Sunday, August 30, 2020

And then Chadwick Died

…and then Chadwick died

Actor Chadwick Boseman’s death from colon cancer struck hard. The news of his demise at the tender age of 43, deepened my funk, cemented my sense of dread and despair. It was a dark reminder during a particularly dark time.

The night before Boseman’s death was announced, the Republican National Convention (RNC) had just concluded.  The entire four-day spectacle was laced with a sickening stream of unsubstantiated, unmitigated, out-and-out lies.

Yet, it worked. According to a recent CNBC/Change Research poll, the approval of President Donald Trump’s handling of Covid-19 rose, while concerns about the coronavirus fell in six 2020 swing states.

With more than 180,000 deaths, how in the hell could concerns about the still growing virus fall anywhere in America?

I was grieving, what seemed to me, a country on life support. The idea that a president’s popularity could rise after his utter incompetence fueled so many deaths, is mind-blowing.  How could a man who claimed “victory” because more people hadn’t died, possibly be celebrated and supported my millions?

It was further proof that a more insidious cancer had indeed metastasized in America’s bloodstream. It was validation that the growing tumor of that cancer, Donald Trump, the great (reality show) conman could lie his way into a second term.  I was deeply saddened by the possibility that race, fearmongering, and manipulated division during the convention would gift a monster four more years in office.

Blacks are 13 percent of the U.S. population but make up more than 32 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Roughly 60,000 black people have died from the virus. Since early March, we’ve had to deal with the double whammy of disproportionate deaths from the coronavirus and police brutality.

The Nation, took aim at blacks who spoke at the “Republican National Infomercial” like former NFL players, Herschel Walker and Jack Brewer, Sen. Tim Scott and Republican congressional nominee, Kim Klacik:

“The Black speakers, like the rest of the Republican Party, offer no agenda to extend economic or social opportunities to people of color. They offer no policy prescriptions to address police brutality or violence against Black people. They offer no rebuttals to the assaults on voting rights or immigrant rights the Trump administration engages in. And they’ve been as silent about the disproportionate toll Covid-19 has taken on communities of color as Herman Cain.

America’s streets have overflowed with those protesting the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others. On the day before the GOP convention, we watched, in real time, a Wisconsin police officer empty his gun into the back of yet another black man, Jacob Blake.

And then, “T'Challa,” the character Bosman played in “Black Panther,” died.

It was a crushing blow to an already crushed people, especially young, black people. For many of them, Boseman represented fierce black pride, dignity, and the power of unity. His film portrayals of Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson and James Brown "brought history to life" said Martin Luther King III.

"As Black Panther, he was also a superhero to many,” King added. “And despite his 4 year-long battle with cancer, he kept fighting and he kept inspiring."

On Instagram, the NAACP also paid tribute, saying that Boseman showed us “how to 'Say it Loud’” and “how to walk as a King, without losing the common touch” and he showed “us just how powerful we are."

Some might say it’s inappropriate to associate the death of a beloved actor with the RNC and Trump’s political chicaneries. I respectfully disagree. Through his movie roles and public speeches, he was a living affirmation that “black lives matter,” that being “young, gifted and black” was a needed recipe in the ongoing fight for justice, dignity and equity.

I recognize the power of symbolism and, for me, Boseman symbolized “hope.” In 2018, while giving the commencement speech at Howard University, his alma mater, Boseman told the throng of young graduates that "the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose."

I recognize the power of symbolism and, for me, Boseman symbolized “hope.

I maintain that the tragedy of Trump and all the related struggles are shaping us, preparing us for something bigger than ourselves.

Back in June, I wrote a commentary titled: “The Gift of COVID”:

“Yes, the pandemic has unleashed great pain, heartbreak, death, and disaster amongst us,” I wrote. “But it has also given us new perspective, a new outlook and, hopefully, a new way to explore our inherent commonalities.”

The eternal optimist in me believed those words. I believed that we have new opportunities under a new sense of awareness and empathy, that we could collectively steer this country back to decency and some sense of normalcy.

But then, Chadwick died.  

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Message to Black Trumpsters: Now is Your Time!

By Sylvester Brown, Jr.

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a loyal Democratic supporter. My ideology leans left but I have been a constant critic of how the party takes blacks for granted. My major complaint, however, isn’t against the party, it’s aimed at black leaders who don’t do the hard work of drafting an agenda or demanding that their party adopt and enforce it.

I level the same charge at black republicans and more directly at black Trump supporters. I respect black republicans like former National Security Advisor, Colin Powell and former RNC chairman, Michael Steele. It’s the cadre of clowns like Candace Owens, Rev. Darrell C. Scott and vloggers “Diamond and Silk” that get on my very last nerve.  They rant on and on about how the Democratic party has destroyed the black community but never, ever outline how the Republican party is a better alternative.

Candace Owens

These opportunistic buffoons seem oh-so-happy just to be in the White House, receive Trump’s praise, or to get their faces on news programs.  They claim that Trump, who inherited a rebounding economy from Obama has been the best president ever for black people. Never mind that Trump’s biggest economic accomplishment-the fat tax cut he gave to the rich, white, and privileged-did very little for the average black person and, really, exploded the deficit.

