Friday, December 5, 2008
With the election of Barack Obama to the presidency the question has come up, are we living in a post-racial society? In other words has the concept of race lost its cache, or meaning? Let's examine this and see what we come up with, it may be that we've reached that land that Dr. King saw from the mountain top. Of course, it may be as illusory as a mirage in the Sahara on a hot day.
What lies at the heart of this question is the notion that something fundamental has changed within society, either as a result of Obama's campaign or independent of that campaign. As we consider this question it would be good to lay out some facts that we can take into account. First of all 53% of Americans voted for Obama, or against McCain, as the case may be. While an almost equal number voted for McCain/Palin or against Obama. This being said we're talking about millions of people on each side of the line in almost equal numbers. You'll recall it was the independent/undecided voters that tipped the scales in Obama's favor.
Fact number two: throughout the campaign Obama was dogged by questions of lack of experience, etc. This was not the first time a candidate was labeled with that tag, but it was particularly galling in Obama's case, because it was very reminiscent of the infamous "grandfather clause." Witness the contrast here between McCain, who like Bush had generations of "leadership" experience behind him, while Obama had only his own experience in college and community organizing. How was he to overcome this gap without going back in time and rewriting history. It appeared to be an insurmountable gap.
Fact number three: everything was thrown at him, including the kitchen sink, by Hillary, McCain and Palin. No stone was left unhurled, including the use of his middle name as a label of unfitness for the job.
Fact number four: everything was thrown at him short of playing the obvious race card. Obama was cool enough to never even bring up race, but he did respond forcefully when his opponents tried to broach it in a circuitous manner.
Fact number five: race was an issue, albeit an unspoken issue. It was the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, but Obama deftly avoided it to the consternation of some of his Black supporters, who in the end were understanding enough to know why he was leaving that issue alone.
What his opponents did say about race came through when they spoke of his numbers. They always tried to make him "the Black candidate." In the past other candidates, like Carl Stokes, were dogged with accusations like this and came up with creative ways of addressing it, without alienating his supporters of either race. Obama was just as deft in dealing with the Reverend Wright issue, which was a race issue; his middle name issue "Hussein," which was a race/religious issue and the terrorist association issue, which was not so much a race issue; but spoke to how "different" he was compared to the other candidates.
All of the above issues were couched in a blanket of "difference." All the diversity training in the world was not enough to keep the other candidates from pointing out, "he's not like us." The logical conclusion here is that race is still very much an issue that cannot be overlooked, just like that 800 lb. gorilla in the room.
In the end it appears that Obama won not because of some drastic shift in the status quo, or the racial proclivities of whites, but rather by the use of superior strategy, gamesmanship and good timing.
The fact is America is as backwards when it comes to attitudes about race today as it ever has been. In a presentation I'm readying for publication entitled, "Black Men On The Money," I'll deal with the some of these attitudes and perceptions. Here's a little exercise you can do right now to see where you're really at on the issue of race. Take a look at the picture at the beginning of this article and make a note of what race you think each of these people represent. Some of them you may know by name and/or face and others may be unfamiliar to you. Regardless, without using a reference work, or the internet to try and identify them first, just look at them as people and see if you can correctly identify their "race."
When you're done go to www.quadratix.org for information on each person seen in the picture. This is something that we all need to look at very carefully and consider what our own attitudes are toward the persistent question of racial identity in America.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
As we bring 2008 to a close I'd like to reflect on some of the commentary regarding President elect Obama. The media pundits seem to have achieved a state of nirvana regarding the election of Obama to the presidency of the United States. They act as if a Black man had never run a country before. For their information I'd like to speak on this matter.
Clearly, the election of Obama to the presidency is something that many of us thought we would not see in our lifetime. However, it's not all that the media would like to make out of it.
Number One: Africa's descendants have led many great nations, down through the ages.
Number Two: Some of these great leaders have led the United States of America.
Number Three: Great nations continue to be led by Black men today.
Let's look at these three points. The word president is a title to describe the leader of a country. Many countries around the globe now use this title in emulation of the government of the United States of America. Many countries also use the title prime minister, some continue to use the word king and, or queen. However, you want to look at it, it's just a title. It conveys no more status than any other title. In fact, it conveys less status than the title emperor or king.
The descendants of Africa have ruled as many, if not more, nations as any other group of people on the globe. So, why should it be so amazing that Obama could be elected president of this nation? Well, as a matter of fact the descendants of Africa have occupied this office before. Admittedly, we were not taught this in school, but I think the facts will bear me out.
The economy of the U.S. was based on the chattel slavery of Africans for over a hundred years. During the course of this enslavement a doctrine of "white supremacy" developed. This doctrine had as one of its basic tenets the idea of the purity and sanctity of the white race. Therefore, even one drop of "Black blood" would cause one's lineage to be tainted, and would also cause all of one's progeny to no longer be of the white race, but rather of the "Black" race.
Oftentimes this led to the labeling of people that appeared to be white as Black. This was a handy device, especially in the later years of slavery, when the importation of new slaves had been outlawed. Many a "white person" was enslaved after having been accused of being Black. If they could not produce paperwork proving their "whiteness" slave-catchers could snatch them up and spirit them away to a slave state where they would be bought and sold. There are a number of well documented cases where this happened and the family eventually "proved" the person was not Black and should therefore be released.
It's also been documented and attested to by eyewitnesses that a number of presidents of the United States of America were known to have been from Black families. These presidents include Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower. There are other prominent Americans still "passing" for white, as did Alexander Hamilton.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term "passing" as it is used in the Black community. Passing is when you cross over the color line by denying any and all association with your blood relations and create a new life out of sheer fiction. This is something that is quite common in the Black community. Examples of this phenomenon abound. Some prominent people who could and did pass, on occasion, include Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Walter White, John G. Jackson, T. John McKee, Mariah Carey, Queen Charlotte Sophia, Alexander Dumas, Alexander Leidesdorff, Alexander Pushkin and President Warren G. Harding. Many of these individuals accepted their "Blackness" and even reveled in it. But, this was not true across the board.
Alexander Leidesdorff's story was particularly tragic. He lost his first love when he informed her of his "tainted" background. Following that incident he moved to the other side of the country and kept his background in the closet. Alexander Dumas the French author of "The Three Musketeers," "The Man In the Iron Mask" and "The Count of Monte Cristo" was told, in no uncertain terms by his agent, that he should not even consider vacationing in America, for fear of losing a major market due to the endemic racism of the times.
On the other hand there were individuals like Adam Clayton Powell, Alexander Pushkin, Walter White and James G. Jackson who not only reveled in their "Blackness," but at times used their white appearance to infiltrate "white supremacist" organizations as spies.
So, when we hear of someone passing it's not far-fetched at all, because oftentimes we have people in our families who have been passing for years.
