Sunday, January 15, 2017

Black Mayor Part II: The Other Part of the Equation

Earlier this month I posted a commentary about the need for a black mayor in the upcoming election. As expected, some folk took offense to the premise. “Race doesn’t matter,” they protested. It obviously does. As I noted, throughout Mayor Slay’s term in office, politicians have been re-segregating the city with tax perks designed for already rich developers in already stable, already majority white neighborhoods. The voices, needs and concerns of black residents have been rendered irrelevant. The city has been consistently ranked as one the most violent in America and the current mayor has been MIA in the fight to address poverty, black unemployment and all the other societal and economic ills that fuel disproportionate crime, high school drop out rates and hopelessness.



Most of the push-back came from whites. I respect their sentiments but it left me wondering who these people are and whose opinion they represented. Yes, our region is polarized but many whites I know seem to be equally as passionate about building strong diverse neighborhoods. They comment affirmatively and share what I write. They donate and/or volunteer to help my nonprofit, the Sweet Potato Project (SPP). They don’t outwardly flinch when I express the need to invest in black communities or find ways to empower black people to address disparities that impact their lives, children or neighborhoods. In fact, I find it stunning that some white, far south side aldermen seem to be doing more to inform the public and dismantle the established system of white privilege than some black aldermen who’ve allowed the city to basically ignore their wards and constituents for years.

So, yeah, in this election, at this time, I think a black mayor is needed in a city that’s grown comfortable operating under a segregated umbrella.  However, I emphasis again, voters shouldn’t base their opinions on skin color alone. We should support the candidate who has the moxie to shake things up and convince white voters that black social and economic progress won’t harm them. In fact, it may help us become a more diverse, eclectic, safer, and culturally relevant region.

With that said, we should discuss something else. African Americans don’t have the luxury of waiting for the president, Congress, state representatives, aldermen or a new mayor to come up with a plan to save us. Those of us busting our butts to educate and employ at-risk youth; address homelessness, build affordable housing, develop stronger, safer neighborhoods or those trying to create a powerful, healthy food system in the city need to come together. We need to demand-not ask-that the next mayor provide the same opportunities and resources to us that they've gifted to rich developers, sports officials and tony, segregated neighborhoods.  

We need to demand-not ask-that the next mayor provide the same opportunities and resources to us that they've gift to rich developers, sports officials and tony, segregated neighborhoods. 

Why is this important? Well, maybe it's best to answer with a short story:

The year was 2009, months after the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I was still a Metro Columnist with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Through my union reps, I learned managers were manufacturing a case to fire me. I won’t go into all the sordid details here but I will admit their actions led to a huge opportunity that wound up planting the seed for SPP.

During the madness, I received a call from Tavis Smiley. The public TV commentator also owned his own book company. Tavis was familiar with my work. He asked if I’d be interested in working as a researcher and consultant with one of his writers, Tom Burrell, author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority.  With the offer in mind, I instructed union officials not to fight for my job. With the help of my ex-wife and my activist friends we held a press conference. I resigned from the PD and accepted Tavis’ offer.

Brainwashed by Tom Burrell

Working in Tavis’ world, to me, meant that I’d be in the midst of the nation’s top black thinkers. Keep in mind, this was right after the country elected its first black president.  Finally, I thought, great, positive change was about to happen in America’s urban areas.

I couldn’t have been more naive or more wrong. At the time, Smiley, Al Sharpton and a bunch of other black leaders were embroiled in a huge, petty fight over whether Obama should say the words “black agenda”…or not. I was Burrell’s guest at the 2010 Chicago symposium Tavis hosted that included, Dr. Cornel West, the Rev. Jessie Jackson, Minister Louis Farrakhan and other prominent, black intellectuals.

2010 "We Count" forum participants

I was beyond frustrated that this influential group spent more time defending the need for a “black agenda” than defining or articulating their own agenda. Surely, this group could come up with a plan based on their expertise, connections with black people, their knowledge and outcries about the centuries-long plight of African Americans.

I will always be grateful to Tavis for offering me the chance to get inside his head and contribute to some of his books as well as other authors under the SmileyBooks label. But I can’t get past the fact that black leaders absolutely blew the chance to present Obama with a detailed, budgeted inclusive agenda that would improve the lives of, arguably, America’s most disenfranchised demographic.  The experience led me to the conclusion that I should try, in my own way, to create a program aimed at empowering black youth and revitalizing black neighborhoods in my own city. Thus the birth of SPP.