So, here’s my message to the Black Trumpsters:

“Now is your time. Do something!”

Black people are not stupid, monolithic, or naïve. gives a good chronological breakdown of black voting patterns from the Civil War up to and beyond the early 20th Century. Summarizing; blacks have voted for the party that they think serves their best interests-period/dot.

In the late 1800s, blacks who could, voted Republican because it was the party of Abraham Lincoln, the “great emancipator.” Many aligned their “freedom” with Lincoln’s political party. Before Lincoln, blacks who mostly lived in the South, weren’t allowed to vote at all. The Democratic Party didn’t welcome them. In fact, it wasn’t until 1924 that blacks were even allowed to attend Democratic conventions.

Their loyalties started shifting in 1936, with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt who received 71 percent of the black vote and almost as much in his second term. Why? Because blacks felt Roosevelt’s “New Deal” initiatives, that included relief, reform, and recovery from the Great Depression served their interests as well as whites.
In 1948, Democrat Harry Truman won 77 percent of the black vote in his second term. Why? Mostly because Truman desegregated the armed services and issued an executive order mandating regulation against racial bias in federal employment.

Still, Republican nominees after Truman managed to get a respectable slice of the black vote. As notes, Dwight D. Eisenhower got 39 percent in 1956, and Richard Nixon, who lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960, got 32 percent of the black vote.

The wholesale swing to the left happened in 1964, with the election of Democratic candidate Lyndon B. Johnson. At the time, blacks were fighting to vote, to end racial tyranny (like lynching), to achieve equal employment and other basic rights. Johnson’s Republican opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater, opposed his landmark Civil Rights Act which outlawed segregation in public places. In response, blacks awarded Johnson 94 percent of their vote, a record unmatched to date for any presidential election.
No Republican presidential candidate has gotten more than 15 percent of the black vote since. In 2016, Trump only received about eight percent of their vote.

Avid Trump supporters loggers “Diamond and Silk”

These examples refute the arguments of those like Owens who claim blacks blindly support democrats at their own detriment. This is foolishness on several levels.

First, the major deterrent to black lives, livelihoods and accomplishments is historic, systemized racism. That’s a white thing not a GOP or Dem thing. Secondly, the record shows that black political loyalty is based on the belief that democrats will do less harm to them than republicans.

Cut the bull, black Trumpsters! This is the real obstacle you face.  If you’re serious about securing black votes, you must abandon the “Democrats Destroyed Back Communities” hyperbole and articulate a plan that serves their best social, health, educational and economic interests. What’s more, you must force your party to adopt, publicly promote and legislate your agenda. Stop giving them a pass!

I feel uneasy offering this advice. Mostly because it’s so easy to do and it would be a definite gain the GOP.  My loyalties, however, belong to my people, not to any party.  And this is sage advice for black democratic leaders, too.

Yeah, Joe Biden is pushing his Lift Every Voice” plan for African Americans. But I’ve seen no evidence that his people went out and got input or sign-off from civil rights groups, reparation scholars, grassroots organizations, young blacks, rappers, entertainers or nonprofit leaders doing the hard work in black neighborhoods.  The plan seems knee jerky, gimmicky and conveniently timed to appease black people before a major election.

Today, the Trumpsters have the opportunity to say, “Listen, black democrats have failed to come up with a plan that addresses our concerns. They have failed to force their party to act. We black republicans, on the other hand, have a plan and our party is at the ready to implement it across the country.”

Note the operative word here is “plan.” Black leaders-Left and Right-must do the hard work of developing and promoting their own collective agenda. We must cease and desist with begging whites to come up with “a plan” for us.

Personally, I think it’s too late for any overwhelming black Trump support. In a recent CNN poll, 79% of black respondents said the federal government had done a “bad job” in its attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, blacks who are disproportionately impacted by the virus, can now answer Trump’s 2016 question, “What do you have to lose?” with a resounding: “Our very lives!”

Right now, many black voters consider Trump to be an unqualified, ill-informed, unreliable, and racially divisive leader. Black Trumpers will have one helluva job reversing that sentiment before November with simplistic oratory.

Perhaps my message is for the post-Trump era. Covid 19 and the senseless police killings of unarmed black people have left African Americans traumatized, economically weary and emotionally spent. So, Black Trump supporters, if you want to be a serious contingent in wooing blacks back to the GOP, now is your time.

Forget Trump. You have the chance to come up with a new “New Deal” that assures black folk that maybe, just maybe, your party takes their interests seriously.  A new pro-active, informed approach might give you legitimacy beyond 2020.

Therefore, I advise you to cleanse yourselves of the coonery, buffoonery and lunacy typified by Owens and other loud-mouth opportunists. Let history guide you, stop pandering to the whims of racists and do something powerful for your people.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Gift of Covid 19

“It’s. Just. Too. Much!”

Those words dominated my mind ever since the coronavirus struck America.

