with a religious messiah leadership personality. In order to baby step this process Khallid started by changing the original 14 point platform of the NBPP to a 10 point platform with a “Spiritual Afrocentric Ideology”, in order to allow a religious over-tone to be employed and accepted when prior to this process, we did not have one in place.
Above you see many of the reasons for the disarray of the NBPP, and its membership that is intrinsically lost, as it continues to stumble 11 years later after the death of Khallid Muhammad… Ladies and gentleman, brothers and sisters today is the day that you wake up and smell the coffee, because it is burning on the stove !!!
And last of all I never gave the leadership pf the NBPP to Malik or Hashim, it was never theirs to try to lead or re-shape. Malik Zulu Shabazz has never created any specific program or originated a true ideological platform in his life; as far as I can tell he is a “community prostitute” and continues to whore the true ideas of the organization that I and others have created, and also diminishes the life and legacy of brothers and sisters from the African-American community and other struggles across the board. And when myself , David Foreman asked Hashim Nzingha to join the NBPP (before the camera’s ever showed up in the hood and he saw stars, hummers and cash signs rolling around in his head); he said that he wouldn’t join because he “was afraid he might get shot” ! Now all of a sudden he’s found the courage to be a great leader? Give me a freakin break… I doubt it very much he has that much courage !!!
None of these brothers exhibits a clear understanding of the struggle of poor and oppressed people or an understanding of their own races problems (whether they are economic, political, legal, military or otherwise).
Dhoruba, once again this letter should have been written a long time ago; and because of the positioning of these “knee-gros” and their fake-ass ideology, the NBPP has been listed as a terrorist group and not a “freedom fighting” organization working on behalf of people… To the caution of anyone thinking about working with this organization, I say to you…
“Take your resources, your time and energy and work with organizations that are working for the freedom and liberation of all people including poor and oppressed people, and all people of color… Live up to the true creed of “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE” !!!
Stay away from bullshit, and anything that smells like bullshit… And when these 2 “knee-gros” approach you for money, aid or a drink of water and say that they want it so they can help the people; you already know from their background and history with the African-American community that they are lying; so don’t waste your time…
Founder of The New Black Panther Party
STEALTH HISTORY & BLACK GATE KEEPERS
by Dhoruba Bin Wahad
Years ago I wrote about the Black Agents of Stealth History. Those accounts and analysis of revolutionary movements written by former Government snitches, Police agents, and assorted “Professors of Black History” who matriculated from Dashiki wearing sexist narrow cultural nationalists during the sixties when all hands were needed at the armed front against Police terrorism and white supremacist violence.
So What is stealth history? It is misrepresentation of the historical relevance and purpose of groups and or individuals who’s contribution to the Freedom struggle of their people, if positively represented and or emulated would radically change Black people’s institutional perceptions and in doing so remove from “responsible leadership” and relevancy the petty middled class, caste, and their ideology which derives benefits from Black subjugation and/or integration into prevailing racist system. Stealth History is revisionism of events, social struggles, and political contradictions that seeks to legitimize collaborators with White supremacy.
For decades now the “Stealth Historical accounts of the sixties have been in full effect. The legacy of the BPP has been a particular target of Stealth Historians Black and White. The contemptible stealth historical portrayal of the Party created by the Black Gatekeeper class and their artistic and creative sycophants that demeans, negates, and trivialize the BPP’s contribution in expanding the envelope of Human Rights in America, and in doing so established the enduring principle of fidelity to the Poor disenfranchised Black population are the major reason why at the height of the Black Liberation struggle against white supremacist domination(1964-71), when the U.S. government declared that the BPP was “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States”.
The non-violent “civil rights” wing led by many of the iconic Civil Rights leaders portrayed by Hollywood (that Malcolm X talked about) scooted for the cover of “legitimacy”, after decades of managing the post-industrial Plantation, now like old senile Uncles sitting on the porch recounting the days of their youth to a new generation of “Dream Seekers” they simply forgot about the Robert Williams, the H. Rap Browns, Kwame Touré, the Huey P. Newtons, the Fred Hamptons, Eddie Conways, Assata Shakurs or Sekou Odingas, and their political Alzheimer’s moment only coincidentally erases the role of Black militant traditions that help shape our collective resistance to systems dedicated to white supremacy.
Just as George Jackson and Black Prison movements were ignored in best sellers like the “New Jim Crow” by Michele Alexander whose analysis of Mass incarceration, completely overlooks the impact of Revolutionary Prison movements on Law Enforcement’s Corporate Criminal-Jusice-Complex, or the purposeful mischaracterization of Black armed self-defense (as crazy niggers with guns) and proferring distorted accounts of Black Radicalization at a crucial moment in Time when Black Human Rights and Black Nationalism threaten to diminish the appeal of a integrationist middle-class movement pursuing “Civil Rights” and their institutional inclusion in corporate America, especially during a pivotal point in U.S. cold war relations, i.e. the Vietnam War should be considered mere lapses in research, difference of opinions – Black stealth historians “forgot” about Denmark Vessey too until a racist white boy reminded those among us who remembered to forget the terrorism of white supremacy.
Though the BPP lasted in its original form for a relative brief period, It was the international character of the BPP and Huey P. Newton’s brilliance in regard to revolutionary Black Nationalism and class (which underscored the Party’s International solidarity with Liberation Movements as an effective expression of modern Pan-Africanism vs the narrow Cultural and Messianic Nationalism that perpetuate neocolonial elites and their control of African masses that made Huey and the original Party shine as revolutionary heirs of Malcolm X, not as a reactionary spin-offs of the messianic ultra-nationalism that Killed Malcolm.
We all know now that It was MLK’s transition from domestic civil rights leader to a international “drum major” for Human Rights (anti-imperialism) that sealed his doom and caused the abandonment of his Poor People’s campaign by his colleagues and a few of today’s senior Black Leaders. Like wise it was the BPP’s revolutionary ideology, it’s adaptation of principled class, gender and race analysis that made the Party’s destruction by the State a national priority and a hated reminder to the sell-outs of institutional Black leadership of their cowardice.
Not having seen this particular production (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution by Stanley Nelson) I have no doubt that the “Stealth historical” distortion of not only the BPP’s legacy, but the legacy of Black militant resistance to white supremacy in America is in full effect. Much of Elaine Brown’s critique here rings true especially to those of us who have paid the price in blood, with our youth, and who today remain the “the last of a loud generation” of rebellious revolutionaries – the misfits of racist America
Here is the original intro I and Tanaquil Jones released for the Campaign To Free Black Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War (referenced in my comments on Stanley Nelson’s BPP documentary)) regarding “Stealth History”. That term was coined by Reginald Major in Volume 24, No 4 of Black Scholar, titled “Stealth History: A Political Process”. circa 1992 perhaps.
-written by Dhoruba Bin Wahad-
Dhoruba Bin Wahad currently co-chairs the National Coalition to Combat Police Terrorism with former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
*This essay was initially slated for an ill-fated special issue of The Black Scholar Journal. It was submitted in November of 2014. i would want only to add that much of what i argue here would also be my argument as to why no mention of Ture (even Stokely!) appears in the film Selma (2014).