Last, but not least there should be no doubt that the descendants of Africa have been leaders in every field including cotton, since we arrived on these shores. So, why in heaven's name should it be amazing that a Black man could be elected to the presidency. There's a poem by "Straight Out Scribes," entitled "I Never Thought I'd Live To See The Day," that talks about the election of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of the unabashedly racist country of South Africa. If Mandela could be released from a life sentence for treason, after 30 years smashing rocks and then become President of South Africa, surely this could happen in the U.S.
The thing that's most "amazing" is that in spite of the racist policies still in force in this country, a Black man has risen to the top without having to deny his racial heritage. Yes, he's Black! They'll never let him forget. He's Black all right, he'll never let them forget.
Black United Students (BUS) was founded 40 years ago this year, on the campus of Kent State University. The organization has gone through many changes over time. But, much remains the same.
Dr. Larry Simpson, the first president of BUS, returned to the campus November 8, 2008 for a celebration of the past 40 years. He's now the Senior Vice President of Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, in charge of academic affairs. Over the years his experience with BUS has served him well. As he stated in his keynote address the other night. Being involved in BUS gave him a window into the adult world that he may not have experienced had it not been for BUS. Mostly, it was about learning how to work with other people and function as a member of society.
In his work at Berklee, the world's largest music school, he is still an advocate for students and their success within an institutional environment, as is another former BUS president Dean Tim Moore. Dean Moore is an Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University. He's also a professor in Pan-African Studies where he's taught for over 30 years.
A number of other past presidents of BUS and BUS members were present for the celebration and awarding of Dr. Edward W. Crosby with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He also spoke about the significance of BUS in the formation of 3 academic departments at Kent State University. The Pan-African Studies Department is one of those departments. In 1968 there was no Pan-African Studies Department. Dr. Crosby was brought to Kent to form just such a department. In the beginning it was known as the Institute of African American Affairs (IAAA).
Affirmative Action laws were in place, but in some ways it seemed as if IAAA was doing all the heavy lifting in that regard. No department on campus had as many Black faculty. To this day many of those Black faculty are still teaching at Kent, although few of them were seen that night. This was a night for the students.
Following the parade of presidents the current members of the BUS executive board outlined their goals for this year. Some of the highlights included working on the Obama campaign and going into neighboring communities to work with the youth. The Progressive Education Community School which was initiated in the late 60's as the African Liberation Tutoring program has had new life breathed into it by the current BUS board. Kaisha Sherills has been instrumental in bringing this program back to life. She is the Community Affairs Officer of BUS and is a real spark plug.
Ashley Tolliver current BUS president and her board did a fine job of putting together a program in less than 2 months. They are to be commended for their efforts. Hopefully, their experience with BUS will be as noteworthy and invigorating as that of past BUS members.
Monday, November 10, 2008
This book is for young and old! You'll learn about things your teacher never told you in school. They say,
"those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it!"
This fully illustrated volume is the first in a series of books which will broaden the horizons of its readers. If you thought you knew something about African American history, think again.
As the editor of this series, based on the research of J.A. Rogers and the illustrations of A.S. Milai, I am particularly proud to present this unique offering to the children of today following the most auspicious occasion of the election of the first Black President of the United States, in the 21st century.
Buy it now by selecting this live link to PayPal's secure server. PayPal can accept Mastercard, Visa, Discover, American Express and other forms of payment. Take advantage of our low introductory price.
Shipping is free and tax is included!
For those of you unfamiliar with eBooks, you will be sent a link to your eMail address within 24 hours of your payment, which will allow you to download this digital book and print it out in its entirety or one page at a time.
This book is recommended for children and adults alike. The short bios are no more than 1-2 paragraphs and there are numerous illustrations on each page to engage your readers. They're perfect for ages 8 and up. Download your copy now and give them away as Kwanzaa gifts! Use the colorful depictions on the cover to inspire further research by your students.
Please feel free to suggest new subjects for upcoming volumes.
Kofi Khemet, M.Ed.
Editor and Researcher
Thursday, November 6, 2008
This is a significant occurrence in American history, but not like some of us may think. "Race" has been a significant issue during this run for the White House. However, this is not the first time an African American has occupied the White House!! According to J.A. Rogers, their have been 4-5 African American presidents already! Now, just in case you missed this lesson during American history class I'll give you a quick recap.
In 1963 Attorney-General Robert Kennedy and Senator Jacob Javits stated:
"there might be a Negro President in the next thirty or forty years, FACT, most outspoken of the big magazines, replied there was already one and in its January-February, 1964 issue had an article 'America's First Negro President.' It named Warren G. Harding as the one and had affidavits from elderly whites who knew the Harding family.
But before Harding three other Presidents had been loudly proclaimed by white people as being of Negro ancestry . . . . Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln."
J. A. Rogers published a small booklet entitled "The Five Negro Presidents: according to what white people said they were" in 1965, offers up more evidence to back up these claims. Oftentimes, these claims of the first Black this and the first Black that is not only overblown, but is actually incorrect.
Ask anyone who the first African American in professional baseball was and they'll readily cite Jackie Robinson. When were the first "Freedom Rides?" Of course, everyone knows they occurred in the 1960's. Who was the first Black Astronaut? That's an easy one, Guion Bluford. However, when we go back and check the records we find that Moses "Fleetwood" Walker preceded Jackie Robinson by about 50 years. The first "Freedom Rides?" Well, as a matter of fact my cousin's husband went on the "Journey of Reconciliation," with Bayard Rutsin and other members of CORE in 1948. This was a test of an interstate transportation law enacted by President Truman outlawing segregation in interstate transportation. Last, but not least, Guion Bluford, one of our best and our brightest was preceded by Capt. Edward J. Dwight, Jr. who entered an astronaut training program in the early 60's.As you can see from this short list, it can be a lot more difficult to nail down some of these so-called firsts than is apparent at first glance. I have purposely left a lot unsaid. My feeling is that in order to really know something it's best if you find it out for yourself. I will be returning to this topic as we continue to cover the story of Barack Obama, which has become decidedly presidential at this point.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Young people turned out in force for a political rally at the Quicken Loans Arena on October 29th, 2008. LeBron James, Jay-Z, the Obama Campaign and the Democratic Party held a large rally in downtown Cleveland that was well staged and attended.
News media from around the world were represented, including a Kenyan paper called "The Nation," "Al-Jazeera English," and all the major U.S. news outlets.
The event was significant in that it drew a large crowd of young people during the middle of the week. The program opened up with prayer by a local preacher and continued with appeals to the youth to vote early and in massive numbers. Chris Redfern the head of the Ohio Democratic Party and field organizers within the Obama organization urged the youth to go to the polls enmasse and cast their ballot no matter what the difficulties involved.
They were warned about long lines, lack of food and water. Event host LeBron James and recording artist/entrepreneur Jay-Z implored them to go to the polls and stay there until they had cast their ballot. These were not exactly prophetic words, since long lines have already been noted in Atlanta, GA and other swing states, as well. Some of these lines have people waiting in line for up to 8 hours or more. It's been noted that the majority of these voters are new, young voters supporting Obama. It's a testament to their tenacity and the seriousness of the times that they continue to spend this much time waiting in line to cast their ballots. The much maligned youth have been cast as apathetic and unreliable, however it's this reporters' opinion that they are about to destroy this particular myth.