On a much smaller scale, black mayoral candidates, along with white supporters, have a beautiful opportunity to change the trajectory of a segregated city. However, the onus isn’t just in the hands of a new mayor. If there is to be a real agenda for positive, inclusive change, those of us who are connected and concerned must design and articulate that vision.

In my Nov. 9th St. Louis American commentary, I  argued that the city already has dedicated, committed individuals and groups (black and white) working to make serious, sustainable change in North St. Louis. We’ve put in the sweat equity but have been basically ignored by short-sighted politicians. 

I’m pleased that there are ongoing debates that allow candidates to explain how they will lead the city in different directions. However, I’d like to see a different kind of forum. I’d like to have those of us working in the trenches tell the candidates what we’re doing and what we need to enhance our collective endeavors. After we speak, I’d like those candidates to tell us how our plans fit their platforms. I’d like to see them compete for our votes and/or support by telling us how they can bring us the same creativity, vigor and resources that’s been doled out to downtown, central corridor or other areas of development in the city.  

I will float this forum idea among the individuals I mentioned in the American commentary. Anybody interested in hosting such an event, please let me know. Despite push-back from some readers due to my call for a black mayor, I believe there’s enough progressive and engaged whites who aren’t afraid of the possibilities. They live or work among black people. Some south side aldermen and voters have and are supporting black candidates. I don’t want to see black leaders and voters blow an opportunity to do locally what we didn’t do nationally with the Obama administration. 

I’d like to see a different kind of forum....(where) candidates tell us how our plans fit their agendas. I’d like to see them compete for our votes or support by telling us how they can bring us the same creativity, vigor and resources that’s been given to downtown, central corridor or other areas of development in the city.  

As the title of Dr. West’s book reminded us, “Race Matters.” We can argue about this all day long but I prefer to work with those who get it. I want to collaborate with those who aren’t afraid to speak up for diversity in a racially-diverse city. I want to surround myself with those willing to inform and challenge mayoral candidates to rise above racial complacency and political impotency. I want to stand with those benevolent, engaged and enlightened individuals willing to challenge the status quo and do the hard work of ending the segregated mindset in our city.   

Monday, January 2, 2017

St. Louis Needs a Black Mayor but...


The biggest local story that wasn’t, was the news that throughout Mayor Francis Slay’s entire term the city has been re-segregating itself with public money. Thanks to a series of articles, starting with STL Magazine and followed up by the Riverfront Times, we’ve learned that politicians have exploited tax incentives and special rewards at the expense of public schools and real blighted neighborhoods. This was done to ensure the number of white residents rose in certain areas while black residents in those same neighborhoods decreased significantly. For instance, an Oct. 31st Riverfront Times (RFT) expose’ noted how politicians gave away $950,000 in tax incentives per resident to help a meager 5,000 people move into the already stable Central Corridor neighborhoods.

For me, this is the number one issue St. Louis voters must confront as they contemplate whom among the wide slate of mayoral candidates they will elect in March. Those politicians running, especially the black politicians who’ve been in office during the past 16 years must explain where they’ve been and what they’ve done to either enable or thwart attempts to re-segregate the city.  They must justify why they've supported Slay all these years and supported his agenda. How is it possible that some have signed off on bills and special tax perks that advanced downtown revitalization and investments in tony, white wards, while their constituents suffered socially, economically, and educationally?

We must determine if we’re serious about changing the trajectory of a segregated city that seems solely focused on doling out millions upon millions to already rich developers, “big box” projects and already stable neighborhoods. Throughout Slay’s four terms in office, St. Louis has been consistently ranked as “the most” or “one the most” violent cities in America.  Slay has been MIA in the fight to address poverty, black unemployment and all the other ills related to this societal cancer. Voters must decide if we’re ready to grow up and become a real inclusive metropolis that invests in all neighborhoods and all people no matter their race or class status.

Let me be upfront, St. Louis needs a black mayor. I know that statement may not sit well with many but it’s true-especially now. As it pertains to race, the biggest problem in the region isn’t really racism, it’s irrelevancy. For the most part, black people are rendered irrelevant in the city’s quest to be great. 

The recent passing of talk show legend, Richard “Onion” Horton, reminded me of a time when black voices were prevalent in the local public sphere. We talked, we listened and, thus, we gathered to hold politician accountable. Missions and messages may have pissed off many but they also resonated with white listeners. With an overflow of public information, we were able to debate, organize, protest and elect candidates from a more informed position.

