Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sarah Palin wins "Misinformer of the Year" award

This just in! Media Matters for America has chosen Sarah Palin, "former half-term governor, current Fox News contributor and prolific Facebook user," as the winner of its "Misinformer of the Year" award.

"From spreading lies about 'death panels' to cropping Obama's comments about 'American exceptionalism,' from her comfortable perch at Fox News to her self-promoting books and reality show, Palin has truly broken new ground in misinformation."

From Media Matters:

This year, Palin stood out for her sheer ability to dominate our national conversation and draw the attention of the entire news media to her factually challenged claims and vicious attacks. She has blurred the line completely between media figure and political activist.

From spreading lies about "death panels" to cropping Obama's comments about "American exceptionalism," from her comfortable perch at Fox News to her self-promoting books and reality show, Palin has truly broken new ground in misinformation.

Watch the "Misinformer of the Year" Here:

Friday, November 12, 2010

No apologies Necessary: Bush Didn’t Care and Neither Did the Media

Poor George W. Bush.

In an interview with “Today” show host, Matt Lauer, the nation’s 43rd president said singer Kanye West's insult during a hurricane relief telethon was his worst moment as president.

When Lauer asked about West’s "George Bush doesn't care about black people" remark, Bush said: "It was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency. He called me a racist… I didn't appreciate it then. I don't appreciate it now. "

Lauer tried to interject that West actually said he “didn’t care about black people,” but Bush interrupted, insisting the entertainer had still called him a racist.

Just as he did during the march-up to the Iraq invasion, Bush used faulty information to set the tone and the media followed his lead. Once he played the race card, Lauer retreated from the subject and the Internet tag lines were “Kanye,” “racist” and “apology.”

How would Bush have responded if Lauer had mentioned that he didn’t show up in the hurricane stricken area until five days after insurmountable death and destruction had been wrought? Would Bush have been so resolute in his response had Lauer flashed photos of him, on vacation, having a good time, while people waiting for rescue had perished?












On Monday, August 29, 2005, levees in New Orleans breached after Hurricane Katrina came ashore. The next day, 80 percent of the city was submerged in water. Juxtaposed against news photos of scrambling, drowning Hurricane victims, there was Bush, playfully strumming a guitar (a gift from country singer Mark Willis) and celebrating Senator John McCain's 69th birthday. The politicians shared cake.

What if Lauer had applied a little journalistic fortitude, shown those pictures and then said: “Mr. Bush, it certainly looks like you didn’t care about black people.”

The stubborn Texan would have probably given the same retort: “… it was a disgusting moment, pure and simple." Still, Lauer would have at least challenged the defiant attitude and perhaps added depth to the media’s follow-up headlines and talking points.

Who knows, if Lauer had appropriately framed the discussion, Kanye West might have reserved his apology to Bush. Considering the governments’ molasses-like response and the images of Bush having a grand, ole-time while tragedy swelled, West’s impromptu insult warrants no apologies, in my book.

If we’re to be totally honest, Bush wasn’t the only one who seemed not to care. Other government officials, news anchors and millions of Americans adopted the same laissez-faire attitude about black New Orleans victims who were instantly transformed into violent, raging, out-of-control “refugees.”

Ask any American if they “care about black people” and I’d wager 95.5 percent would say something like; “Yes, of course. I care about all people.”

But ask those same people if they care about “black looters, black rioters or black rapists” and that positive percentage would, no doubt, dramatically plummet.

Thus was the way the media portrayed black Katrina victims.

We now know that the deluge of media reports describing murder, rape and violence during the catastrophe, including Mayor Ray Nagin’s claim of “hooligans killing people and raping people" were grossly overstated, outright inaccuracies and panic-fueled rumors.

Days after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the secretary of defense held news conferences bragging about "temporary military bridges" they'd built and the tons of food and water the U.S. had delivered to Iraqi civilians. Why couldn’t a caring government have swiftly implemented those same life-saving endeavors on its own turf?

During this emergency backdrop, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco went on TV boasting about the arrival of National Guardsmen. Their M-16s are "locked and loaded,” Blanco brayed, “they know how to kill; they are more than willing to kill, and they will kill.”

While looking at a historical city synonymous with jazz, blues and Mardi Gras laid waste; while watching starving babies, floating bodies, corpses in the street, families stuck on rooftops and thousands of thirsty, hungry, desperate, displaced people – the media and much of the American public were stuck on stereotypes and skin color.