To these strong critiques of Michael Eric Dyson’s recent screed against Cornel West i would only add (beyond what we have and will continue to say on air) that it is consistent with past behavior that Dyson would take a year (as he claims) to write 10,000 words against West while remaining friendly or relatively mild in his “academic” assaults on the policies of Obama (since he also claims to agree fundamentally with West there) or of those well-positioned defenders of the far right.
*The following was originally published in The Black Commentator March 16, 2006
I was loving the new Dave Chappelle’s Block Party movie until Wyclef Jean brought me quickly out of my emersion in hip-hop/comedic heaven with that old crippling false optimism offered to the young. He gave them more of that tired stuff about how you can’t “blame the White man,” “nothing is holding you back,” “work hard… stay in school… go to college…” and you can make it! All lies, every word and he knows it.
Shoot, he had just finished singing to them his song “If I Was President” in which he explains “I would be elected on Friday” and “assassinated on Saturday.” But we are conditioned to tell those lies. We can never honestly or plainly speak to the young (shit, or the old!) about a systemic, structural impediment to equality. It is eerily similar to the way we cannot speak openly or honestly about Black “leadership.” And no one is more guilty of this kind of self-censorship than I. It was almost as bad as trying to watch this new show about “race shifting” and hearing a White man in Black-face express his anxious anticipation of getting his first Black-on-Black use of the word “nigger,” or is that “nigga?” No, no, it was almost as painful as watching members of the Congressional Black Caucus use their State of the Black Union panel time to tell us that we need to unify and support the Tavis Covenant while not explaining to their loyal Black audience that they have yet to till their own fields in that respect.
Wait! But the worst of all, however, was driving to work and listening to Michael Eric Dyson use his new Radio One WOL AM talk-radio show to pleasantly interview the Manhattan Institute’s prize negro John McWhorter. It was simply too much for my tired and weary sensory receptors. That was the one that did it, that took me over the edge. Clef is a brilliant artist, the television show is, well, a television show. But Dr. Dyson is a self-proclaimed societal critic, an expert in Blackness and a spokesperson for Black America. He has very publicly alerted us to his presence and leadership. No, no. His actions are just simply worse in this case.
What this all has in common is a refusal (or inability) to properly, and/or publicly, expose the existence of systemic oppression and just how it works. This weakens us in perpetuity, by the generation. Dyson has by now positioned himself, not without skill or talent, as a (“the?”) Black intellectual spokesman. He has, with super publication abilities, thrown down the gauntlet and said “I will carry the team coach!” He is fast approaching the remaining pantheon of “untouchable” Black public figures and more than that – by noticing his increasing appearances on shows like Democracy Now! – Dyson has also been selected by the White Left as a (“the?”) Black-community spokesman. This means his willingness to engage a McWhorter further magnifies that negative impact on our community and further legitimizes McWhorter to his real audience – the White conservative right. And it was splendid Black talk radio theater.
The two had a multi-segmented friendly back-and-forth with existing but softened disagreement measured equally by congratulatory phrases of “but I love him anyway.” Dyson would softball loft flowery statements about socially and economically constructed inequity and then leave McWhorter to smash these out of the park with his fraudulently humble soft-spoken denunciations of these views as not addressing the real problems of Black cultural tendencies toward laziness. And even while mentioning his work for the The Manhattan Institute, so as to forever protect against a lack of full-disclosure, McWhorter was never taken to task for exactly what that means. Dyson passed on a wonderfully proper opportunity to use that teachable moment to expose these academic “Trojan Horses” to borrow from Dr. Martin Kilson’s political example. By the way, since McWhorter was also invited by Dyson to make weekly visits to the show might we dare suggest he offer at least that much time to a Kilson? Then again, why bother with long-standing Black intellectual leading figures when White corporate hired-guns are available?
What Dyson needs to use his time and influence for (among other things) is the exposure of McWhorter-types lurking among us eager to take White conservative think tank money to explain our poverty and inequality as being the result of our own cultural flaws. McWhorter is the Black-face needed to sell us pigs’ feet. He is paid well to colonially administer “scholarship” meant to lubricate the social-policy legislative piping, making it easier for the Manhattan Institute to achieve its goals. Those social polices, described in the pages of Black Commentator as the “Bright Line” issues against which this White right elite moves, often have their juridical justification penned by the likes of Manhattan Institute think tank academics, like McWhorter. This is about, as is explained quite clearly by the title of their own recent collection of essays celebrating the Institute’s 25th Anniversary, Turning Intellect Into Influence.
In this MI anthology Tom Wolfe happily tells the tale of a former World War II British fighter pilot, Anthony Fisher who, fearing the encroaching socialist movement in Europe, established in England the Institute for Economic Affairs to promote free-market ideology. His fears were not of politicians but of “powerful ideas, such as Marxism and Darwinism, that changed the course of history.” And in 1978 he established that institute’s North America cousin, the Manhattan Institute. Their goals? To promote “scholarship” targeted at influencing the influential to do their bidding, i.e. attack welfare, explain inequity as minority-group-pathology, promote law and order, etc. What results, according to legal scholar Derrick Bell – one named in that anthology among the liars to be watchful of – are national “policies towards blacks” which if “revised to require weekly, random round-ups of several hundred blacks who were then taken to a secluded place and shot, that policy would be more dramatic, but hardly different in result, than the policies now in effect, which most of us feel powerless to change.”
Where does this powerlessness derive? It is, as Frantz Fanon noted, an “apathy so universally noted among colonial peoples… [resulting from] the reproach of inertia constantly directed at ‘the native’ [which is] utterly dishonest.” In this case it is the dishonest inertia created by, on the one hand, the White conservative right using nominally Black “scholarship” to, as Manhattan Institute spokesperson Peter Drucker explains, perform “a think tank’s job” which is to “change minds.” On the other we have Michael Eric Dyson refusing his own claim of Black leadership by accepting as relevant and legitimate that institution’s prize negro representative McWhorter.
From where is our Black resistance to come if corporate America’s spokespeople get equal run on “our” airwaves invited by “our leaders,” and, furthermore, invited as friends? Well, this requires us to revisit the question of “our.” That this show (and I do mean “show”) takes place on “our” Radio One is of no small consequence. I know my beloved hip-hop is controlled (excluded) from Radio One by Mary Catherine Sneed (who likes to be called “MC”) the 53 year old White woman from Alabama with a background only in country music who determines that network’s station play lists. And as BC has called our attention to Back republican Cathy Hughes, owner of Radio One, has decimated Black investigative journalism by piping in ABC News and promoting more “talk radio.” (See BC, “Who Killed Black Radio News?“) Uninformed talk radio. And in this most recent example, dangerously uniformed talk radio. Hey? Has Glen Ford, Executive Editor of The Black Commentator, been asked on Dyson’s show? Of course not. He’s not a corporate personage.