These days, media outlets are too eager to sacrifice diverse voices to bow to the whims of Red-state audiences. Conservative and establishment viewpoints are mainstay in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, KMOX Radio and through other major local media outlets. After the death of Mike Brown in 2014, after all the reports of the region's racial disparities that merited balanced discourse, conservative talk show host, Jamie Allman, was awarded a show on the local ABC network affiliate. Even so-called “liberal” media outlets like the RFT and St. Louis Public Radio are devoid of independent black voices and perspectives. Other than the St. Louis American, the black-owned weekly newspaper, we are deluged 24/7 with conservative sentiments, passions and direction that bolsters establishment dogma and dilutes progressive, inclusive action.  

It’s against this backdrop that we must decide the future of St. Louis. Yes, we need a black mayor but not simply because he/she happens to be black. All the candidates must be scrutinized and challenged on their records and positions. They must be pushed beyond feel-good rhetoric and knee-jerk platforms. Those who offer jobs and opportunities in North St. Louis through the crumbs that fall from such mega-million dollar soccer stadium and Ball Park Village deals need to be checked for their lack of creativity and vision.   

I consider some of the candidates friends or colleagues but I’m looking to support the one who’s bold enough to articulate why it’s vital that we invest in communities that’s been ignored for the past 100 years. That candidate should be judged on his/her ability to sell voters (black, white and “other”) on the need to stem gentrification, provide balance to disproportionate public financing downtown and in all-white neighborhoods. Finally, I want to support the candidate that proves he/she will address the poverty/educational/crime/equity problems that's plagued our region for decades.

We should challenge those candidates who’ve done nothing while the city has been re-segregated under their watch. We must take those to task who are now talking “unity” after they’ve undermined or supported divisive attempts to punish their progressive colleagues who actually summoned the hutzpah to challenge Slay and/or other racially-biased, status quo politicians.

We must be wary of politicians backed by Slay or supported by his army of well-to-do donors.  To support them is to risk business as usual. I believe the recent elections of State Rep Bruce Franks (House District 78) and Rasheen Aldridge (5th Ward Committeeman) are signs of a departure from politics as usual in the city. Some black candidates are once again solely focusing on wooing white voters from the central corridor-a segment of the city that has overwhelmingly voted “white” since the late 1990s.

As noted in a 2015 nextSTL article, there’s an evolving progressive aldermanic caucus that includes candidates Megan Ellyia-Green (Ward 15), Cara Spencer (Ward 20) and Scott Ogilvie (Ward 24). These outspoken individuals have proven to be a thorn in the side of the establishment political structure. They also seem to have developed a diverse and activated cache of voters who organized and got Franks and Aldridge elected. They seem to be the engaged and activated block that’s unafraid of diversity and boldly demanding true equity.

It’s unfortunate that so many high-profile black candidates are in the mayoral race. By sheer numbers, they have given voters a difficult choice and, more than likely, ensured that the only viable white candidate will win the race.

To be blunt, the onus of real, progressive and inclusive change is in the hands of a scrutinizing and an informed electorate. The only way to thin the herd is to talk loudly and publicly about what a real, inclusive St. Louis can look like beyond sports stadiums and special perks for rich, white neighborhoods. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, folks. St. Louis can be a real, diverse, kick-ass metropolis if we can manage to break the segregated mindset of the rich and powerful who control or are controlled by the status quo.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Moving St. Louis Affirmatively Further: Notes from my recent Harvard trip

St. Louis has been cited as on of the most segregated cities in the country. City leaders have basically ignored all the racial, social and economic disparities noted in numerous studies after the police shooting of Mike Brown. In fact, the Ferguson Commission's report stated that segregation and inequality as two of the major factors that led to the unrest in our region. The report recommended that the region move "affirmatively forward" in overcoming pervasive patterns of segregation by fostering more inclusive equitable communities.  

I’ve just returned from a wonderful yet surreal experience at Harvard University. A small group of St. Louisans including myself, Michael Allen founder of the Preservation Research Office, Kathryn Cawvey with HUD, David Dwight with the “Forward Through Ferguson” group and Will Jordan, Executive Director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council.

We were among other academics and professionals invited to critique a studio project titled “Affirmatively Further: Fair Housing After Ferguson.” The presentations were made at Harvard's Gund Hall Graduate School of DesignThis interdisciplinary project encouraged teams of future architects and city planners to bring forth innovative, outside-the-box ideas on fair housing, land use, vacancy issues, land trusts, gentrification, segregation and much more.