A governor called for blood. A president ate cake and strummed a guitar.

These were the “most disgusting moments” of George Bush’s presidency.

If anything, it is Bush who owes the victims of Hurricane Katrina a sincere and humble apology.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Obama in Da Hood: Is it Parody or Pathology?

Baracka Flacka Flames – Head of the State

by Tom Burrell

A relatively new video, “Baracka Flacka Flames – Head of the State,” on YouTube has Barack and Michelle Obama look-a-likes chillin’ in da hood, smoking weed, eating barbecue and exhibiting just about every other stereotype assigned to black people throughout history.



This week, we launched the “Are You Brainwashed?” Quiz. It’s an on-line survey aimed at helping blacks analyze their individual levels race-based conditioning. Our primary goal in developing the quiz was to provide a new media resource that will help decode and decipher the onslaught of slick but damaging media messages even when its produced by black people.

In less than 10 days, the “Baracka Flacka” video has almost reached the one million viewer mark. Its viral rise in such a short time is a tragic indication of just how thoroughly blacks have been conditioned to accept, promote, laugh at and even defend damaging negative images and messages about themselves.

I’m not sure which is more disturbing the great number of folks who’ve watched the video or the overwhelming number who left comments defending it. Here’s a sample:

Story Continues. Click here

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take 2 Minutes and Watch:Look Who Is Voting!

From my good friend Susan Cunningham, a hard-working Democrat: It's only 2 minutes long, and we promise you will be glad you watched it:



"Next Tuesday is Election Day, and one factor above all others will determine the outcome: WHO VOTES. That’s why we're sharing this video called “Look Who Is Voting,” to remind you of some of the people who will be heading to the polls.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tom Burrell Invites You To Take The BRAINWASHED Quiz


by Tom Burrell

Today after months of development, we are proud to launch the “Are You Brainwashed?” quiz. Consider it a viral extension of the challenge I issued in my book to “question, analyze, unplug and reprogram” ourselves from media distortions and racial stereotypes.

For centuries, damaging but brilliantly sophisticated images and messages have become institutionalized in worldwide culture. The perpetrated myths that we are all violent, lazy, buffoonish, sexually irresponsible and inferior have become so persuasive we now perpetrate them in our lyrics, music videos, books, movies, and television programs.

Thankfully, today we can finally fight back. The Internet, You Tube and social sites like Twitter, and Face Book are part of the New Media arsenal at our disposal to help us positively reclaim our image, our destinies and, most important, our minds.

That is the true purpose of this quiz. It’s a means to instigate critical thinking, alert our receptors and build firewalls that decimate dangerous media input.

Please take a few minutes and respond to the images and statements in the quiz. You may be challenged to question some your thoughts, beliefs and long-held perceptions.

I would like to thank all those who helped create the “Are You Brainwashed?” quiz. Finally, thank you for taking the time to participate and joining the campaign to reclaim our minds.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Does Somebody Have to Die before the Madness is Stopped?

Media Matters for America posted a report today illustrating the growing danger of extreme and dishonest right-wing rhetoric from the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

On July 18, 2010 Byron Williams engaged in a gun battle with law enforcement officers on a California highway on July 18. According to a police affidavit Williams said he was on his way to San Francisco to "start a revolution" by killing staff at progressive organizations, including the Tides Foundation, a group frequently targeted by Beck.







In an exclusive series of interviews and correspondence, Williams explains how much he relied on right-wing media -- and in particular Fox News host Glenn Beck -- for news.

As Williams, who said Beck was "like a schoolteacher on TV," explained: "I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind. I said, well, nobody does this."

"He considered Beck something like a schoolteacher, watching the show for its conspiracies."

From Media Matters: What Williams learned from Beck and the right-wing media inspired him to depart on a journey that could have had deadly consequences. Williams' rhetoric and his worldview are shaped by, and echo, the conspiracy theories and falsehoods of the hard-right TV and radio talkers he cites as his inspiration. In this new interview, Williams says he was pushed over the edge by anger over a conspiracy involving George Soros, Obama, a Brazilian oil company, and the BP oil spill -- a conspiracy theory loudly touted by Beck in June (and debunked by Media Matters for America.)