But I also know that in this political climate it is ideological suicide to not offer some kind of solution (even if empty or impossible, somehow it makes us all feel better). It brings us that needed optimism I mentioned above. So here is that suggested solution for Dyson to go along with the previous suggestion that he make at least equal time for a Dr. Kilson. Dyson can read aloud the late Dr. Amos Wilson’s chapter “The Policy-Formation Process” from Blueprint for Black Power. The chapter begins with quite an accurate description of “policy” and its purpose:
“We may refer to policy rather informally and imprecisely, yet pragmatically, as ‘the rules of the game,’ as ‘the rules of power’ used to organize, direct and regulate the activities, the production and consumption of the resources, internal and external social relations and institutions of a society in order to defend and advance what it perceives as its overall interests.”
And, as Wilson explained regarding think tanks, their “intellectual output” is “utilized to inform and shape the thoughts and behavior of the media and politicians.” Dyson, of them all, is best positioned to understand and resist this. But no. He is now in full participation of the process. But I know, I hear you. To some the idea of reading an entire chapter on air I am sure sounds boring. But with his fiery oratorical/preacher skills Dyson could make this good radio, he could pull it off I know it. He could even throw in a rap verse or two as he likes to do.
Chappelle took time in his film to highlight a lyric from Dead Prez, one that I might suggest for Dyson; “The White House is the [crack] rock house, Uncle Sam is the muthafuckin’ pusherman, what I got to do to make sure you understand?” Or, perhaps more appropriately, another Dead Prez verse, “My momma work all her life and still strugglin’, I blame it on the government and say it on the radio, and if you don’t already know, all these Uncle Tom ass-kissin’ niggas got to go!” Or perhaps Dyson could simply offer like-time to those who can properly explain what to McWhorter seems unexplainable (save for innate Black inferiority) how it is that the most rancid filth of our cultural expression is made popular.
Dyson loves rap music and reminds us of that every chance he can. McWhorter says he does not much care for rap but discusses it because today “you just have to.” But neither properly explain or explore how that cultural expression is so highly managed and to what political end. McWhorter has said on The Bob Costas Show that hip-hop glorifies violence and so ignorantly displays the Black cultural inferiority that plagues us and prevents community improvement. And if the “gangsta” stuff wasn’t enough of a problem he comes back more recently and trashes “conscious rap” too as empty and so devoid of politics or activism that “it offers nothing to the struggling black woman with children trying to make the best of things after her welfare time limit runs out.” Neither does free-market-capitalism or tax cuts for the top 1% but, hell, if Mos Def can’t lyrically lead the revolution then forever let him be damned!
In his most recent Op-Ed McWhorter in similar fashion takes aim at Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks. He chastises McGruder for his “juvenile politics” and says that these politics make “good theater.” “But,” McWhorter wonders, “in 1963, the march on Washington demanded desegregation and voting rights. What exactly would the people at the gates be asking for today? If most Great Society programs did not work, what magic cure is white America holding back today?” McWhorter’s deluded lie against history and contemporary reality is what Chappelle has said of certain kinds of high-quality racism, “it’s magnifique!” It really is good. It is not an easy point to correct, particularly in the typical highly concise moments between commercials.
It’s a structural reality in mainstream media that McWhorter-types exploit to the hilt. Spout a bunch of soft-skulled conventional wisdoms and duck and dodge, interrupt or disrupt your opponent if one is provided or simply wait out the time when alone. Never worry, commercial media has made sure we never get more than a handful of minutes before the “next commercial break.” It’s an intellectual rope-a-dope that need only last briefly. Then boom! One more popular sound-byte and off to get that Institute pay check. But Dyson is just who we would think could be a withstanding force, and after all, it’s his damn show! But, again, all we got were pretty sounding rhetorical flourishes said simply so Dyson could pass a lie-detector test if asked “well did you offer any disagreement?” Largely, however, McWhorter was given free reign to make his points against the slightest resistance.
And, most importantly, there absolutely are long lists of unmet grievances we “people at the gates” are asking be addressed. One with which I am most closely associated involves the hip-hop both Dyson and McWhorter discuss whether out of love or obligation. So, here is another suggestion; have my colleagues at Industry Ears, Lisa Fager and Paul Porter, or DaveyD or even lil’ ole’ me help explain to Dyson, McWhorter or others how a 4-company “musical OPEC” (as described by Greg Palast) ultimately determines what we hear and see musically and what impact this has. Let us explain with meticulous detail how it, in fact, is mostly elite-White-men who are able to determine or manage popularity and the global image of Blackness. Even conservative, elite, power player Zbigniew Brzezinski has noted how US dominance over global media and entertainment industries is what will set this country apart from empires of the past. Both Dyson and McWhorter need late passes on this one. Given this media environment and structure all popularity is fraudulent to the extent that it is generated by a tightly interconnected elite.
If McWhorter is genuinely interested in discovering structural impediments to, or “magic cure[s],” for Black progress and is at least willing to suffer through discussions of hip-hop out of absolute coerced necessity, then Dyson should challenge him to discuss the industry that selectively signs and promotes one form of the expression over others; how payola; play lists; copyright; media consolidation; and a historical legacy of misshaping Black popular image to justify that community’s exploitation all conspire today to leave us with a highly managed Black popularity conducted via the mechanism of a hip-hop and larger music/entertainment industry. Anyone who thinks we have devolved from a Paul Robeson to a 50 Cent accidentally needs a real awakening, one they should be getting via Dyson. If the stance to not accept the presence at all of McWhorter-types is too heavy, then, and my point ultimately here is, challenge him. And if Dyson cannot we have those who will.
Dyson certainly could have alerted McWhorter (if he in fact does not know) that Black America does have remarkable agreement on key central issues – those highlighted as “Bright Lines” – not to mention any number of other problems regarding education or how about mass incarceration? And that there are “magic cure[s]” being withheld by White America and almost all of them are tucked nicely away in unwritten or unsigned legislation or all the public policy never developed due to the crushing influence of corporate America’s think tanks and their negro henchmen or spokespeople.
My CBC Monitor colleague Leutisha Stills has more properly dealt with this elsewhere but let me add that this is precisely the problem with members of the CBC using their time at the State of the Black Union to accept praise from Tavis while offering an appearance of unanimity. But as we have begun alerting folks to the fact that there hardly is such uniformity among CBC members in terms of these Bright Line issues and this disunity has everything to do with corporate money poisoning that body much like it has poisoned academia, public policy and even Dyson’s show. Congressperson and CBC member Sheila Jackson-Lee, while promoting a need for Black America to unify politically so that she and the CBC could be empowered to enact Smiley’s Covenant, did not see it fit to mention that she just entered our defined Black consensus after wallowing with a C-grade on our first report card. And Mel Watt, as reported by my esteemed colleague Ms. Stills, has already noted that even an A-grader like himself cannot instill CBC unification, which says what about corporate ability to divide a Black Caucus?