Harvard's George Gund Hall Graduate School of Design

Last year, Harvard and Washington University formed a collaboration through the Mellon Foundation-funded “Divided City” Initiative. This four-year urban humanities enterprise focuses on the intersection of segregation and urban separation locally and globally.  In just under a year, the partnership has resulted in some of the most courageous conversations, in-depth analysis of St. Louis segregation (past and present) and viable ideas to address our malady.



 

That was the “wonderful” part of the visit. The “surreal” part was sitting in a room bombarded with progressive, inclusive ideas with the overwhelming fact that St. Louis is not a segregated region by accident. In fact, not only have we been segregated for decades, there are politicians, city planners and very, very rich developers deeply embedded in re-segregating the city with public money today.

The Harvard graduate student's ideas were thoroughly impressive. However, we live in a racially-regressive city where billions in public money has been doled out to white developers, corporations, and already stable, majority white neighborhoods. The 15-year-old attempt to lure white people back to the city has gone without significant push-back from long-term black aldermen who've offered no plan to thwart race specific development in the region.

Still, there is hope. After March 7th, we will have a new mayor and, hopefully, hopefully, drastic new and inclusive direction in development. Several black candidates are on the ticket. Before leaving the session, I encouraged the organizers to make the information public to help politicians, city leaders and citizens expand our limited definition of “development” and aggressively revert from what seems to be a bizarre 21st Century trend in planned segregation. 

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As an offering of what good may come, here's a peek at the treasure trove of information we received during the “Affirmatively Further…” session.

“My Grove” by Astrid Cam Aguinaga, looked at the displacement and gentrification issues related to the expansive growth in the Forest Park Southeast (Grove) section of town. The proposal suggested a Real Estate Tax Transfer (RETT) grant designed to help residents and local community development agencies create strategic plans to fight gentrification while empowering low-income residents to maintain and own properties that includes them in the vastly-growing development in the Grove area.

“Understanding St. Louis’ Tax Incentives” by Cory Berg. This project analyses the use (or overuse) of tax increment financing, tax abatements and special tax districts to fund new development projects in the region. The project attempts to break incentives into understandable and manageable terms so that everyday tax payers are more informed and empowered to use these tools to expose racial and socioeconomic bias, determine how their tax dollars are used and provide better transparency. The goal is to empower citizens to address racial inequity and use tax incentives to ensure low-income neighborhoods have the same benefit as wealthier and whiter areas have had over the past 15 years.  

“Reclaiming Harlem Creek” was a proposal submitted by Kent Hipp that looked at the Metropolitan Sewer District’s five billion dollar plan to overhaul the region’s sewer system. Hipp’s proposal includes an improved “buyout process” for disposed homeowners, an alternative green infrastructure vision and a network of public spaces aimed at improving home values, community health in addition to solving storm water management problems. I can see this project as a valuable tool to local groups such as the Wells Goodfellow Urban Vitality & Ecology Initiative (UVE) Pilot Project that’s already working to make sure the sewer system overhaul results in maximum economic and social benefits in low-income areas of the city.

Because of what we’re trying to do with the Sweet Potato Project, the “Learning from the Occupied Vacancy” project by Ximena de Villafranca hit home with me. It looked at how people use their vacant lots next to their homes (Mow to Own) and expanded the concept with other tools citizens can use to strengthen local economies, improve food access, build safe places for kids expand affordable housing in poor neighborhoods. The project argues that we can only turn vacant properties into viable, desirable alternatives by empowering people living among the city’s vast areas of vacancy.

Other presentations included an effort to create permanent housing and healthy, productive relationships between the expected 1,000 Syrian refugees coming to predominantly black St. Louis neighborhoods; developing a community-controlled land trust partnership with private developers to unique value to underserved neighborhoods; creating a Pruitt-Igoe memorial near the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency (NGO); building a public plaza on Delmar near the Loop area where youth can “claim rightful space in the public realm” and more.


Collage of people Harvard students interviewed during their visits to St. Louis

Some ideas are new while others can be used to expand current or desired developments in the region. It is my hope that Harvard’s “Divided City” partner, Washington University, works especially hard to make sure that this valuable information doesn’t languish in the halls of Academia but somehow becomes essential tools in making St. Louis a truly more inclusive and progressive metropolis.



