Monday, September 12, 2011

We Made a Liar of MLK

The country is very excited about the new MLK Memorial on the National Mall. I am ashamed. I am ashamed of what we have allowed to become of his legacy, while paying homage to his image. The "I Have a Dream Speech" is epic; but it's not my favorite King speech. One of my favorite speeches is his "Give Us the Ballot Speech" given on 17 May 1957 in Washington, D.C., in which King makes the United States this promise:

"Give us the ballot, and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a "Southern Manifesto" because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice.

Give us the ballot, and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy, and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who, have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the Divine."

Seven years later we were given the ballot; and more and more, on Election Day we stay at home. We did come out in record numbers to support now President Obama. But then, we as a community stayed home during the next election in large and dissappointing numbers. We failed to send the president the support he needed to get done in Washington what the middle class and the poor needed to make agressive progress. We lived up, in some measure, to the dream but failed to live up to the promise Martin Luther King, Jr. made back in 1957.

We were given the vote and then we failed to send men and women to congress of goodwill, allowing the election of narrow minded obstructionists. We placed judges on benches who hold corporations in higher esteem than justice or mercy. While we sat out the mid-term elections, governors were elected to office who have only felt the swelling of their own hubris; and are wholly unfamiliar with either humanity or the Divine.

It is time to stop living the dream and start keeping the promise.

Voter I.D. Bill

The conservative contingent of the NC Legislature has passed a Voter I.D. Bill that would require voters to show a state-issued photo identification card in order to cast a vote. That is a poll tax.

It's a poll tax because it requires anyone who votes to go to the NC Department of Motor Vehicles and purchase an identification card. If one has to spend money to vote then that is a fee, an enfranchisement tarriff, surcharge on the liberty of citizenship, a poll tax, an assault on the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

The Voting Rights Act of 1964 established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice.

Conservatives want to take "their country back". Back to a time when old white men of means controlled the government. The way to do that is to disenfranchise those who would most benefit from a progressive movement, the poor. To force college students to return to their home states to vote. To create a hardship on the elderly and the disabled who benefit from government programs.

Please join and/or support the NAACP as we strive to seek to appeal this egregious law in the courts. It takes money to pay lawyers, and it takes time to protest. I implore you to contribute either or both as liberally as a love of liberty will permit.

I'm Back

I'd like to apologize to folks who were readers. I stopped posting because my friends and family who claimed to like my writing, weren't reading my blog. So I thought, what's the point? The point is I have something to say.

My 94 year old Aunt Rosie died two weeks ago yesterday. She use to testify every Sunday she was at church. She started by lining a hymn, either "Put Your Time in, Payday is Coming After while" or "Jesus on the Mainline, Tell Him What You Want." As she approached the last two verses she would stand up and conclude the last verse on her feet. She would then give her testimony. It was always the same testimony every Sunday. I remember my cousins and I would repeat it to each other exchanging lines like folks do with The Color Purple. My favorite line of her testimony was a kind of a warning. "Children we livin in a perilous time, and I pray for folks in the whole round world. I prays for the unconcerned, that they gets concerned."

So this is my comeback, my return to those like-minded individuals who recognize that we live in a perilous time; and that our only hope is that all those who are unconcerned in fact get concerned. It occurs to me now, that Aunt Rosie, sister to my sainted grandmother, wasn't concerned about whether her message was being received. Her responsibility rested in getting that message out. She had something to say. She said it. Lucky for me, and hopefully some others, what she had to say had resonance.

The problem with the world is that the unconcerned are becoming an increasing majority. Maybe they wouldn't be if those of us who have something to say would say it. So this blog is my testimony.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dorothy I. Height

Today is a day of national mourning. President Obama has ordered flags at federal buildings around the world to be lowered to half staff. Dignitaries from around the country will descend on the National Cathedral in Wahington DC to honor the life and legacy of Dorothy Height.

A friend of mine who knew Height only as the elderly lady in the big hat, asked me what she had done to deserve all the accolades that have been heaped on her. My response after only a moment's hesitation was simple. Nothing extraordinary really. She simply showed up.

Dr. Height showed up at meetings, rallys, court cases, and gave her two cents about the human expectation of justice. She showed up on a national level to champion the rights of people who were in need of fair treatment. Fredrick Douglas said "Power concedes nothing without demand." She showed up to demand fair treatment for blacks, women, and the poor.