We have no luxury of offering McWhorter-styled buffoons more time than they already get to be those White right spokespeople. Dyson is guilty in this instance of what I once wrote to Tavis after seeing him genuflect before Wal-Mart CEO and Tavis Smiley Show sponsor H. Lee Scott – to his credit he even read my comment on-air (thanks bruh!). That it is quite the media trick to claim a tough one-on-one interview with someone when in reality it is a public relations opportunity for that person to dismiss claims against them in a largely uninhibited manner. It is not the same as, say, having someone expertly expose that guest/subject or to at least have qualified opponents there to dispute defensive claims made by that guest. But even to offer tough questions to a respondent still allows them to, in an unfettered manner, respond as they like. To reshape the spin. All of this done, of course, in highly concise moments between commercials.
Dyson has any number of qualified people to whom he can reach out to dispute, dismiss and/or discredit a McWhorter. Not only is he not performing this basic task of a Black leading intellectual but he is, in fact, performing the exact opposite by giving McWhorter time (now weekly?) to promote a White right agenda and to be a Black-faced spokesman for an absent White elite whose very existence McWhorter can then use his “blackness” to refute. Our need is for the space of a Dyson show or a Radio One network to be used to inform Black people against the harmful McWhorter-faced propaganda happily given space anywhere from NPR to Fox News. His Black anti-Black rhetoric will forever get play in commercial, corporate, White media. We have no time nor the luxury to attempt “balance” in such a highly imbalanced society. Dyson should, if he doesn’t, know better.
Kevin Rashid Johnson is currently a political prisoner who writes and produces art which can be found on his website at rashidmod.com.
Food is routinely used by US prison officials to summarily punish, torture, abuse and retaliate against prisoners. This happens with especial frequency in administrative segregation (solitary confinement) where prisoners are confined inside locked cells all day every day, and must have all meals delivered by guards. Under such circumstances we remain at guards’ total mercy ‘to eat or not to eat’. In the segregation unit of the Texas prison — Clements Unit — where I am confined, guards frequently refuse (or “jack”) prisoners’ meals, especially mentally ill prisoners, starving them for days to weeks on end, and longer.
No Deterrence to Guards Abusing Food
“Jacking” meals occurs so regularly that most segregated Texas prisoners have been, or expect to be, at some point denied meals. And whether the victimized prisoner is ‘respected’ by his peers and guards afterward is determined by how he in turn reacts.
The expected reaction is for the ‘jacked’ prisoner to “run the team,” that is, at the first opportunity, to act out in some manner that will require a team of five or more guards to dress out in full body riot armor and forcibly invade his cell and restrain, and more often than not, beat him. The process is formally called a “cell extraction” or “cell entry.” The teams of guards who perform the cell extractions are suited up in body armor, gas masks, etc. exactly as police were seen dressed out in their militaristic occupation of Ferguson, Missouri to suppress public protest of the police murder of Michael Brown.
To “get his respect” the prisoner is expected to go through with the entire cell extraction process, which consits of his being sprayed multiple times with gas, and the team of guards then opening the cell door and rushing in, tackling and/or beating him to the floor, handcuffing him from behind and then beating him further as he is held down defenseless, which entails sly or open punches, kicks, choking, slamming his head against the concrete floor or steel fixtures inside the cell, gouging his eyes, squeezing his testicles, bending his fingers backs, etc. Often guards conceal small weapons on their persons and use them to stab, cut or jab the prisoner.
The beatings are typically carried out under cover of a supervising ranking guard yelling repeatedly for the subdued prisoner to “stop resisting!” This is done for effect and to make it seem that the prisoner is being combative and the guards are struggling to control him. This is a standard game which police also play as cover for beating, tasering, and also shooting people. It is such common practice with so-called ‘law enforcement’ officials, that I’m confident most every prisoner in Amerika who has witnessed or endured even a few cell extractions, and most civilians who’ve witnessed or suffered beatings at the hands of the police, will attest to it.
Most prisoners are intelligently unwilling to suffer the compounded abuse of ‘running the team’ on top of having been jacked for their meal. However, if the jacked prisoner doesn’t run the team he becomes the target of ridicule by others as being a “bitch”, “ho”, etc. and is disparaged as weak, and is thus likely to be jacked yet again and ostracized to a greater or lesser degree. It is largely to avoid ridicule and attendant victimization that many prisoners are induced to run the team, and thereby save face. This is all a cultural reaction that officials have conditioned prisoners to adopt to our own disadvantage, which I’ll explain.
Officials have taught prisoners over the years to resort to ‘running teams’ because, unless a prisoner employs uncommon tactical ingenuity, he can almost never come out on top of such odds, even if he be in the best physical shape. And because guards enjoy a complete tactical advantage and almost invariably subdue the isolated prisoner quickly and suffer no injuries in the process, cell extractions bolster their sense of invulnerability, and embolden them to abuse us in the absence of fear of harm to themselves or other consequences. So by racking up repeated ‘wins’, the guards, while outnumbered by us at least ten-to-one, enjoy the highest morale; the overall segregated prisoner body, by resisting them in a manner that ensures and results in routine ‘losses’, is left demoralized and submissive to mistreatment. 
Because of the relative advantage that segregated confinement presents to guards, one finds that it is those most inclined to sadism and cowardly abuse that choose to work in segregation units and super-maximum security prisons. Moreover, even the courts have long admitted that poor salaries and training render guards “more vulnerable to the corrupting influence of unchecked authority than most people.” 
Also, prisoners are conditioned to fear injuring guards in turn, under administrative threat of criminal prosecution if they do, which means an extended prison term, often an aggravated sentence, which might result in spending one’s entire life in prison.
And in the final event, officials use instances of our running teams or responding to abuse with physical self-defense and deterence to villainize us as being belligerent, assaultive, etc. painting a completely one-sided picture of events and making their own abusive violence appear only a measured and professional response to dangerous and out-of-control criminals,  rather than their acting under cover of absolute power to inflict compounded abuses on a completely disadvantaged, disempowered and isolated segment of the community. Which brings me back to the issue of officials using their monopoly on our access to food as a form of abuse.
The Legality of Restricted Prison Diets
Texas prison officials subject prisoners to bread and water diets, even though by law and human necessity we cannot live by bread alone.  Furthermore, the basis upon which restricted diets are imposed are also forbidden by law.
Prison officials may lawfully impose retricted diets on prisoners temporarily and only in response to, and to control, food-related misbehavior. Such restrictions may not be used as punishment.  And even still, restricted diets must provide adequate nutrition, which a bread and water diet does not.
But here is a recent example of the abusive impunity of prison officials, in this case the wholesale use of illegal bread and water food restrictions as arbitrary punishment, even when prisoners have done nothing wrong.
Bread and Water to Deter Prisoner Witnesses
I’ve had several articles published about abuses at this Clements Unit, which quote or reference prisoner witnesses who communicated their accounts to me via written notes which I have quoted from. Numerous Clements Unit officials have stated to me that they’ve read my critical articles online. In response, administrators have tried to discourage our passing notes between ourselves and have explicitly threatened witnesses.