  


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Finding Solace in the Topsy-Turvy, Trump World


“Sylvester, are you still in despair, too?”
The question from my Facebook friend, Ellen, actually increased my anguish. Ellen reached out almost a week after the election where billionaire Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States.
Damn! It’s still hard for me to put those words in a sentence. Like millions across the globe, I was slapped into a state of mental paralysis by the stark reality that this man is our president. I am among the masses still scratching our collective heads asking, “How in Holy Hell did this happen?”
Right away, I was pissed off-not at Trump-but myself. That’s what I get for negating my own motto: “Never underestimate the power of racism.” 
I allowed myself to ignore the most telling indicator of the election’s outcome; the number of whites who believe they are the primary victims of discrimination.  Yes, per polling data from 2011 onward, more whites than not feel that “anti-white racism” is now a bigger problem than racism aimed at blacks or other minorities.

I forgot the most telling indicator of the election’s outcome; the number of whites who believe they are the primary victims of discrimination.
  
Yes, I know there were other factors involved with Trump’s victory, i.e.: negative views about the economy, frustration with government, a well-known but unpopular Democratic presidential candidate, etc., etc. Still, I stubbornly maintain that “race” was the major determinant in Trump’s victory.
When announcing his campaign, he struck a chord with disgruntled white voters by defining Mexican immigrants as people with “lots of problems,” who bring drugs, crime and rape to America. His promise to “build a wall,” round up and deport Mexicans and Muslims was an out-of-the-park hit for the those fearing their diminishing population numbers or the loss of unearned privilege. 
By equating blacks with the “inner-city,” and “poverty,” by defining their neighborhoods as unfit “crime zones” with sub-par schools and rampant unemployment, Trump reinforced stubborn stereotypes that validate white superiority. His vow to avoid “political correctness” was a subtle nudge to the Klu Klux Klan and the white, “loud and proud” crowd that Trump was going to turn back the clock and truly “Make America Great Again”... for them.

His vow to avoid “political correctness” was a subtle nudge to the Klu Klux Klan and the white, “loud and proud” crowd that Trump was going to turn back the clock and truly “Make America Great Again.”

I kick myself for falling for the hype, the arrogant media predictions and the woefully wrong polls that proclaimed Clinton would defeat Trump and topple the Republican Party.  How did I allow myself to believe the pundits and pollsters over a man who spent his entire career pandering to a reality TV audience where being rude, crude, sexist and appalling are bedrocks of success?
What was completely surprising to me, however, was the roughly 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump. How could this demographic ignore their own eyes and ears? Surely they watched the video of Trump bragging about dating a 10-year old girl “in ten years.” We heard him boast of peeking at near-naked teen beauty pageant contestants, gloat over kissing and groping women without their permission and grabbing some by “the pussy” simply because he’s a “star.”

We heard him boast of peeking at near-naked teen beauty pageant contestants, gloat over kissing and groping women without their permission and grabbing some by “the p***y” simply because he’s a “star.”

The media’s immediate attempt to normalize Trump after the election increased my anxiety level. The same news outlets that continuously spoon-fed us salacious news about an immoral candidate’s character are now encouraging us to “give him a chance.” They give us tidbits about his back peddling on his most extreme campaign claims and suggest that maybe, just maybe, Trump’s on-the-stump rhetoric was a political ploy to secure the White House. I sense a wistful pretense by the media to paint Trump as some sort of genius who will drop the mask of division and become a wonderful, unifying presidential force.

The same news outlets that continuously spoon-fed us salacious news about an immoral candidate’s character are now encouraging us to “give him a chance.” 

Anythings possible, I guess but I’m Old School. If it slithers like a snake, hisses like a snake well, it’s probably a snake. I judge Trump by his words and actions...period. There is no comfort in the fact that a man whose temperament is as small as his hands will represent the US on the world stage. We’ve already gone through the political phase of white, male bravado and US exceptionalism that foolishly led to the invasion of Iraq, two unfunded wars and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. How will world leaders deal with a president who’s already stated his plans to “bomb the shit” out of Isis, take Middle Eastern oil and turn it over to mega-rich corporations like ExxonMobile?
Can we just please dispense with the characterizations of Trump as a master media manipulator? Just as Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint seized on America’s craving for porn; just as drug kingpin, El Chapo, capitalized off our dependency on heroin and cocaine, Trump simply exploited our darker desires. He took advantage of an uneducated, social media-dependent electorate seeking simple solutions to complex problems. For the media to ask that we now “give Trump a chance,” to me, is akin to hiring a pedophile as an elementary school principal and declaring “well, let’s just see what he does.”