Senator and Mrs. Obama will be in Cleveland this Sunday at the "Change We Need Rally," Lakeside Malls A, B and C on Lakeside Avenue. The doors open at 2pm and the program begins at 3:45pm on November 2nd. Now we all love Barack, Michelle and the children, but this rally will feature the "real" BOSS! That's right Bruce Springsteen himself will be on the stage with the man we want to be the "BOSS" of the U.S. government. Wow!!! Does it get any better than this?
The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but an RSVP is strongly encouraged. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you can't make it to the rally remember this, "power concedes nothing without a fight." We've all got to do our part. Don't wait for the last minute to go to the polls. The earlier you go the more likely you are to successfully cast your ballot and be one in 100 million to begin to turn this country around. Your children's posterity and your posterior hang in the balance. Do your duty.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Today Senator Barack Obama wrapped up the presidential campaign that began "on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, "with his "closing argument," delivered to a full house at the Canton Memorial Civic Center in Canton, Ohio. His closing argument summed up the current state of the campaign and, I'm sure, inspired many residents of Northeast Ohio to continue to work even harder to put him in the White House, on November 4th, 2008.
Even as the diverse crowd basked in the words of the presidential candidate, plans to implement the "final solution" for African Americans, Barack Obama in particular, were being foiled by federal agents in Jackson, Tennessee. This makes the 4th assassination attempt on Baracks life, that's been publicized, since he began his campaign on the steps of the Old State Capitol.
The first incident was the sabotage of his plane by deploying one of the emergency ramps while the plane was in flight, creating a situation where the plane was very difficult to control. Luckily, the pilots were seasoned enough to land the plane without further incident. Aviation authorities said they'd never had an incident like this occur.
The second incident occurred just before the Democratic Convention in Denver, when a conspiracy was uncovered amongst a well armed group of young, White, methamphetamine users in Denver, CO. For those of you unfamiliar with methamphetamines, people who use them become extremely violent and prone to uncontrollable fits of violence.
The third incident was particularly perplexing because it had nothing to do with a White supremacy philosophy or organization. In fact, it involved the grandson of the publisher of one of the oldest African American newspapers in the country, who already had a felony rap sheet. Therefore, he should be doing some hard time.
But, this latest incident, which happened today, involved some White supremacists. In all of these cases, with the exception of the very first incident, heavy firearms and protective gear was involved. However, from the commentary that aired on MSNBC on the "Countdown with Keith Olberman" it appears that this too will be swept under the rug.
Each of these incidents, with the exception of the first one, was serious enough to illicit conspiracy charges and lengthy jail time for the perpetrators. However, we've yet to hear of even one of these cases resulting in a trial, and or jail time. In fact, what we have heard is that the conspirators have been sent home as if to say "boys will be boys." This is not gonna fly, not today, not tomorrow, not ever!
As if all that wasn't enough we also had another incident occur earlier this week involving a young woman who claimed that a "big Black man robbed, assaulted and disfigured her" in part, because she was a supporter of John McCain. This was a ridiculous claim, which was not investigated by the McCain staff, but was instead taken at face value, as evidenced by the calls of support from McCain and his running mate. Even after the young lady confessed to having made a fraudulent claim, which could have led to violent attacks being perpetrated on innocent people McCain has yet to address the issue.
This is a pattern that we've taken note of over the course of the campaign. In fact, the whole tenor of the McCain campaign is having the effect of enabling or endorsing this type of activity. The calls for "Obama's head," the crys of "kill him" when his name is mentioned at McCain rallies have not been addressed by the McCain campaign.
Black folks take these threats seriously. The response of White people is not that these are serious incidents but, rather just some "young knuckleheads." For Black folks these threats are much more serious than White people can even imagine because, many of us have had members of our families discriminated against, threatened with physical violence, murdered and lynched. In many instances we've experienced these things ourselves.
Our wealth, celebrity, educational background, etc. do not usually come into play when these incidents occur. It's the rare exception when our social status comes to our aid. In the case of O.J. Simpson we saw a good example of social status and wealth coming to his aid. Everything about the way he was dealt with was atypical, from the "slow speed" chase to his arrest following the chase. The whole thing was tightly choreographed, all according to the book. It was nothing like the Rodney King incident where he was in a high speed chase and was mercilessly beaten by some of L.A.'s finest.
If his beating hadn't been caught on tape by an amateur videographer he would have just been another number in the system. So, when these kinds of threats are issued, no matter how amateurish they may seem Black people take them very seriously. The federal authorities need to take these incidents just as seriously, because there have been too many nameless African Americans that have been murdered by "amateur" White supremacists. These, so-called amateurs, oftentimes are trying to make a name for themselves and, in fact, could care less whether or not they are killed in the process. Either way, they figure they're going into the history books as die-hard patriots who went down for the count.
Everyone who's interested in seeing Obama actually occupy the White House needs to write a letter to their state representatives and the local newspapers effectively putting them on notice. We should not delay, not even one day in carrying out this task, Obama's life could hang in the balance.
This is an issue that has not and will not be dealt with in any significant way by the media, unless we call them on the carpet. They've shown us this repeatedly, by how they've dealt with all of the incidents mentioned above (I'm getting reports of more incidents as we speak). They'd like to just sweep it under the rug and continue to talk about the issue of "race," without dealing with the reality of race that we're dealing with down here on the ground every day and that Barack and his family is dealing with every day.
All of us have been praying for them since this campaign started. So far, our prayers have been answered. But, prayer without works are futile and works without prayers are empty. We've got to combine positive action with affirmative prayers.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The end of this election season is coming to an abrupt close. There are 12 days left to cast your vote. Will you wait until the last moment and then rush to cast your vote in a furious flurry, or will you cast a vote early and free up a space in line for someone who cannot get enough time off from work to go to the polls? Now’s the time to make your decision and take action. It’s such a simple thing that has been complicated by the need to automate every aspect of society.
Voting machine technology, which was supposed to simplify the whole process has come up short of the hype. What was supposed to streamline the process, improve accuracy and reliability is now causing interminably long lines at the polls and in the end is not necessarily accurate. We now know that our “state of the art” electronic voting equipment is unreliable at best (see EVEREST report), prone to tampering at worst. So, here are a few tips to help you successfully cast your ballot in a timely manner.
Request a paper ballot instead of using a machine, at least that way you’ve begun to leave a paper trail that you can see has the correct boxes checked. The paper ballots are also easier to correct if you make an error.
By voting early you can avoid having to show I.D. and meet the exact match requirements you would be required to meet when voting on election day. Since you’re using an absentee ballot all you’ll need is the last 4 digits on your Social Security card. So, if you’re able to get to your Board of Elections office and cast a ballot before 11/4/08 please do so, it may help you avoid a lot of frustration on voting day, as well as long lines.