On February 19, 2015, Michael Gruver, the Clements Unit major who oversees the prison’s segregation unit, claimed to have been monitoring surveillance cameras mounted in the pod I’m housed in, and allegedly observed numerous prisoners passing items between cells.
In turn Gruver ordered a guard, Joshua Brandl, who was then leaving to go home—it was shift change—to write disciplinary charges on several prisoners. Gruver specifically directed Brandl to fabricate the charges to say fourteen prisoners had manipulated the locking mechanisms on the handcuff ports on their cell doors and opened them. Brandl wrote the charges.
Additionally, Gruver had each of the fourteen prisoners put on food restriction, although none were alleged to have committed any food-related misconduct. All fourteen prisoners remained on food restrictions for five days.
On food restriction a prisoner is given only a “food loaf” three times per day, delivered in a paper sack. At Clements Unit the food loaf is nothing but a greasy novel-sized block of cornbread with little else in it. The restricted prisoner must drink only water from the sink in his cell. Therefore, food restriction at this unit is literally a bread and water diet.
Almost none of the fourteen food-restricted prisoners were able to eat the food loaf for more than a day, and most went the entire five days refusing to eat it at all because it is so unappetizing and wrecks havoc on one’s digestive system.
Actually the “food loaf” recipe is supposed to contain a variety of ingredients from the regular menu, blended together and baked into a ‘loaf’ which can be eaten without utensils, also an instant beverage is to accompany the loaf. This to ‘control’ the misuse of food, utensils, etc., although this is not how loaf meals are prepared at Clements Unit. When complaints are made officials simply lie and claim the proper ingredients are included.
Several days after Brandl wrote the false disciplinary charges, he apparently returned to work with a heavy conscience and admitted he was concerned that several of the prisoners he lied on might retaliate against him. He came to our pod, at which point I called him to my cell door and asked why he’d fabricated reports on the others. All fourteen prisoners were served with the disciplinary charges written by Brandl on February 25. Brandl replied that Gruver ordered him to do it, but that he would tell the truth at the disciplinary hearings, that he’d in fact never observed the prisoners open the cuff ports on their cell doors but was told by Gruver to fabricate the reports saying he had.
Brandl honored his word and all the disciplinary charges were withdrawn before any hearings were conducted, but not before all fourteen prisoners were made to suffer a bread and water diet for five days, all as part of an administrative backlash and group punishment for prisoners bearing witness to witnessed and suffered abuse.
Meal Jacked as I Wrote Article
As an example of how regularly prisoners’ meals are arbitrarily taken by guards, at the very time that I was writing this article, a guard, Abraham Dolleh, refused the prisoner housed in the cell directly across from me—Jeffrey Sylvan #1649281— his lunch meal, (this occurred on March 9, 2015).
Dolleh “jacked” Sylvan’s lunch because as he was coming toward Sylvan’s cell serving lunch, Dolleh called another prisoner several vulgar names. When he got to Sylvan’s cell, Sylvan, thinking the guard was cursing him because Sylvan had been talking loudly to another prisoner, asked Dolleh who he was talking to. Dolleh responded by then cursing Sylvan and then refused to give him his lunch tray although Dolleh had already unlocked and opened the cuff port on Sylvan’s cell door in preparation for serving him his meal.
When Dolleh vulgarly told Sylvan he wasn’t going to give him his lunch and to back away from the cell door so he could lock the port back without any danger of Sylvan making physical contact with him, Sylvan then stuck his arm out the slot to prevent its being closed and demanded his meal.
In turn Dolleh took out his portable canister of OC gas and stated to Sylvan to move back or he’d say Sylvan was attempting to cut himself with a razor blade and would thereupon empty the canister of gas on him . Sylvan then backed away from the door and Dolleh closed the port cursing Sylvan and refusing his lunch.
Today the entire world is bearing witness to an ongoing pattern of exposures of, and mass protests against, murders by Amerikan police of unarmed people of color and militaristic occupation and terrorism of our communities, which has gone on for decades. This sudden visibility has occurred not because the government nor mainstream media exposed it. It came about because members of the victimized communities exposed it themselves using social media outlets to make an end run around the government and press, who otherwise whitewashed, denied, and concealed these realities, often behind perpetuating racist criminal stereotypes against these communities.
Recall also that just prior to the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this past summer and the militaristic police response to the community’s righteous protests, which prompted this exposure, politicians and the media were loudly proclaiming that Amerika had finally risen above its racism and become a “post-racial society”. The whole world now knows that was all a lie. But remember, we prisoners do not have access to video recording technologies not social media. So our suffering goes largely unknown to not just the world, but even our own communities.
This is why we must devise ways to expose the darkest recesses of Amerika’s lawless law-enforcement system, namely its prisons. And it must be realized that the prisons and the tortures, brutalities and abuses occurring within their hidden confines are an extension of and organically linked to the federal, state, and local police that are the very forces targeting the poor and people of color for selective mass imprisonment in Amerika.
Dare to struggle. Dare to win!
All power to the people!
Endnotes and Additional Comments:
Medical staff and guards tend to downplay any injuries suffered by the prisoner and dismiss them as the result of the prisoner himself being combative and/or falling and striking a hard surface inside the cell during the cell extraction.
This culture which plays on male prisoners’ masculine sensitivities works to the guards’ benefit and the prisoners’ disadvantage by inducing prisoners to ‘fight’ the guards from a position of pitting their weaknesses against the guards’ strengths. I often point this out to my peers, and illustrate the point with a revelation I heard made by a US military commander during 2003, as he boasted to the media how easily US forces took Iraq’s capitol city, Baghdad, during the illegal imperialist Iraq invasion that year. The officer told how US military intelligence forces had studied Iraqi culture and thereby developed a profile of its military-aged males. From this the US learned that Iraqi males (like most males in patriarchal societies) are highly sensitive about their masculinity. This was turned to the Iraqi’s disadvantage. At first, the commander said, US attempts to enter Baghdad were quickly and soundly repelled by Iraqi defenders firing on them from concealed places and planting IEDs. Unless the hidden Iraqis could be induced to come out into the open and fight face-to-face, they would keep the advantage and the city could not be taken. So, what the US did was make gradual incursions into the city in armored formations with a megaphone on top of the tanks. From the megaphones they blared over and over in Arabic that only women hide from their opponents, and that “real men” meet and fight their opponents face-to-face. The commander laughingly recounted how in response to such taunts, the hidden fighters gave up their advantage and rushed out of buildings and other hiding places in droves harmlessly firing at the tanks and armored vehicles, only to be mowed down in turn by the vehicles’ heavy machine guns. The city’s defenders were thereby eliminated and the US and allied forces quickly took Baghdad.
Landman v. Peyton, 370 F. 2d 135, 140 (4th cir. 1966)
As I’ve demonstrated in numerous past articles on Amerika’s abusive prisons, the guards and administrators are the ones who perpetuate all sorts of criminal acts in their abuses of prisoners, and indeed commit federal crimes every time they violate a prisoner’s constitutional rights as their abuses described herein do. See 18 United States Code, Section 242. It is only, as with the murderous police in society they are afforded de facto immunity from prosecution by merit of being so-called law enforcement officers. The system protects and insulates its own.