Suddenly, death was in the air, thousands were dying (blacks disproportionately), businesses and schools were forced to close, people were ordered to stay home, the economy tanked, a psychopathic, unqualified president was on TV every day lying, denying and giving bizarre, dangerous medical advice. Then, we watched live, via video, a black man shot and killed by a white father and son while jogging and another black man dying with a cop’s knee on his neck while crying out for his mother.

It was all just too much. Too much to take, too much to understand, too much to reconcile…too much to breath. 

It was (and perhaps still is) an apocalyptic period straight out of the Book of Revelations or any end-of-the-world cinematic narrative.

And then, the unexpected: The killing of George Floyd was universally condemned by politicians, policemen, the public at large and even some FOX News commentators. White people started kneeling and showing up en masse to protest the unwarranted murder of unarmed black people. Most didn’t allow “rioting” to be a convenient excuse to condemn all protesters, deter their participation or remain stagnant and silent about racial injustice.

It was an apocalyptic period straight out of the Book of Revelations or any end-of-the-world cinematic narrative.

Something changed in 2020 America and, now, dare I say, I recognize the upside of a worldwide pandemic.  Covid 19 cut across all the bullshit lines of racism, capitalism, and exceptionalism. Suddenly, everyone was vulnerable. Money or status had no sway over an indiscriminate, deadly virus. Mass unemployment cast the comfortable and secure into the same lot as those dependent on government sustenance. Lives were lost due to a president’s hesitancy and inability to respond accordingly.  

Covid 19, with all its death and destruction, served as the great social, political and economic equalizer. Because of the pandemic, priorities changed. People measured their time on this planet, their lives and those of their loved ones through a new prism of survival. Many analyzed their values, principles, and political loyalties and some realized they may have been out of line with humanity.

I wonder if Covid 19 was too much or just enough to wake up a country steeped in comfortable, collective slumber. The strict, religious upbringing of my youth is still carved into my DNA. Therefore, I wonder if the universe, in its omnipotent wisdom, sent us a life-altering warning. I’m psychologically programmed to believe that all the sickness, death, brutality and chaos is really a celestial warning to get our collective houses in order.

I wonder if Covid 19 was too much or just enough to wake up a country steeped in comfortable, collective slumber. 

So, the question is: Where do we go from here? Do we return to divisive partisan politics? Will we continue to support a president who’s proven that he’s dangerous, incompetent and solely dedicated to his reelection?  Do we, as black people, finally start the process of reclaiming our communities, lives, the well-being and futures of our children? Or, will we continue to beg or softly demand that politicians come up with our survival plan?

For what it’s worth, Covid 19 has provided a new slate, a new platform for constructive dialogue and immediate social reform.  It exposed the dangers and fallacies behind white privilege, the “Blue Wall of Silence,” the “trickle down economics” theory and presidential immunity.

Will we finally hold our president accountable for his deeds and misdeeds? Will “justice” have meaning no matter how much money or power one has? Will we repair a drastically broken health care system where skin color or the lack of health insurance determines life or death? Will we dismantle a centuries-long system that has codified and enabled men with badges to wrongly kill without reprisal?  Will black lives finally matter?

Covid 19 has provided a new slate, a new platform for constructive dialogue and immediate social reform.  

The mood, the sentiment, the moment, the momentum to tackle these issues seems to be before us.  My cynical side cautions me, though. Although some police have spoken out against brutality, others are still wilding amid protesters. I am also aware of the unlimited and invincible power of racism and ignorance. With someone in the White House proficient and ready to use fear and propaganda to divide and conquer, we Americans can easily revert to our divisive baser instincts.

Yet, the optimist inside tells me it’s a new day. I want to believe we have new opportunities under a new sense of awareness and empathy. I want to believe we can steer this country back on the road to some form of normalcy.  

Yes, the pandemic has unleashed great pain, heartbreak, death, and disaster amongst us.  But it has also given us new perspective, a new outlook and, hopefully, a new way to explore our inherent commonalities.

This, I believe, is the gift of Covid 19.

Friday, June 5, 2020

a MAN was killed yesterday

Originally posted on Daily Medium on May 27, 2220
by Sylvester Brown, Jr.

 For at least 8 minutes, the officer, with hand in his pocket, stared wordlessly, defiantly at a group of onlookers pleading with him to get off the man’s neck; to understand the man was dying; to at least check his vital signs.

As Floyd moaned in agony, calling out to his “Mama” and eventually stopped breathing, the officer, nonplused, showed no sympathy, no anger, no remorse-nothing.

The inhumanity was exacerbated by the other cops who held Floyd down with Chauvin perched on his neck. Not one of them told their colleague his deadly actions were unwarranted. Another officer, Tou Thao, mostly stood with his back to Chauvin, focusing more on confronting onlookers than the murder occurring behind his back. When paramedics arrived, I didn’t see one check Floyd’s vital signs or attempt resuscitation. They simply loaded his prone, unconscious body on a stretcher like a slab of dead meat.

Breonna Taylor