Make sure to pick up a voting recommendation card for guidance on who to vote for and how to vote on the issues and judges, from your local party branch. You’re allowed to have one of these cards in the voting booth with you as you make your choices. This is especially helpful in selecting judges, since their party affiliations are not listed like the other candidates.
If you anticipate you will be unable to make it to the polls for any reason, or you just want to avoid the hassle, you can request an absentee ballot through the mail. Your ballot will be sent to you, so you can fill it out at your leisure and even ask questions or use the internet to research an issue or judge, etc. before casting the ballot. When you’ve completed it you can send it in the mail or deliver it to the polls on or before election day.
Another thing to consider is that each county produces the ballots for their county. Therefore, the ballots in each county may have a different appearance. In fact, some voters have been having problems already with their ballots, because of the format used to lay out the ballot. So, having the time to go over it carefully, where you’re not in a hurry to finish it and turn it in is advantageous for this reason also. Here’s an example of a sample ballot used in one of Ohio’s 88 counties that has caused some confusion because of the 2 columns with presidential nominees.
This link will give you all the information you need on Early Voting Locations in Ohio, while also acting as a gateway into the Secretary of State’s website, which has all the current information on successfully casting your ballot in Ohio, as well as information on ballot issues, judges, etc.
Ohio has one of the most informative and interactive websites for voters, instituted by the Secretary of State’s office, so make sure to put it to good use. After you have cast your ballot you can go to the site and tell your voting day story, be it good or bad. I’m sure they won’t mind hearing some of the good, as well as the bad and the ugly. You can use the link to The Voting Rights Institute
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has been working diligently to correct the transgressions of her predecessor, the infamous former Secretary of State Blackwell. I have to give her an “A” grade. So far, so good. The system seems to be working. She’s had to fight off a number of lawsuits initiated by the Republicans that were initiated even before this years’ primaries. Some of them, like the latest attempt to disenfranchise approximately 200,000 new registrants have gone all the way to the US Supreme Court, who decided in favor of the Secretary of State.
Ohio has had more than its share of problems with the voting process. But, this year that big yellow sun on the Seal of the Great State of Ohio is shining brightly over a new day in politics for the citizens of Ohio.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The Center of Pan-African Culture (CPAC), at Kent State University's campus, hosted the "We The People Fest," from Sept. 26th - 28th. This was the inaugural edition of a political film festival at Kent State University. Kent State has been known as a political hotbed due to the anti-war protests that led to a day of infamy, when the National Guard killed 4 unarmed student protesters on May 4th, 1970. Since that time a lot has changed on Kent's campus. The ROTC presence is stronger than ever, as evidenced by the prominence of their headquarters in the former graduate dormitory known as Terrace Hall on Kent's main campus.
"And The Winner Is . . . "
The "We The People Fest" was organized and produced by Christina Grozik & Paul Shaia, who also produced the film "And The Winner Is . . ," which was screened on the first day of the festival. The inauguration of the festival has been successful on a number of levels, although attendance has not been nearly as high as the organizers would have liked. Over 1,000 people attended over three days.
The non-partisan festival, featured a number of films focused on Ohio and the elections of 2000, 2004 and 2006. The films ran the gamut from family oriented productions like "Swing Vote" to the ominous "Hacking Democracy." For the most part the films focused on the theft of the last 2 presidential elections from Al Gore and John Kerry, respectively.
Films such as, "American Blackout," "Swing State," "And the Winner Is . . . ," "No Umbrella - Election Day in the City," "SPLIT: A Divided America," "How Ohio Pulled It Off," "So Goes The Nation" and "Hacking Democracy", all speak of the importance of Ohio in the election of any presidential candidate. With the general election just around the corner and the possibility of Barack Obama winning the election growing by the minute, these films really came into focus.
The biggest draw of the weekend attracted about 500 people for a presentation and book signing by Chuck Norris on the last day of the festival. Mr. Norris, an 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master in the Tae Kwon Do system, star of 23 action films and 203 episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger," was seen in an unusual light, as a political animal.
Before his endorsement of Mike Huckabee, last year, Chuck Norris was not known for his politics. The publication of his latest book, "'Blackbelt Patriotism," may help to bring his political views into better focus for the public at large. A lot of what he says in the book focuses on his life experiences and concern for the future of America. At 68 years old his hope is that the youth of America will come together and fight for reform of the government.
In light of his concern for the youth of America his book is dedicated to "the millenials," a term he uses for people born during the dawning of this new millenium. He also works directly with the youth in public schools and has developed a martial arts program especially for "at-risk" youth. Currently, his "Kick Start" martial arts program is operating in 43 schools with 7,000 children.
Since his first choice for president Mike Huckabee dropped out of the race Chuck has thrown the full weight of his support behind John McCain. In fact, Chuck was the only representative of the Republican Party brave enough to show up for the festival, although invitations were sent out to Republican and Democratic organizations alike.
Maybe the Republicans dared not show their faces, because of the nature of the films being screened this weekend! It seems that the Republicans, like their leader John McCain, prefer to do their dirty work under cover of darkness. We saw a good example of this in the 2nd presidential debate where John McCain refrained from assailing Barack Obama to his face, while his surrogates continue to do so from the stump. Maybe it takes a former Air Force policeman "with 5 more testicles than Lance Armstrong" to stand up and be counted as a member of the Republican Party; following the exposure of the scandalous tactics employed by Republican operatives to deliver Ohio and the White House to Bush in 2000 and 2004.
But, not even a 7 testicled Chuck Norris had the cajones to engage in a full on tirade like the one that appeared in his weekly commentary posted on "World Net Daily," a right wing conservative eZine, during his appearance at Kent State. The following statement appeared in an article he wrote entitled "Puff, the Mighty Obama."
"America, we are being duped again by fluff and folly, glitz and glamour, and hype and Hollywood. It's time for us to wake up before it's too late! Now, more than ever, is the time to join the NObama-nation revolution. No way. No how NObama."
Now mind you this is the pot calling the kettle black, since the Chuck Norris ad for Mike Huckabee is the second most popular candidate endorsement on YouTube with 2.3 million views. Mr. Norris is the epitomy of Hollywood and hype, so I don't see how he has room to talk in that department. The furthest he was willing to go was to say that Obama and Biden wanted to give 50 billion dollars to the UN in order to achieve the Millenium Development Goals of the UN, which President Clinton signed on to back in 2000. His argument was that much of the money would be wasted on bureaucrats and never reach its intended target. What he overlooked was the fact that his candidate of choice was busy lobbying for a corporate bailout of Wall Street, to the tune of 700 billion dollars as he spoke; then his candidate went a step further in the "socialization" of America by promising to order the Secretary of the Treasury to buy up the mortgages of homeowners on the verge of default, to the tune of 300 billion dollars at face value, if he is elected president.