A bread and water diet is unconstitutional. See, Jenkins v. Werger, 564 F. Supp. 806, 808-09 (1983); Landman v. Royster, 333 F Supp. 621, 647 (1971).
Food restrictions must be used only to control the behaviors for which they were designed. LeMaire v. Maass, 745 F. Supp. 623, 635-36 (1990), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 12 F. 3rd 1444, 1456 (1993).
I discuss the practice of guards at this unit using fabricated claims that prisoners have acted in self harm or suicide attempts, to speciously justify assaulting them with OC gas and taking all their property, usually against prisoners they dislike or who anger them. See Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. “Prison Assisted Suicide – The Texas Way.” The full article can be read at rashidmod.com
Paraphrasing some comments made to me today by Jonathan Stith, veteran organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (and elsewhere), specifically about the following letter* from political prisoner/POW Jalil A. Muntaqim, he suggested that a point be made about the popularity among many younger activists in the #BlackLivesMatter movement of sweats and tees that say “Assata [Shakur] Taught Me” and the truly infrequent opportunities to actually hear from or engage such teachings directly from the source. Muntaqim is a comrade of Shakur, a former a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army and one well situated to offer insight and suggestions to those now engaged in activism. Importantly, these are not the words of an uninformed old man trying to quell or stifle the energy shown by many younger activists. Muntaqim’s are words of encouragement and the attempt of a movement veteran and prisoner of war (POW) to perform the task laid out and inherent to the statement in the clothing, to radically teach and prepare a new generation for revolutionary and “fierce” struggle.
Muntaqim can be reached by mail at:
Mr. Anthony Bottom DIN# 77A4283 Attica Correctional Facility Box 149 Attica, NY, 14011-0149
*The following transcript is of the included pictures of Muntaqim’s letter to assure that any inadvertent discrepancies or mistakes can be clarified and properly attributed to me, the transcriber.
Future Focus by Jalil A. Muntaqim
In seven years, by 2023, the U.S. will be 40 percent minority, and 50 percent of the entire population will be under 40 years old. These are the demographics that can not be ignored as progressives move forward building opposition to institutional racism and plutocratic governing.
In my thinking it is incumbent of today’s activist[s] to take in account what America will look like in ten years, so we will be better positioned to ensure the future will not be governed by [deniers] of change. In this regards, I am raising dialogue toward building a National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA) comprising social, economic and political activist[s] who are prepared to build a future focused America based on equitable distribution of wealth. It is imperative that progressives [seek] the means to organizer greater unity and uniformity in ideological and political objectives toward the construction of a mass and popular movement. It is well established the most pressing issues confronting poor and oppressed peoples’ are wage inequalities, housing displacement, dysfunctional public schools and student debt, climate change, the criminalization of the poor – mass incarceration, and the militarization of the police. In each are negative racial and economic implication[s] creating social conflicts and confrontations.
However, the most pervasive and devastating cause for all these issues is the unequal distribution of wealth. It is well researched and recorded [that] the wealth disparity, income gap between whites and blacks is 40% greater today than in 1967, with the average black household net worth [that] is $6,314 and the average white household is $110,500 (NYT “When Whites Don’t Get It” by Nicholas Kristof”). When we account for how economic disparity impacts educational opportunities or criminal behavior in the black community, we are better able to identify the overall pernicious problem. The Brooking[s] Institute reported last July that: “As poverty increased and spread during the 2000s, the number of distressed neighborhoods in the United States – defined as census tracts with poverty rates of 40 percent or more climbed by nearly three-quarters.” The report continued: “The population living in such neighborhoods grew by similar margins (76 percent, or a million people) to 11.6 million by 2008-2012.” (NYT “Crime and Punishment,” by Charles M. Blow).
Obviously, America is in increasing economic crisis, especially when considering… “According to a recent paper by the economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, almost all of the increases in American inequality over the last 30 years is attributable to the “rise of the share of wealth owned by the 0.1 percent richest families.” And much of that rise is driven by the top 0.01 percent. “The wealth of the top 1 percent grew an average of 3.9 percent a year from 1986 to 2012, though the top one-hundredth of that 1 percent saw its wealth grow about twice as fast. The 16,000 families in the tiptop category – those with fortune[s] at least $111 million – have seen their share of national wealth nearly double since 2002, to 11.2 percent.” (NYT “Another Widening Gap: The Haves v The Have-Mores,” by Robert Frank).
Can there be any serious disputing the reality this so-called democracy is actually a plutocracy, and the governing plutocrats [have] us all hustling and scraping for the crumbs, demanding a minimum wage increase, when we should be demanding control of the means of production. Hence, it is necessary for progressives to realize the future of our struggle must be in participatory democracy, direct-action engagement. It is important for the more educated and experienced activist to teach the younger activist, and young people in general need to know the future belongs to them, and we are concern[ed] about what that future will look like and bridge the differences between the evolving demographics and growing minority population.
For instance, I am hearten[ed] to see young people taking to the streets challenging the common impunity of police repression and violence. Indeed, Black Lives Matter! However, I am not confident these protests will result in anything substantial in terms of institutional change or build[ing] a sustainable movement. We remember Occupy Wall Street (OWS) had created similar national attention, but void national organization, leadership or agenda (demands), it was a matter of time before OWS would dissipate and disappear after police removed the public nuisance.
In this regard[sic], I am asking activist[s] to post on their Facebook page and other online sites these musings, for open discussion and dialogue. Specifically, I suggest that young people across the country enter open debate about the future of specific issues that [have] captured national attention. Obviously, it is necessary to build a mass and popular movement to effectuate real institutional change in this country. This was a vital lesson from the civil rights movement challenging the institution of Jim Crow. Therefore, I am urging young activist[s] to consider organizing toward a “Million Youth Independence Day March” (MY-ID March) for July 4th, 2016, in Washington, D.C., making the following demands:
1. De-Militarization and De-Centralization of the Police, Demand Community Control of Police;
2. Debt Relief for College Students, Lower Tuition Cost for College Education;
3. Support Manifestation of the Dreamers Act – Stop Deportations and the Splitting of Families
These three issues as they have become part of the national dialogue and challenge to the plutocratic government are able to unite a[sic] universal national determination. A one issue protest/campaign is not sustainable when confronting an oppressive/repressive government policy supported by right-wing corporate interests. However, these interwoven issues reach[sic] three demographics of young people, each directly challenging institutions of government. Again, it is important to use the current unrest to forge a unified and uniform national movement.