Media Matters for America has the full story here:

From Media Matters: Beck is playing a dangerous game -- convincing his audience that sinister threats are turning the country into a dictatorship and must be stopped, yet carefully backing off from his violent rhetoric just at the edge of incitement. He's instigating fear and rage with his lies while trying to avoid accountability for the results.

As I wrote a few months back:

"In my mind FOX News' role is no different than that of Hitler's chief propagandist, Paul Joseph Goebbels the chief architect of Nazi Germany's propaganda-fueled attack on German Jews that culminated in the travesty of the Holocaust."

In February, Daniel Cowart, a white supremacist, pleaded guilty to a 2008 cross-country plot to commit robberies while killing and beheading dozens of black people. Then-presidential candidate Obama was also a target of Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, his neo-Nazi, co- conspirator's plot.

Dr. King once said; “Sometimes, silence is betrayal.” In April, I asked if the rhetoric has to lead to an assassination before we realize that our silence is a betrayal to decency and social advancement.

“Sometimes, silence is betrayal.

Sadly, I find myself repeating that same question today.


MORE ON THIS TOPIC:

"Violence is coming": Glenn Beck's long history of violent rhetoric

Beck's June programs were overloaded with violent, conspiratorial and paranoid rhetoric

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Michael Moore: If the 'mosque' isn't built, this is no longer America » peoplesworld


And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you. -- Amen!
Michael Moore: If the 'mosque' isn't built, this is no longer America » peoplesworld

Monday, August 2, 2010

They’re on to us, Barack. But the (Ice Cream) Revolution is still ON!

Damn those Conservative bloggers! It’s getting harder and harder to slip things past them.

A couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama – America’s leader (wink, wink), sent a cleverly-coded message to his peeps about the upcoming revolution.

While vacationing in Maine, our wise socialist/revolutionary comrade posed for pictures, with cone in hand, outside Mount Desert Island Ice Cream shop in Bar Harbor. An astute conservative blogger, as reported by the Bangor Daily News, noted the sign’s logo – a raised fist eerily similar to the insignia attached to the Black Power movement.

According to the Associated Press; "One blogger suggested the president decided on a press shoot there to send a message to his 'core radical base.'"

Damn! They figured it out.

Yes indeed, we members of his “core radical base” got the signal. Obama purposely chose the shop because of its logo. Oh, sure, as the ice cream shop owner stressed, radio shock jock Howard Stern has a similar logo. Little does she know, Stern’s been an honorary member of our club for years. Robin Quivers, Stern’s black on-air co-host, is really the leader of our stealth propaganda wing.

We radical members thought no one would notice that Obama chose Bar Harbor Maine -- a place with only 12 black residents – to send the coded pre-revolution message. We thought only black party members understood the significance of the ice cream flavor and cone. Obama chose coconut to let alert ballsy, cocoa-colored people that it’s “our time.” His purposeful rejection of the traditional, blond sugar cone for the BROWN, upside down pyramid-shaped cone signaled our brethren of African descent that the moment is ripe indeed to slurp our way to world domination.



The web site, "The Awl” appropriately summed up Obama’s ice cream communique: “First the "New Black Panthers" wouldn't let nice white people vote. (or something!) Now this ice cream shop in Maine is racist. It is probably run by Shirley Sherrod! And Obama went there of course for secret black power meetings with Bill Clinton and NATO and whatever Jews they could find.”

Maybe it was tongue-in-cheek commentary. Or, maybe they got it right -- all except the part about Jews being part of our secret black power meeting. It was no accident that Obama stopped to greet a group of German exchange students. He shook their hands, posed for pictures and (gasp) spoke their language. Only those of us in the know understand that usage of the word “Guten tag” was a extension of multi-national solidarity.


We’ve been exposed. Thankfully, our liberal, left wing media machine is already downplaying the incident and working to make conservative bloggers seem delusional and paranoid. It is all part of the brilliant, sophisticated yet subtle plan of our Half Blood Prince.

We received your message, oh Great One. With scoops in hand, we stand at the ready for your next signal! Hazelnut in Harlem! Chocalate Chip in Chicago -- It’s on! Let the revolution begin!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Brainwashed Black Leaders Diagnosis

Are Black Leaders Brainwashed?
Posted on The Root

by: Tom Burrell
July 23, 2010

The rush to condemn Shirley Sherrod exposes a lack of courage that we cannot afford in the coming media war.