By the way the Millenium Development Goals which include:
were touted by President Clinton as essential to fighting the war on terror, because when you add up the cumulative effect of these issues on the body politic of 3rd World countries, they definitely act as contributing factors in military conflict areas around the world. One of the mistakes of the Bush administration over the last 8 years has been their inability to maintainold alliances and formulate new ones. Consequently, American troops are now stretched across the globe with razor thin margins of error. The Iraq war has cost 100 billion dollars/month with no end in sight. Fifty billion dollars/year to be used to meet the above goals on a world-wide basis is a mere pittance, and in fact is just a matter of the US paying its fair share.
While we're already getting reports that a bailout of AIG, the nation's largest insurer, to the tune of 85 billion dollars, has resulted in the continuation of perks being given to their employees, in the form of lavish trip packages that included massages, pedicures and manicures to the tune of $450K which are now being subsidized by our tax dollars. Is there any shame in their game? Here they come again, just 2 weeks later asking for another 30 billion dollars. Where's the justice? Where's the logic in this?
Apparently, it's okay if Americans waste our tax dollars on bureaucratic perks, but it's not okay if similar practices occur in the distribution of aid to foreign countries. I found the same kind of logic behind much of what Norris had to say about Obama. Chuck may be a star of the T.V. and silver screens, however, this guy is no oracle and his mouth certainly ain't no prayerbook.
Like Senator McCain, he too is in his second marriage and the father of an illegitimate child born of an adulterous relationship. Maybe this is a big factor in his support of Senator McCain. Certainly, they have a lot in common. They are both veterans. They both married women young enough to be their daughters. In fact, in Chuck's case 3 of his 5 children are older than his present wife. And, McCain's only 4 years older than Norris. However, the main common denominator seems to be that they're a couple of old white guys, because his first choice was not McCain; but Huckabee who has little in common with Norris, other than his religious beliefs.
His presentation began with a video short about his life, which he elaborated on following the video. He spoke about his life from childhood through the present, conveniently leaving out his adulterous affair that resulted in the birth of his 3rd child, then segued into his view of politics, religion and life in general.
Following his presentation he answered questions from the audience and gave autographs for fans who purchased his new book after the presentation. There was very little opportunity to ask him questions, since most of the time was used in showing the video presentation and relating his biography.
In January of 2007 Norris appeared on "Hannity & Colmes" and got into a spirited debate with Hannity. It would have been a lot more interesting to have had him on a panel discussion where participants could have engaged him one on one. I'm sure we would have had a lively discussion and learned a lot about his worldview and who knows maybe we would have learned something about our own view of the world, as well.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
"We The People Fest," got off to a good start with last night's film, "And the Winner Is . . ." It was a real sleeper and will be playing again this evening at 5:30pm. This film clearly set the stage for all the other films to follow and did it with a lot of style and grace. The film was produced by Christina Grozik and Paul Shaia, who are also organizers of the film festival and fellow Ohioans, as well.
As with any film this one took about 2 years to come to fruition. What was surprising was how accurate the film was in mirroring the current presidential campaign. The premise of the film is that modern electoral politics have become more concerned with posturing and profiling than with real substantive issues.
As an example we can look at last night's debate which was styled after an episode on the hit TV show "The West Wing." Jim Lehrer the host for the debate was offered the chance to host that fictional debate, as well, but was precluded by PBS restrictions on the portrayal of their commentators in fictional settings. Apparently, they wanted to make a "clear distinction between fact and fiction." However, when it came to the real debate between Obama and McCain they used the debate on "The West Wing" as their guide.
In the film, which reminded me of the board game "Clue," you see 7 candidates representing various archetypes, such as John Noble the reluctant, true-blue, all-American, John Kennedy-like, heroic champion of truth, justice and the American way. Other types represented include two apolitical women; an Italian politician; a member of the town's old boy network; a corrupt career politician; a smooth-talking African American politician and a political wannabe type.
Each character is a caricature of a politician we know and surprisingly similar to a number of the candidates in the current election cycle. The whole process of creating a beauty pageant-like contest is caught on film by a novice filmmaker who has an uncanny resemblance to the producer of the actual film. www.winneris.net
The film got high marks from the 100 plus members of the audience present last night, which was a good turnout, considering the screening occurred during the same time slot as the 1st presidential debate of 2008, between Obama and McCain.
Today's featured films will include "American Blackout," "Swing Vote" and "Hacking Democracy." For those of you unable to attend last night's screening "And The Winner Is . . ." will be shown again at 5:30pm this afternoon.
I've attached some background information on Cynthia McKinney the star of "American Blackout" FYI. This film chronicles, "the recurring patterns of voter disenfranchisement from Florida 2000 to Ohio 2004 while following the story of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. McKinney not only took an active role investigating these election debacles, but has found herself in the middle of her own after publicly questioning the bush Administration about the 9/11 terrorist attacks." www.americanblackout.org
"Swing Vote," starring Kevin Costner, Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper will air this evening using a 35mm format, which has necessitated the use of The University Theater on the south side of Kent, since the university no longer has the equipment to show movies using this format anymore.
With a premise similar to "And The Winner Is . . .," this movie turns the idea of voting on its head, by making the outcome of the race dependent on one man's vote. Thereby forcing both candidates to jockey for position, offering up favors and changes in their platform to suit said voter, played by Kevin Costner.
As if that wasn't enough, "Hacking Democracy" gives us some insight into the possibility of voting fraud via the use of computers, hence the title. This is a serious documentary about a Seattle grandmother and her band of extraordinary citizen-activists as they go on a quest to see how votes are tallied in a number of states across the country. They set out to show just how easily your vote can be nullified, changed and or otherwise manipulated on election and actually made to look so official as to be undetectable.
The whole premise is ominously frightening as we move closer to this year's election. This film sounds a wake up call to all those who treasure the American way of electing its leaders. This film is a must see on the list of films being shown this weekend.
If you can't make it to Kent this weekend, many of this films are or will be offered on the net. Check "We The People Fest" for the full listing of films. The films can be ordered from the websites of production company.
Look for further updates over the course of the weekend, as well as behind the scenes interviews and a virtual tour of the newly renovated Center of Pan-African Culture at Kent State.
Friday, September 26, 2008
And the winner is . . . kicks off the "We The People Fest," this evening at Kent State's Center of Pan-African Culture. The movie is a satirical look at electoral politics, where the election boils down to a real bonafide beauty pageant. Check out this trailer for a preview of tonight's movie:
A total of approximately 30 films, including some by local directors will be screened beginning this evening and running all the way through Sunday night. Highlights will include a presentation and book signing by Chuck Norris on Sunday afternoon and the screening of "Swing Vote," starring Kevin Costner and Kelsey Grammar, directed by Joshua Stern, who will be speaking prior to the screening at 7:30pm Saturday night. This screening will be held at the University Theater on the South side of Kent. Tickets for all screenings are $5 for students, $7 for general admission, or you can purchase a weekend pass for $50. Christina Groznik and Paul Shaia will speak prior to the film at 8pm.
For those of you who are closely following the presidential election and may be concerned about missing tonight's debate, it will be shown in its entirety on Sunday at 3pm Eastern Standard time. So, have no fear you can come to the show and still see the debate.