Secondly, politically, we need to consider how best to ensure these issues become a major factor in the national debate, possibly imposing them into the national election of 2016. In this way, inspiring and encouraging a mass and popular youth movement, organized during the election year of 2016, we empower the youth in being future focused. It is well established it was the youth who were instrumental in getting Obama elected as President. Despite our collective disappointment with his presidency, the lesson learned is the power of the youth when united and determined to accomplish a task. Again, recognizing in 7 years the electoral demographics will be drastically changed, it is time to prepare for that eventuality, even if some do not believe in electoral politics. Therefore, during the election year of 2016, not a single candidate will be permitted to conduct a public forum without being challenged by these issues. These would be acts of participatory democracy and direct-action engagement. Needless to say, to hold a national rally and march in Washington, D.C. during the July 4th, 2016, weekend tells the entire country young people will divorce themselves from the statues quo, becoming independent of the Republican/Democratic party politics.
In closing, it is anticipated this proposal will raise questions concerning the potential for the development of a National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA). Permit me to say that this proposed organization is only a suggestion. I firmly believe that building a national coalition is necessary to establish a mass and popular movement capable of forcing institutional changes, including the ultimate goal of redistribution of America’s wealth. I request this paper be widely distributed and discussed. I am prepared to enter discussion with anyone interested in the potential development of a National Coalition for a Changed America. Lastly, I humbly request activist[s] to review what I wrote in “Toward a New American Revolution.”
“Our First Line of Defense IS Power of the People!”
Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators!
in fierce struggle –
Jalil A. Muntaqim
Attica, February 2015
Amiri Baraka’s Son Becomes Mayor of Newark, New Jersey By Earning It
AN ELECTION ANALYSIS
By Todd Steven Burroughs
NEWARK, N.J.—Ras Baraka, one of the sons of the late poet/playwright Amiri Baraka, handily beat rival Shavar Jeffries Tuesday night to become the next mayor of his father’s city. How he did it was no mystery to those paying attention.
The mayor-elect paid tribute to his father, who died in January, and his mother, Amina Baraka, who was nearby off-stage at the Robert Treat Hotel here.
“I know that my father’s spirit is in this room today, that he is here with us, and I want to say ‘Thank you’ to him for believing in me up into his last days of his life, and him passing out flyers even on his hospital bed. He fought all the way to the end,” he said to his jubilant supporters.
To Amina Baraka he said, “Happy Mother’s Day, Ma. You deserve this more than me. My mother’s whole life has been Newark. She has struggled and fought, and even (fought) with all of us to make sure we go right and do right by the city of Newark.”
Using unofficial Essex County Clerk’s Office results available at deadline, Baraka’s vote total was 23,416 (53.73 percent of the vote) to Jeffries’ 20,062 (46.03 percent).
“Today we told them, all over the state of New Jersey, that the people of Newark are not for sale,” he said, referring to the estimated $2 million that Jeffries’ financial supporters, many of them anonymous donors, poured into his rival’s campaign.
Baraka threw shirts to his supporters that read, “I am the mayor.” His slogan was, “When I become mayor, we become mayor.” He told the crowd to celebrate, and then get ready to “roll their sleeves up and get ready to be the mayor.”
The mayor and the hundreds of supporters then left the hotel and marched to Newark City Hall.
Baraka, 44, will become Newark’s 39th mayor at his July 1 inauguration.
Newark, an overwhelmingly Democratic city, has no party primary, with officials instead elected on citywide tickets. This situation allowed Jeffries and Baraka, both Democrats, to slug it out over who was best qualified to reduce crime, spur the city’s economic development and fight to repair the city’s struggling school system, the latter controlled by the state for the past 19 years.
The election is seen as important because Newark is the heart of predominantly Democratic Essex County, an important collection of votes for anyone running for New Jersey governor.
Since Newark elections have now been populated by candidates relatively new to the city, the prickly question of “authenticity” has become a real one here in the last 20 years.
A mayoral candidate now has to prove himself sufficiently Black (and soon, sufficiently Latino), urban and progressive. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the previous mayor, promised new energy and new investments, but he still had to earn his way from Yale Law School to the Newark City Council, and eventually the mayor’s chair, vote by brick.
When the mayoral race narrowed to two, Baraka kept jackhammering at the main fault line of the Shavar Jeffries campaign: its open hubris.
Jeffries may have been born in Newark, but he appeared from Seton Hall University Law School fully formed and fully funded—by anonymous donors. Jeffries served on the Newark Advisory School Board and was president of the Newark Boys and Girls Club, two very important city positions.
But that just doesn’t carry the same juice as being on the council, where a councilmember is directly responsible for Newarkers’ lives and where people test his or her power and commitment to the city’s decaying working-class neighborhoods and the people who live in them.
The campaign had the atmosphere of history around it because of the obvious question: could the son of Amiri Baraka, a Black communist poet and playwright who was beaten by police during the 1967 Newark insurrection, be elected Newark mayor?
Until his transition into ancestry this past January, Amiri Baraka was known as a living legend in Black literature, and an historic figure in 20th century Black politics. But to many Newarkers on the street for decades, he was known as “that Black radical” and that old, cranky guy who sponsored poetry and jazz concerts in the basement of his home or in downtown city parks.
The question became less significant the more time spent on the Newark streets. Baraka received no “sympathy vote” because of his father (or his slain sister Shani, for that matter). Newarkers who were interviewed kept mentioning that they knew, or knew of, Baraka and didn’t know Jeffries.
As a deputy mayor, he accepted only a salary of $1, rejecting the doubling of his school district income. At the last debate, he said that, as mayor, he will actually receive a pay cut from his combined council and high school principal posts.
People on the street notice things like that. They also know well their elected representatives, children’s teachers and principals, and the principles all hold.
The radical Howard University student activist who returned to Newark and became a city schoolteacher, and later vice-principal and principal, taught outsiders, and reminded returning sons, that many, many Newarkers are actually committed to living here.
That radical faith in maintaining and renovating the old bricks of his city, like the younger Baraka’s ability as a poet, may be partly hereditary, but, in the end, he earned every vote he got every day between his 1991 Howard graduation and Tuesday night.
Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D., an independent researcher and writer based in Hyattsville, Md., is writing a small, self-published book on Amiri Baraka and Ras Baraka through the eyes of the 2014 Newark, N.J., mayoral campaign. A native of Newark, N.J., he has taught at Morgan State and Howard universities. He is the co-editor, along with Jared Ball, of “A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marble’s Malcolm X” and is the co-author, with Herb Boyd, of “Civil Rights: Yesterday and Today.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ras Baraka, Son of Famed Poet Amiri Baraka, Fights a Historic Tide in Newark Mayoral Race
By Todd Steven Burroughs
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – History keeps colliding with the present as Ras Baraka, a Newark city councilperson and city school principal, is exactly one week away from finding out if he will become mayor of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city.
In a press conference in front of his campaign headquarters Tuesday, Baraka accused his opponent, Seton Hall University Law School professor Shavar Jeffries, of openly being supported by outsiders who are attempting to buy the Newark election. He spent a lot of time talking about Newark First, an independent group that has poured almost $2 million into Jeffries’ coffers.
Newark First, charged Baraka, is aligned with Education Reform Now, a group out of New York City that pushes for the creation of charter schools.