The debacle surrounding the virtual lynching of black agriculture official Shirley Sherrod has left everyone involved scrambling for cover. President Obama, while not directly linked to the premature decision to fire Sherrod, called her Thursday to apologize. Video provocateur Andrew Breitbart has insisted he was not after Sherrod but after the NAACP. Fox News' Glenn Beck displayed a time line on his show to argue he only covered the story after Sherrod was shown to have been unfairly dismissed.

But the role played by black leaders in this tragic story deserves a closer look. It tells us a lot about the state of black leadership in America and the lack of courage among these leaders in the face of the relentless campaign from the conservative right to demonize black America. When the incriminating video first aired, implying that Sherrod had discriminated against a white farmer, the NAACP quickly repudiated Sherrod, defining her words as ''appalling, shameful, intolerable and racist.'' CNN's Roland Martin expressed solidarity with the NAACP, saying its admonishment was correct.



When the truth came to light -- that the video posted by Breitbart was heavily edited to dilute Sherrod's anecdotal story of racial reconciliation -- NAACP president Ben Jealous retracted his organization's repudiation, claiming they had all been ''snookered'' by Fox News and Breitbart. Jealous said the orchestrated smear campaign represented a ''teachable moment'' for activists and journalists.




Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


I beg to differ. For black political and community leaders, media pundits and voters, this is not just a ''teachable moment.'' It's our moment of reconciliation, our moment to take a stand. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Breitbart said he released the truncated Sherrod video in response to the NAACP's use of ''propaganda'' to smear the Tea Party. It was a classic pot-kettle maneuver from a member of the camp that has resurrected and expertly utilized fear-based, Nazi-era propagandizing techniques. Judging by the right's record, the Sherrod affair is just the warm-up act before the fall elections. It's a safe bet that race-based attacks will be part of the propaganda war to drive Obama from office.


On the winner-takes-all, scurrilous, new-media battlefield, there's no room for political naiveté or acquiescence. Frankly, it's embarrassing that the leader of a prominent civil rights organization allowed conservative operatives to influence his decision to demean a socially conscious black woman. To admit he was ''snookered'' by Fox News is akin to being surprised that the Ku Klux Klan's has a distaste for black people. Judging blacks ''without all the facts'' is a tepid response from a black president who doesn't seem to have the stomach for racial confrontations.


Wake Up, Stand Up

Rest assured, the propaganda war is in full swing. With a presidential election on the horizon, black leaders and black media must adopt a new code of conduct. Before the media's next ''big thing,'' we must identify the puppets and puppet masters -- the race baiters and power brokers who exploit America's fears and pull black leaders' strings. Now, more than ever, we have to recognize the indications of weak black leadership and deep racial conditioning.

In the ongoing battle for equality, opportunity and progress, it's imperative that we fully understand the new racial paradigm. We are but a few decades removed from the most heinous forms of racial barbarity and oppression, yet black people are expected to be contrite, apologetic and on the defensive so as not to be considered ''racist.''

A week before the Sherrod incident, NAACP members caught hell from conservatives after voting for a resolution demanding that the Tea Party ''repudiate the racists'' in its ranks. No doubt, the NAACP leader's knee-jerk response to Sherrod's supposed controversial remarks was motivated by a burning desire to acquiesce, to appear fair and balanced. Unfortunately, it is an attempt to please an unfair and unbalanced opposition that could care less about compromising overtures.

Considering the source, high-profile blacks should have vetted Breitbart and Fox News' story before trashing Sherrod. It's an indictment of black leadership (and that includes President Obama) if they aren't willing to fight for what's right even when it crosses into the unsavory realm of race.

The stakes are higher for people denied opportunity for centuries. It's reckless to abide with black leaders who place their own needs above the collective's. This is the time for media-savvy blacks, like the National Association of Black Journalists, to use their skills to fact-check, vet and counter rigged propaganda maneuvers. Expert black voices must emphasize the ramifications of losing the high-stakes media war. We must use our numbers and economic clout. Fox News and its advertisers should understand that there will be serious consequences if the network continues to underwrite propaganda disguised as ''fair and balanced'' news.

The story of an innocent black woman who became a pawn in the high stakes ''gotcha'' media game also speaks to the mercenary component of politics. Americans, repulsed by the idea that opportunistic media manipulators can destroy innocent lives, want the boundaries of decency reinforced.