I look forward to seeing you there this weekend.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Not knowing the name of the movie, nor having read the book I had no preconceived notions about the movie. Certainly, it was an emotional tear jerker. But, I had unanswered questions at the end of the movie.
Lana Turner played the role of a struggling actress who would do anything to succeed in the business. She's portrayed as a widow with a young daughter, as is Louise Beavers. The two of them are drawn together when Turner's daughter is found and cared for by Beavers. They hit it off and Beavers agrees to temporarily take care of Turner's daughter, while her and her daughter are living with them.
Beavers' daughter is a light-skinned girl who could pass for white in the book and both movies, hence the title "Imitation of Life." Throughout the story she attempts to pass for white. She's thwarted at every turn, however when her mother appears at school, on her job, etc. and eventually moves across country to Los Angeles to reinvent herself as a white person and seek her fortune.
The story is based on the book of the same name, written by a white author of the 1930's, which bears little if any resemblance to the movie I just described. The 1959 version with Lana Turner, which was written for her, excluded a lot of very objectionable shuffling and "nigger speak." In fact, the book and the 1934 version of the movie portrayed the beneficent white woman as a shrewd entrepreneur who took "Aunt Delilah's" pancake recipe, packaged and sold it, becoming the "pancake queen."
As the story goes Aunt Delilah wants nothing for this "secret recipe." She even goes so far as to beg the woman not to pay her anything for the recipe and to just let her keep on taking care of her and her daughter. Neither movie can stand up to modern standards, but the original version of the movie portrays the Black woman in a role that goes beyond subservient to downright ludicrous. The thought that she would not want a car, house and life of her own, but instead opts to let the white woman keep all of her money, while she continues living with her and playing nurse maid to her daughter goes beyond reason. Her fondest wish it turns out is to have a big funeral with 4 white horses to take her to the "pearly gates" of heaven.
The daughter plays a key role in the story, as she tries time and time again to pass for white always thwarted by her mother's dark complexion. In the end she not only rejects her race, but her mother too. She even goes so far as to tell her to walk on by without speaking if she sees her on the street, which in fact some Black people have done and continue to do.
Most recently, I've been conducting research on 5 Black presidents of the USA and it turns out some of them were passing. This knowledge has been passed down for generations by their relatives who made an agreement not to expose them. Warren G. Harding is a good example of this type of occurrence. One of his Black relatives has just published a book about him with photos of his Black relatives.
Ms. Hurst, was a noted Harlem Renaissance writer, although she was not an African American. Her work received some harsh criticism by Sterling Brown and other members of the community which she felt was undeserved. Her felling was that we should be grateful that she gave our story some attention.
We can forgive Ms. Hurst, for she was a product of her era. But, can we forgive the purveyors of this garbage for continuing to broadcast these stereotyped images of Black people on into the 21st century and beyond. I think not!
The whole notion of the "tragic mulatto" is a racist concept and speaks to the psychopathic racial personality of white Americans, which has in turn led to the exhibition of some psychopathic behavior on our part. Dr. Bobby Wright speaks of this in his book "The Psychopathic Racial Personality."
The "one-drop" rule, which states it only takes "one-drop" of Black blood to make you Black, while "one-drop" of white blood makes you conflicted is alive and well in modern-day America; because you'll never be accepted as being equal to white folks, despite the fact that you can pass for white.
In the final analysis the theme of passing, in the Black community is not unique. What was objectionable was the unrealistic portrayal of this unique phenomenon in the Black community.
Aunt Jemima, as she was in the early days (as depicted by A.B. Frost).
She was not only one of the greatest advertising icons of all time, but Aunt Jemima was also the advertising world's first living trademark. And, as with any such icon, she's had her fair share of controversy. But did you know who the real Aunt Jemima was?
Born into slavery in 1834, the woman who would become known to millions as Aunt Jemima was really named Nancy Green. She was a warm, friendly woman who also happened to be an excellent cook (though, interestingly enough, the famous Aunt Jemima pancake recipe wasn't hers. It belonged to a company called the Pearl Milling Company). And it was in 1893 that she was discovered in Chicago, at the age of 59, by one R.T. Davis.
Head of the R.T. Davis Milling Company, Davis bought the pancake formula from Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood when the Pearl Milling Company went bankrupt. And though it was Rutt and Underwood who came up with the name "Aunt Jemima," it was Davis who decided to use a living person to endorse it.
History was made that year at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the very first time Nancy Green went public. It was there that she, with her charming and animated personality, engaged the crowds and supplied them with thousands of pancakes. In fact, she was such a sensation that police had to be assigned to keep the crowds moving!
The rest of the story made marketing history. Soon, Nancy Green signed a lifetime contract with Davis, and her image was on billboards and advertisements all over the world. Davis was up to his eyeballs in pancake orders, and flour sales skyrocketed. Even after the Davis Company had to sell years later, Nancy Green remained the "pancake queen." It wasn't until 1923 when her legacy as a living trademark ended - when she was tragically struck and killed by a car in downtown Chicago. Two years later, the Aunt Jemima Mills were purchased by the Quaker Oats Company.
The famous image of Aunt Jemima was based on the real image of Nancy Green, an original painting of which recently sold for $9,030 at MastroNet. This painting was rendered by A.B. Frost, now regarded as one of the great illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration.
Aunt Jemima's image, however, has been modified since the days of Nancy Green and A.B. Frost. As social climates started to change and the 20th century wore on, many became offended by Aunt Jemima's image and felt that it was an outdated and negative portrayal of an African-American woman. If you take a look at today's Aunt Jemima, you'll notice that her kerchief is gone and her hair is styled. She wears earrings, and appears slimmer and younger. She does, however, have the same warm and inviting smile that she's always had.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
"This next clip is the 1st of 2 parts from the convention itself. About half way through the speech(at 6:00), the Vice Chairman of the AIP, Dexter Clark, says this of Palin: 'Our current governor who I mentioned at the last conference, the one we were hoping would get elected, Sarah Palin, did get elected . . . .and there was a lot of talk about her moving up. She was an AIP member before she got the job as mayor . . . '"
Sarah Palin was a card carrying member of the Alaskan Independence Party who went so far as to welcome their organization to the capital city via videotape from the governor's office. This leaves no doubt that they were far from outcasts, or radicals in her mind.
As you'll note in "Part 1 of Sarah Palin Secessionist," the organization is a self-described secessionists movement. Admittedly, they have some valid arguments, in my estimation. But, I wonder if Americans in general are ready to loose Alaska, a strategically significant state; and its oil revenue due to an oversight on the part of John McCain and his party hacks.
As you listen to the video pay close attention to the fate of former leaders of this party. It appears that the Arkansas Sudden Death Syndrome may have come into play again, because the wife died suddenly and the husband was assassinated soon after a government official had promised to look into some their allegations as to the illegal nature of Alaska's statehood vote.