A Google search at deadline for Newark First resulted in no website. Education Reform Now describes itself on its website as “a non-partisan 501c3 organization (that) is committed to ensuring that all children can access a high-quality public education
regardless of race, gender, geography, or socio-economic status.”
Much of this election is based on who is going to control education in the city. Since 1995, the state has controlled the Newark school district, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s appointed Newark superintendent, Cami Anderson, is, like Christie, much maligned here.
Baraka, calling the situation with Newark First “a money laundering scheme,” complained that most of the group’s money was given to Jeffries by anonymous donors. “Shavar Jefrries has raised more than any person in the race. We’re not upset that he raised more money. We’re upset that we don’t know where the money is coming from.”
The press conference came hours after Jeffries, standing in front of Newark City Hall, accused Baraka of accepting $4,400 in “pay to play” campaign contributions from companies in no-bid contracts with the city over the past two years. Baraka denied the charges in a newspaper interview and at the press conference Tuesday, saying that the contributions were well within the city’s executive order and that those who donated, according to the law, can’t do business in the city for a year.
Amid the charges and counter-charges, and the heckling of the rival campaign at each other’s public events, a name Baraka mentioned set off my historical Spider-Sense: Adubato. Baraka mentioned that the Jeffries campaign was aligned with both Newark First and “the Adubato machine.”
Steve Adubato is a major power broker in Essex County, the county of which Newark is its political hub. He is also an influential local broadcaster. He’s actually Steve Adubato Jr. Steve Adubato Sr. is a Newark power broker who was instrumental in stopping a man by the name of Amiri Baraka—the leader of the city’s Black power and arts movements and a major, national figure—from building Kawaida Towers, an African-centered cultural center and apartment complex in Newark.
The elder Baraka was stymied by the unions, Adubato Sr.’s machine and the Mafia. (Before Mayor Kenneth Gibson became the first Black mayor of Newark in 1970, the Mafia openly controlled the city.) Baraka’s political movement put Gibson in office, but as far as Kawaida Towers was concerned, Gibson’s hands were tied, Black elected city officials chose sides, and Baraka’s plans and movement fizzled.
Is history trying to at least rhyme, if not outright repeat itself? It seems so. The surnames remain the same, and maybe not just that.
Amiri Baraka died in January of this year. His legacy is his children.
The Newark mayoral election determines who will have disproportionate power in Essex County, which means the mayor will have influence in how the county will lean in state races, including the one that will replace Christie.
Newark may be a post-Black Power city in 2014, but red, black and green scraps remain amid the street debris. A large amount of people in the city are poor, and many are under-educated, but they are not stupid. They know who stands for, and against, them.
Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D., an independent researcher/writer based in Hyattsville, Md., is writing a small, self-published book on Amiri Baraka and Ras Baraka through the eyes of the 2014 Newark, N.J. mayoral campaign. A native of Newark, N.J., he has taught at Morgan State and Howard universities. He is the co-editor, along with Jared Ball, of “A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marble’s Malcolm X” and is the co-author, with Herb Boyd, of “Civil Rights: Yesterday and Today.”
Hip-Hop is no different than any other cultural expression in that when not organized, “nationalized,” or conscious of its particular use at any given moment, it too can become an extension of an imperial arm. Back on January 15, 2012 a panel was convened to discuss the film Hip-Hop: Furious Rhymes of Change a documentary that largely touts the positive potential of hip-hop around the world. During the conversation differences of opinion among the panelists emerged regarding the political context of hip-hop’s deployment and whether it was possible for artists to overcome the circumstances of their sponsorship. And below that is an older radio commentary about the state’s use of nominally radical art to advance its own agenda.
Hip-Hop Against the World!
Jared A. Ball
*Originally published as a radio commentary 11/15/2011
What do empires do whenever they sense trouble? A bunch of things, for sure. But one of them is to use those they most oppress in one location to ease the process of oppressing others somewhere else. Hip-hop is now the latest in a pattern of Black radical creation to be turned against itself and, if left unchecked, will serve as the cultural equivalent of the Buffalo Soldier: a new face and representative of empire or as some form of imperial novocaine. Two recent examples demonstrate this. In one part of the world rappers are sent to cleanse an image that simply defies cleanliness while here they are sent in order to co-opt what still has to prove it cannot be co-opted. But in each case the goal is to mitigate against the multitudes of emcees whose work is to give voice to radical thought and to turn this voice of the people against itself. The goal is to turn hip-hop against the very communities who create it and ultimately to turn it against the world.
In the Arab world the State Department has been sending rappers since 2005 to, as Hilary Clinton recently made clear, “rebuild the image” of the United States. It is as if to say that we hope the lyrical bombs we drop on you will somehow make up for the very literal ones that, by the way, are still coming. But as many will remember, this is part of a legacy of sending Black emissaries overseas to convince others of “a sense of shared suffering, as well as the conviction that equality could be gained under the American political system” that began in the 1950s with jazz musicians. And today, from the U.S. to Syria people are looking for “pro-stability rappers” who will help make capitulation to the West “cool.” Today’s “hip-hop envoys” are, in the words – again – of Hilary Clinton, engaged in a “complex game of ‘multidimensional chess’” which is, in part, meant to challenge the potential support given by hip-hop to revolutionary movements. So artists we never hear on radio or see on television, and even those who are somewhat progressive, are sent to promote a version of this country that simply does not exist. Shared suffering perhaps, but by no means any “equality under an American political system.”
And back here at home, what does an empire do when it clearly has no clothes? It invents them, slaps a cool label on them and tries to sell them as proof of empire being ok. We were impressed a few weeks back when an anonymous super-sister called our former rap mogul, now just regular mogul, Russell Simmons as being part of the problem while he spoke on behalf of the 99% at Occupy Wall Street. As we said then she was right so it was of no surprise to see him hugged up last week to super rapper and businessman Jay-Z sporting his new Occupy All Streets tee-shirt. It was a brief but note-worthy attempt at commercializing an anti-commercial gathering. But within 48 hours Jay-Z’s Rocafella clothing line took down the shirt from its website and apparently got the message that this time the emperor’s clothes would have to stay off, at least for now.
But all of these attempts speak mostly to the extent to which hip-hop and all of us are disorganized. Artists need to eat and live but also need to check and be checked on who is sponsoring them. No one can claim to be representing anything when appointed as a representative by someone else, especially when that someone else is an enemy. Hilary Clinton can only claim that “hip-hop is America” without the more appropriate Malcolm X-like amendment that, “hip-hop is a response to the victimization by America,” because no organized body can stand up and demonstrate her fraudulence. Similarly, it should not take a loose confederacy of Twitter-ites to stop Russell Simmons and Jay-Z from even attempting to embarrass us with such a typical corporatist move. So while we know that hip-hop has long-been used to sell anything from products to myths of Black and Brown “success” we must again acknowledge that there seems to have been a devolution in preparing for worse forms of political abuse.
In the end sponsorship matters. The sponsor is as important as the message itself. And when that sponsor is the State Department or major corporations the message nearly loses all other relevance. And in this case it becomes again a situation where hip-hop is turned against itself and indeed the world.