According to recent news reports, Sherrod has been asked to consider a new and ''unique'' position with the USDA. This doesn't erase the fact that the NAACP and White House officials sacrificed Sherrod for reasons of self-interest. In an evolving environment dictated by a post-racial fantasy, we can ill afford brainwashed, compromising leadership.

A serious blow was struck against segregation 55 years ago when Rosa Parks refused to vacate a seat for a white passenger. Black leaders need to remember that progress inched forward because a real black hero remained seated on the bus -- unlike Shirley Sherrod, a modern-day hero who was thrown under it.

Tom Burrell is a marketing communications pioneer, founder and former CEO of Burrell Communications, and an Advertising Hall of Fame inductee. He is the author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority (Smiley Books).

FULL STORY at The ROOT

Burrell's Brainwashing Diagnosis: 10 symptoms to look for in black leaders:

You know black leaders are brainwashed when …#1 … they fear that talking about racism may hamper their success
#2 … they roll over at the slightest hint of retaliation
#3 … they allow avowed enemies to define their agenda
#4 … they quickly retreat from already weak positions
#5 … they swiftly throw another black person under the bus to appear less racist
#6 … they are more concerned about status among whites than defending black people
#7 … they equalize racism, making it a black and white thing
#8 … they legitimize, tolerate or excuse white groups, pundits or individuals who race-bait
#9 … they allow whites to redefine the meaning of “racism”
#10 … they accept the “post racial” illusion is our reality

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sylvester Brown, Jr.

Sylvester Brown, Jr.

Remembering MJ

REST IN PEACE, LITTLE COUSIN

Originally Posted:Saturday, June 27, 2009



Like a comet
Blazing 'cross the evening sky
Gone too soon …

– Michael Jackson / Gone Too Soon / 1991

As a child, my sister Patricia had an active imagination. In her mind, retired actors and actresses, like Doris Day, hung out in our neighborhood. She also claimed that certain celebrity families were somehow distant, distant relations of ours.

Of course, I made fun of her, but for more than 39 years, I secretly cleaved to one of Pat’s wacky fantasies – the notion that the Jackson 5 were our distant cousins.

She concocted the story sometime around 1970, when the group appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The single “I Want You Back,” off the 1969 album, “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5” was already booming loud in our neighborhood. But the variety show appearance would be the first time my family would actually see the popular bubblegum group perform.



It’s hard to explain the impact the show had on me at that time. This was two years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was 12 years old and the majority of TV images of black people had to do with civil rights demonstrations, skin-ripping water hoses trained on black marchers, slathering dogs and angry police and bloody riots.

When my siblings and I watched The Jackson 5 before and after the Sullivan Show, we saw a different side of ourselves. We saw five, ultra-talented brothers with perfectly coiffed, circular Afros, puffy, big-collared pastel shirts, electric leisure suits, and, every now and again, colorful “Little Joe” hats (we named the hats after Joe Cartwright from the TV show, Bonanza).

Like everyone else, my family was hypnotized by the jaw-dropping stage persona of the youngest member of the group, Michael Jackson. The child was James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke all rolled into one gliding, sliding, twirling, crooning pint-sized package of talent.



Like a rainbow
Fading in the twinkling of an eye
Gone too soon


I suppose latching onto the notion that “Little Mike” was my cousin, served as a salve to treat the persistent wounds of poverty, despair, deprivation and hopelessness that was my early life.

The Jackson Family seemed like my own. Michael’s parents had nine kids; my mother had eleven. Reportedly, the Jacksons, like the Browns, were Jehovah’s Witnesses. The religion dissuaded its members from pursuing “worldly” ambitions. Michael showed me that there indeed was a compromise between loyalty to a deity and loyalty to one’s creative urges.

Like a castle
Built upon a sandy beach
Gone too soon


In Michael, I recognized the inner-turmoil one suffers when rejecting the comforting, yet stifling, religion of their youth. Still, Michael humbly acknowledged a “Higher Power” and lyrically emphasized the universal principles of “right and wrong” and protecting the weak. His music spoke to mankind’s responsibility to “beat swords into plowshares," to “judge not” and to do our dead-level best to "Save the World."

My mythical kinship kept me solidly by Michael’s side, no matter how eccentric his behavior or looks became. He was an old soul, not of this world, a man/child existing in a society that defines great brilliance as “weird” and kills what it does not understand.