This alone should make voters think long and hard about voting for a ticket with her on it, because the possibility of a retaliatory strike would be imminent leaving us with her in charge. America in the hands of the "anti-Lincoln," can you believe it?
The Republicans have really screwed up this time and placed the entire country in jeopardy, in order to win an election.
I can't believe this one myself. I heard it from Chris Matthews on MSNBC and had to go and check it out for myself, only to find that he was right on target.
She is not "Sarah Plain and Tall," but rather Sarah Palin "the anti-Lincoln." Next time McCain says something about Obama's judgment, or "lack of it" someone needs to bring up Sarah Palin and her questionable background. It didn't take more than 5 minutes on Youtube to come up with these two clips, which speak to her friendly relationship with the secessionists.
Can McCain get it right? Apparently, not!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Each and every page is chock full of information that runs the gamut from disturbing to informative. The pictures are revealing studies in the various personalities and events, which have occurred involving the lives of Africans from the beginning of time to the present, which in this case would have been the original publication date of 1940.
In cases where pictures were available they were used by the artist to develop his sketches. But, in many cases there were no pictures and at that point George Lee, the artist, took the liberty to create what he thought were realistic depictions. This was meant to be a popular work that was accessible to the public via a network of Black newspapers and was put into national syndication. It was not meant to stand up to scholarly debate or scrutiny.
However, because of the sensitive nature of the topic the reviewers took offense to much of what was contained within these pages and skewered the author, when it was they, themselves that needed to be skewered for not placing the document into its proper framework. They in fact, commit some of the same types of error of fact in the process, delivering false charges that the author was also the illustrator, and noting the lack of references, without noting the source of the document, which I believe to be the Pittsburgh Courier.
I really appreciate the fact that the reviewers took some time to give a critical analysis of this important book. However, I would hope that in the future they would check their own facts before making brash statements, which themselves were off base.
Admittedly, as Black Classic Press clearly states, J.A. Rogers was a "race" man and was attempting to prove a point, so at times some of his facts may come into question.
J.A. Rogers is "the historian" that was most vociferous in bringing to light many of the stories we now accept as being the bedrock of Pan-African Studies, or Black Studies. He was also known for using photography in conjunction with his historiography. This is a real sore point when acquiring his works now being published by large companies like Macmillian & Co., where the literally hundreds of photos of people or statues of persons have been excised from his major work "The World's Great Men of Color." This really diminished the impact of his work, because, as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words.
In conclusion, I'll be the first one to admit that I just recently noted a discrepancy in a depiction of the 11 churches of Lalibela Ethiopia, which are monolithic structures carved out of the bedrock of the Ethiopian highlands. Mr. Lee made them look like large mudhuts, as opposed to the architectural masterpieces that they are in actuality.
Overall, I've noted the book is fairly accurate in it's portrayal of the personalities and events it depicts, but I wouldn't give it any more, or less credibility than "Ripley's Believe It Or Not," whose museum in Hollywood is a real eye-opener. So, while you're fact checking, why don't you check into the validity of "Ripley's Believe It Or Not."
Meanwhile, I think I'll keep supporting African American Museums and historical sites, who undoubtedly owe a great deal to J.A. Rogers, as one of the pioneers in the study of Pan-African history. By the way the newest museum of African American history will be opening soon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as a part of the Smithsonian, I wonder who they'll feature in their exhibits?
Saturday, August 9, 2008
This seemed like a simple task. I had no really urgent commitments back here in Ohio and I gave myself about 3 weeks to accomplish my tasks and return to Ohio. But, somehow fate was not with me and it ended up taking six weeks to return to Ohio. All in all it wasn't a bad trip, but my money was stretched tighter than a drumhead. That coupled with the fact that the Mississippi river flooded from Wisconsin to Missouri not only delayed my trip it also forced me to take some unforeseen detours, which ended up working out in the end.
My first detour was to Tacoma, WA. The idea was to go to the Zimbabwean Music Festival 2008 (Zimfest) and at the same avoid all the flooding in the midwest. I figured that the flooding would be in the lower Mississippi by the time I left Tacoma and I'd have no problem making it back to Ohio. As it turned out that was correct and I got to go to Zimfest for the second time.
It was a great weekend. As a matter of fact it happened on July 4th weekend. This is kind of unusual, I'm used to Zimfest happening later in the summer, but apparently it can happen at different times of the year. There was a full schedule everyday, I sold Dezes (gourd resonators for Mbiras), hosho (gourd rattles) and my No-burn Incense during the day and enjoyed the music at night.
Zimfest is a round the clock festival, with musicians performing on and off stage day and night and teaching workshops during the day. It's got to be one of the most unusual festivals in the country. For music lovers its absolutely fabulous.
The musicians ran the gamut from novices to seasoned professionals. Many of the most knowledgeable musicians were from Zimbabwe and not only taught workshops, but performed, as well. The thing I like about Zimfest is that you see someone on the stage and then you're sitting down eating lunch with them chitchatting. The whole line that's drawn in the sand between the musicians and the audience is non-existent. You can converse and share knowledge in a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere.
Highlights of the show were the 3 groups led by Sheree Seretse, which included a children's group known as Shumba; a new group of semi-professional musicians Zambuko and her main band of professional musicians Anzanga.
There were so many other groups there that I could not even begin to mention them all, but some that you may recognize are Chinyakare, Boka Marimba, Gwarira Enharira and Kutsinhira. I really liked Boka's singer. She sounded something like Miriam Makeba, which is something of a feat, since she's from the U.S. Chinyakare featured Russ Landers and Ronnie Daliyo on Mbira and was in the groove, as usual, although they were missing their former featured dancers. Russ started off the first night with some lovely Chipendani (mouthbow) playing and simultaneous singing.
In the end many of the featured performers came together on stage for a grande finale that was awesome. I've placed a sampling of the performances on Youtube, just enough to give you a taste of Zimfest 2008. Check it out for yourself and give me some feedback.
I get on Youtube pretty much everyday to see what's new. One of the jewels I discovered there recently was Cuban Changui music. I've been playing Mbira (Kalimba) for a number of years and decided to look it up on Youtube the other day. When I did I was overwhelmed at the number of videos that were up there. But the one from Guantanamo Bay by the Changuieros was outstanding. This video shows some Cubanos on the docks playing the traditional instruments for this genre. These instruments include the tres (a three stringed instrument similar to a guitar), a hand-made pair of tack-head bongos, a marimbula (the large bass mbira originating from Cuba), a pair of maracas and of course the guiro (metal scraper).
The music is designed to accompany the vocals, which are the focal point of the music, as is so often the case. They were smoking! The vocals were hot, hot, hot! Done in a rap style, they covered a familiar Cuban tune called El Chan, Chan. Take a look at the video to see what you think.