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For the media to ask that we now “give Trump a chance,” to me, is akin to hiring a pedophile as an elementary school principal and declaring “well, let’s just see what he does.”

So, yeah, my despair level has been high following the election. I must admit, though, by Saturday night light seemed to crack my dark mood and a do-able course under a Trump Presidency seemed a bit more evident.
A dear Muslim friend of mine reached out to me Saturday afternoon. She had been brought to tears by the bodacious outpouring of hate aimed at people like her since the election. Indeed, across this nation, the ignorant and emboldened “deplorables” are acting out. Reportedly, they are accosting and harassing, Muslims, Latinos and blacks, spray-painting ugly racial epithets on walls, buildings and barns and are virally gloating “it’s our time!”
I struggled for something of comfort to share with my friend. All I could muster was this weak response: “No matter what happens, I’ll have your back.”
Later that evening, I ran into another pal of mine. She’s a spoken word artist, with a beautiful, eclectic presence who just happens to be a member of the LGBTQ community. This lovely, creative soul was broken that night. We embraced as usual but this time the hug lingered with her sobbing uncontrollably on my shoulder. Again, I struggled for the proper response:
“Now more than ever,” I whispered, “we need you. We need your creativity and your voice to articulate what so many of us feel but can’t articulate.”

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“Now more than ever,” I whispered, “we need you. We need your creativity and your voice to articulate what so many of us feel but can’t articulate.”

I can’t say if my words helped my friends or not but, in later reflection, they illuminated what my spirit needed.  Vent, yes, but we must not get stuck in victimization mode. Tears will not topple tyranny. Our words and collective actions will always be our most powerful weapons. Our Black, White, Muslim, LGBTQ and other disenfranchised communities need the strong amongst us to be their voice, to cover their backs, to show up, speak up and be there when their lives and livelihoods are threatened.
In these past few horrible days, I’ve fallen back on life-lessons. There were many times in my life when, what I perceived as tragedy, turned out to be triumph. Don’t get this twisted; I’m not applying this to Donald Trump's presidency. I use this maxim to highlight that sometimes “bad stuff” happens for good reasons. Sometimes it’s a wake-up call to do better, be better, act better.

Sometimes “bad stuff” happens for good reasons. Sometimes it’s a wake-up call to do better, be better, act better. 

If we are honest, we will have to admit that the extreme factors that fueled Trump’s victory have been brewing for quite some time. It simmered as President Obama was disrespected, demeaned, de-legitimized and derailed by Congress because of his race. It percolated as America excused, rationalized and normalized the police shootings and killings of unarmed black men, women and children. It's evident in our attempt to blame every Muslim-American for the fanatical acts of Muslims here or abroad. Dismantling the rights of the LGBTQ crowd, demeaning and denying women’s reproductive rights, stereotyping and disparaging the poor are the hateful hashtags of Evangelicals and far right political opportunists.

This homegrown beast of human oppression, racial superiority, unmitigated corporate greed, exceptionalism, homophobia, xenophobia and ugly rampant racism still lives and breathes in our society. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." For too long, many of us have tolerated injustices and it is manifest in the seemingly uncontrollable, empowered monster that is America. This homegrown beast of human oppression, racial superiority, unmitigated corporate greed, exceptionalism, homophobia, xenophobia and ugly rampant racism still lives and breathes in our society.  We’ve faced and caged it many times before and, sadly, we must do it again. But, as soul-depleting and frustrating as it is, we have historic, courageous examples and the innate power to defeat it...again.
Trump is not the disease; he is but a symptom of an enduring American malady. There is solace in solidarity, peace of mind in using our minds, words, bodies and actions to stand up and protect the vulnerable, the sacred and what should be valuable in our country and in our world.

Trump is not the disease; he is but a symptom of an enduring American malady. 

So, yeah, Ellen, my despair has lessened. My venting is over (for now). We are all here for a reason and we must do our own little thing, in our own little way to address the deficiencies of government and consciousness. No one wants to fight forever but if we must suit up and battle the monster for another four years or more, so be it.  This, for me, is much-needed consolation and a way forward in a world crazily turned upside down. 


Sylvester Brown Jr. is a writer, community activist and executive director of the Sweet Potato Project, a program that seeks to empower low-income youth and adults through land-ownership and urban agriculture.