I didn’t need to watch Michael defend himself against charges of child molestation in the 60 Minutes interview. If people really wanted to understand him, he told the late Ed Bradley, all they had to do was listen to his song, Have You Seen My Childhood:



“People say I'm strange that way
'Cause I love such elementary things,
It's been my fate to compensate,
for the Childhood I've never known...”


The cry for understanding and unrequited love was evident but, for me, unnecessary. Michael was a man addicted to purity and motivated by the pain or unfettered laughter of a child.

The millions he donated to cure childhood diseases; the time he spent with sick and dying children; the images in his videos of kids juxtaposed against scenes of war, death and violence – as far as I'm concerned - offset the charges of those seeking monetary reward after claiming Michael molested their children.

Born to amuse
To inspire to delight
Here one day
Gone one night


The media lavished in the ugly rumors and propagated the “Wacko Jacko” persona. High-profile individuals salivated at the prospect of Michael losing his riches, his fame or his prized Beatles' music catalogs. They joked as the criminal justice circus literally stripped Michael of his dignity and tried to break his spirit.

It’s infuriating and painful to watch some of these same media and celebrity types now express their woes and admiration for an entertainer they helped push to an early demise.

Like millions of others, my head bobbed to Don’t Stop ‘til you Get Enough, Beat It, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, Invincible and countless other upbeat MJ hits. But Michael’s ballads, the powerful messages inherent in songs like Will You be There, Earth Song and You are Not Alone, his consistent challenge to Heal the World and his reminder that We Are the World rocked my soul.



Michael banged the drum of "change" long before Obama became its worldwide symbol. No entertainer, as far as I'm concerned, utilized the richness of diversity better to make strong societal statements and remind all that we are mostly separated by the age-old demons of ignorance, arrogance and fear.



Michael Jackson, the boy with the musical mannerisms of a man and a man with the characteristics of a boy, died Thursday. It’s hard to fathom a talent so large, a passion so raw and powerful -- gone.

How could a heart so huge possibly stop beating?



As much as I anticipated Michael’s musical comeback, the new dance move (rumored to be bigger than the Moonwalk) and another MJ song with a universal challenge -- these were simply selfish wishes. I wanted Michael’s genius re-validated, his greatness re-affirmed.

In reality, a “comeback” would have just introduced another ebb and flow of popularity and pain inherent in a fleeting, narrow-minded, toxic society intent on destroying messengers of peace and change.

Therefore, even though my heart aches, I take a small measure of comfort in Michael’s passing. He had unbelievable inner-strength but, like watching a loved one slowly waste away from cancer, it pained me to watch Michael's spirit dissolve.

In death, he has assumed the deserved and designated role of a true icon. In death, the stampede of love, loss and longing will grind hateful, greedy innuendo into dust. In death, Michael Jackson's legacy, music and messages will live on unencumbered.

The pain has ended.

Please know this, Michael; you did what you came here to do. You may finally rest in peace.

Like a sunset
Dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon
Gone too soon ...


Farewell, Little Cousin, I will miss you.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Limbaugh's "dumpster dive" suggestion only latest salvo in his war on the poor

From MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA:





Haha -- stupid starving kids can't even find food in their kitchens!

Good one, Rush.

Limbaugh suggested that "kids losing weight because they're starving to death" is a benefit of school being out for the summer. On the June 16 edition of his radio show, referencing a report that children "face a summer of hunger" because "[w]hile classes were in session, they relied on free or discount cafeteria meals ... [b]ut they will not be reached by the patchwork summer food programs financed by" the federal government, Limbaugh stated that "a summer off from government eating might be just the ticket" to curbing childhood obesity. He later characterized children "starving to death out there because there's no school meal being provided" as "one of the benefits of school being out."

Limbaugh to children: Can't find food? "There's always the neighborhood dumpster." Also on his June 16 show, Limbaugh challenged Summer Food Service programs by criticizing children for not knowing how to find food. Limbaugh first suggested that children should "try your house," and "if that doesn't work, try a Happy Meal at McDonald's." He concluded, "There's another place if none of these options work to find food; there's always the neighborhood dumpster."

CLICK HERE FOR ACTUAL QUOTE:

As we documented, mocking hungry children was only the latest salvo in Limbaugh's ongoing war on the poor. In fact, Limbaugh frequently makes light of the plight of the poor and derides the programs designed to aid them.