They say this music is the ancestor of the Son, which is still the most popular type of music in Cuba today and has been for almost 100 years. What's so special about this music, both the Son and Changui, is that they represent the earliest attempts to mix the Spanish heritage with the African heritage. The result has been with us for a long time in the Cha, Cha, Cha; the Mambo; Guanguanco; Salsa, etc. The mixture of Spanish vocals with stringed instruments, drums and other percussions instruments lends itself to some hot rhythmic combinations that somehow always seem to talk about "mi corazon," or my heart. Yes, it's all about those pesky male-female relationships. They're going to break your heart, one way or another.
Sit back relax and check out the video. Let me know if you like it as much as I do.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Reverend Jeremiah Wright
Would you repeat these words after me. Remember O'Lord [Echo from audience] against the Edomites [Echo] the day of Jerusalem's fall. [Echo] Most of us are only familiar with what we read earlier in the service today, the first 6 verses of Psalm 137. They contain the powerful and immortal words of a people who are in exile. Words that have been made into anthems and sacred songs both in North America and in Jamiaca. Forty years ago when I was in college our college choir sang Psalm 137, "by the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered thee O'Zion." Twenty years ago almost everybody in the Caribbean was singing the Jamaican version, "by the waters of Babylon, dere we sat down and wept."
The captives in Babylon asked the question, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" The captives in America answered that question by creating an entirely new genre of music, the Spirituals. They sang sorrowfully, "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home". They sang thoughtfully, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows, but Jesus." They sang defiantly, "O'freedom, O'freedom, O'freedom over me, before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave and go home to my god and be free."
Most of us are familiar with just that part of Psalm 137. Most of us are only familar with the first 6 verses of Psalm 137. Most of us have not read or heard the last 3 verses of this song, and most of us, I can guarantee you, have never heard a sermon that touched any of the thoughts or feelings expressed in these last 3 verses.
Today I was telling Freddie Haines the spirit of god has nudged me to touch them and to treat them prayerfully; as many of us try to sort out what it is we are feeling and why it is we are feeling what we feel after the trauma and the tragedy of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of who America is, the money and the military.
Some of the feelings we have, as people of faith in the 21st century are similar to the feelings of the people of faith had in the 6th century, B.C. And, when you read and, and study this Psalm, in its entirety. The parallel between those feelings becomes almost eerily crystal clear. That's why I didn't want you to stop at the famous and familiar verse six. I wanted you to read, to hear and to experience all nine verses of Psalm 137 to get the full scope of what it is this song is saying. Pray with me for just a few moments on this subject.
The day of Jerusalem's fall. The day of Jerusalem's fall. The day . . . of Jerusalem's fall. If you got your Bibles with you turn back to Second Kings the 25th chapter, Second Kings 25th chapter. In that chapter, there is a graphic description of the carnage and the killings that took place, on the day of Jerusalem's fall. The King of Judah, with all of his army, fled. Verse 4, they tried to run, but the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, captured the king and literally committed murder.
Now, you got to remember the real and the symbolic significance of the walls of Jerusalem. Our choir sings about it. You can read about it when you get home. Most of you just enjoyed the sound of the music, and miss the meaning of the words to the music. Read Psalm one, Psalm 48 when you get home.
Great is the Lord and greatly
to be praised in the city of our god. Jerusalem! Let Mt. Zion rejoice.
Jerusalem! Let the daughters of Judah be glad. Walk around Zion. That's
Jerusalem! Go 'round about. Account it's towers, it's towers. Tell the towers
don't miss this, don't miss this. Tell the towers thereof. The towers of
Jerusalem were the visible symbols of her greatness, her power and her
invincibility! Mark ye well her bulwarks and consider her palaces. This is
Jerusalem! Invulnerable, Jerusalem! Invincible, Jerusalem! The city where God
dwell, Jerusalem. The Chaldeans smashed and shattered that sense of security and
invincibility. When first and Second Kings 25:4, look a breach was made in the
One side of the Pentagon was wiped out and the people who were in there, like the people of Jerusalem who defended Jerusalem, on that wall wiped out. First there was a breach in the wall in verse four, and then verse 2, 10. Verse 10 says they broke down all the walls of Jerusalem. Then they burned everything they could burn and took most of the people into exile.
The people who sang this song saw their loved ones die. The people who sang this song saw senseless carnage. The people who sang this song saw their landmarks burned. They saw their church burned. They saw their town burned. They saw their places of employment burned. They saw their places of enjoyment burned. Some of the people they worked beside, they would never see again. Some of the people they walked beside, they would never see again. Some of the people they lived beside, they would never see again.
And, when you read this song of remembrance, "By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and we wept, when we remembered." When you read this song of remembrance, look what you see, look what you see. Look! Look! You see the people of God. The people of faith, move 3 distinct moves. They move, first of all from reverence, reverence, reverence. The thought of Jerusalem. Those thoughts are thoughts of reverence. The memories of Jerusalem are memories of reverence.
This is a time of self-examination. A time to examine our personal relationships with God. A time to examine our personal relationships with our families. And, a time to examine our personal relationships with our extended family, the family of God. Then the Lord showed me that this not only a time for self-examination. This! This is also a time for social transformation. Now, they ain't gone put me on PBS for the nation to see this. This will be around the Chicagoland area. This ain't gon' be in no national cable. But, this is the time for social transformation. And, this is going to be the hardest step we have to take.
But, now is the time for social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society, social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a country, social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as an arrogant, racist, military superpower, social transformation. We just can't keep messing over people and thinking that can't nobody do nothing about it. They have shown us that they can and that they will. And, let me suggest to you that rather than figure who we gon' go to declare war on, maybe we need to declare war on racism! Maybe we need to declare war on injustice! Maybe we need to declare war on greed!
Those same lawmakers you saw gathered at the capitol praying, are the same lawmakers who just passed a 1.3 trillion dollar gift for the rich. Maybe we need to rethink the way we do politics and declare war on greed! Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS! In 5 minutes the Congress found 40 billion dollars to rebuild New York and the families of those who died in sudden death. Do you think we could find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death. Maybe! Maybe! Maybe! We need to declare war on the healthcare system, that leaves a nations poor with no health coverage! Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay!
This is a time for social transformation. We, we, we can't go back to doing business as usual and treating the rest of the world like we've been treating them. This is a time for self-examination. This is a time for social transformation. But, then ultimately, as I looked around and saw that God had given me a another chance to try to be the man that God wants me to be. Another chance to try to be the person that God meant for me to be. Another chance to try to be the parent that God knows I should be. Another chance to try to make a positive difference in a world full of hate. Another chance to teach somebody the difference between our God's awesomeness and our nation's arrogance. When I, when I looked around and saw that, for whatever the reason, God had let me see another day, I realized that the Lord was showing me that this is not only a time for self-examination, this is not only a time for social transformation, but this is also a time for spiritual adoration.
In otherwards, this a time to say thank you, Lord! This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I may not have tomorrow, so I'm going to take this time, on this day, to say thank you Lord! Thank you for my life. You didn't have to let me live. Thank you for my blessings. I could have been on one of those airplanes. I could have been in downtown New York, or a few blocks from the Pentagon. But, for whatever the reason you let me be here.
Psalm 137 (NIV)