When policy makers and politicians feel like nobody cares and nobody is paying attention they are subject to do anything. If the way they feel is correct then they are also subject to get away with anything. Dr. Height showed up to let them know that she was paying attention and she helped to orgainize blacks, and women and poor people to do the same thing. She showed up to intergrate the YWCA in the 1950's. She helped orgainized the marchers who showed up in 1963 on the National Mall. She orgainized college trained women who showed up to make Delta Sigma Theta one of the largest orgainizations of college educated community-conscious women in the world. She showed up to give wise counsel to presidents and potentates about issues that concerned the disenfranchised and disengaged. She showed up to improve the quality of life for black women through the National Council of Negro Women. For over 70 years Dr. Height never failed to show up. She orgainzed others to show up with her both locally and nationally, and helped to bring about a more perfect union.

To honor the legacy of Dr. Height and live by her example I encourage each of us to show up. Show up at PTA meetings, church conferences, club meetings, neighborhood meetings, political meetings, alumni associations, school board meetings, city council meetings, and advisory boards. Show up and speak truth to power.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Levi Johnson - Posing for Playgirl

Levi Johnson, Sarah Palin's daughter's babydaddy is posing
taking a break from hunting and hockey to be the new hunk for the cover of Playgirl Magazine.

He's squeezing that fifteen minutes of fame like the last dollop in a tube of tooth paste. Let's hope he slips back into the Alaskan wilderness soon. And he should take Governor Palin with him.

Pres. Obama - 2009 Nobel Laureate for Peace

President Obama was elected the first African American President, selected Time Magazine person of the year in 2008 and is now a 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate. When the announcement was made the reporters assembled sucked the air out of the room with one collective gasp. He is only the third sitting U.S. president to win the prize for peace (preceded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, picture above). He was awarded the prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." In other words, for using the novel practice of talking first and shooting later.

I'll be the first to admit that is sounds a little premature. I mean, its not like peace has been declared between Palestine and Israel. But the web is full of people who say that President Obama hasn't done anything to merit the the honor. And that's not exactly true either. I've learned that he was elected twelve days before the deadline for submissions to the committee. So he was considered due to his potential to create peace instead of a particular act. That potential was made manifest in several ways. Due in part to his leadership, the world avoided a global economic depression. President Obama began a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq. He gave a major speech offering an olive branch to Muslims and Arabs in Egypt. He closed Guantanamo Bay. Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in peace talks again. The U.S. is once again engaged in diplomatic relations with North Korea and Iran. He is considering a new strategy in Afghanistan. He has turned away from the eight years of the U.S.
"go-it-alone strategy" that was headed toward universal catastrophe.

The Nobel Peace Prize is not like the other Nobel Prizes for science and literature. The other awards are given for completed work. The peace prize can be given to people involved in the process of resolving a conflict or creating peace. On those grounds, people who suggest the president hasn't done anything to deserve the honor are plainly wrong. Turning a large ship around takes time. President Obama has set out to turn the Ship of State around and that can not be done in an instant. But the direction in which President Obama is trying to move the country, indeed the world, has as its destination a place of lasting peace.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Johnson Treatment

President Obama is a brilliant orator. But the time for big speeches has passed. Health care reform is going to require what political scientists call the The Johnson Treatment.

President Lyndon Johnson gets a bad rap as president, chiefly because of the Vietnam Conflict. But we sometimes forget that it was he, not President Kennedy, who was responsible for getting Civil Right Legislation passed. It was President Johnson who got Medicare and Medicaid through the United States Congress. It is not commonly remembered that before becoming Vice-president and then inheriting the presidency; Johnson had been an iconic legislator. I can say without fear of correction, that Johnson had been one of the most influential and powerful majority leaders in the history of Congress. He was able to use the full force of his own personality to garner support for bills he supported. He convinced people to either join his cause or prepare to get bulldozed.

The most famous aspect of The Johnson Treatment was executed through shear proximity. Johnson got face to face with people. He then used every emotional weapon in his arsenal. He used everything from flattery to cajolery. He used logic and threats, and anything in between. But that was only part of the treatment. Johnson was a master at finding out what people wanted and needed. He told people face to face in private what he needed from them, and what he was willing to do for them in return. One newly elected freshman congressman was ushered aboard a plane and delivered to the Oval Office for a private audience with president who said "Congratulations son I'm going to need your help". The congressman never voted against him.

Its alright for the president to sell the nation on health care reform with stately speeches in grand halls and whistle stop tours. But he needs to get up close and personal with the blue dogs. He needs to apply The Johnson Treatment one them one at a time, and away from their staffs. There is something each one of them needs support for in their districts. Someone needs more aids, someone needs a hospital, someone needs government funds for play grounds. All of them need campaign support contacts. I know it all sounds like pork and the president is against pork barrel spending. But this fight is too important not to pull out all the stops. I assure you that Congress was not rushing to get in line to support Civil Rights Legislation in 1964. It took some arm twisting to get that done.