During the health care reform debate, Limbaugh devoted several segments to ridiculing people who couldn't afford health care. For example, he called the story of a woman who wore her dead sister's dentures because she couldn't afford her own the "sob story of the day" and further mocked the woman's plight by saying, "So if you don't have any teeth, so what? What's applesauce for?"

And while Limbaugh spends much of his time attacking those less fortunate than he -- including hungry children -- he will always stick up for those he sees as the true victims in our society: huge, irresponsible corporations.

FULL MEDIA MATTERS STORY HERE

Thursday, June 17, 2010

“I’m allowed the luxury to be loquacious.” Interview with spoken word poet, Malik Yusef

Malik Yusef, discusses his Craft, Hip-Hop, the Music Industry and Burrell’s “Positive Push” Campaign

By Sylvester Brown, Jr. / for stopthebrainwash.com

This week, in honor of Black Music Month, author Tom Burrell officially launched “Positive Push,” a social media campaign aimed at promoting positive music, images and culture. The movement evolved from Burrell’s book, Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority. In the book, Burrell encourages “enlightened thinkers” to use “New Media” to alter negative projections and project positive images and messages about black people.

In order to explore the challenges of promoting this campaign we interviewed Chicago native Malik Yusef, one of the few spoken word poets, including Mos Def, Kumasi Simmons and Talib Kweli, who have found mainstream success in the entertainment world.

Yusef has performed or recorded with the likes of Kanye West, John Legend, Chantay Savage and Pharrell Williams. The former gang banger’s rhymes have been featured in advertisements for Sprite, General Motors, Verizon, Miller Brewing Co., Nike. In 2007, he collaborated with Director Frey Hoffman on a 10-minute film adapted from one of his poems. “The Untimely Demise of Hollywood Jerome” tells the story of a 14-year-old South Side gang member who faces the consequences of his criminal lifestyle and fascination with Hollywood embellished gangsters like Scarface and Godfather. Cameos in the film, which will be released on DVD this summer, include Kanye West and Twista.

Despite commercial success, Yusef has maintained his rep as a street poet on a mission. His performances including those seen on Def Poetry Jam, BET’s Rap City, MTV’s Hip-Hop Week reflect his commitment to combat global socio-economic problems, revitalize urban areas, combat gang violence and illiteracy and uplift young people.

In this interview, Yusef explains how talented hip-hop artists survive and sometimes compromise in a rapper-eat-rapper, money-driven industry that exploits negativity. The “Positive Push” campaign is definitely needed, Yusef said, but proponents must be informed, passionate and, most of all, committed to the long run challenge of change.

************************************

STOP THE BRAINWASH (STB): Would you describe yourself as a “positive” artist?

MALIK YUSEF (MY): Positivity is relative. There are a lot of ‘positive artists with terrible music. I’m a poet, songwriter and fledgling musician (he plays the guitar). I do good music that motivates and inspires people.

STB: You have collaborated with many hip-hop artists. How do you strike a balance between music that inspires and music many deem negative, violent or misogynistic?

MY: Hip-hop is no more negative than an Arnold Schwarzenegger or John Wayne movie. We can do better. We can do without the misogyny but no one person gets it 100 percent. Sometimes, I’ll say ‘Brother, you can say that a little better.’ And sometimes they respond.

STB: What’s the defining difference between spoken word artists and hip-hop artists?

MY: Rap says you have to be tough, a tiger. If you’re a tiger without teeth, you’re a meal. Spoken word artists are not confined to the world of machismo. I’m allowed the luxury to be loquacious, I can be more vulnerable. I can speak about heartbreak, and uplift. I can give the same message as the Imam, the Rabbi or the preacher.





CLICK HERE FOR FULL INTERVIEW

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Media Matters: Stop Promoting Racism on FOX

"Enough is enough:
Stop promoting racism on your network."


On Megyn Kelly's Fox News show, Fox News employee John Stossel defended the right to discriminate based on race. Stossel made the remark in an attempt to defend Kentucky Tea Party candidate Rand Paul who suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was too broad and should not apply to private businesses. Although Rand said he will never support measures to repeal the law, Stossel argued that it should be repealed:

“I’m in total agreement with Rand Paul. You could call it public accommodation, and it is, but it’s a private business. And if a private business wants to say ‘we don’t want any blonde women or mustached guys,’ it ought to be their right.”



In a mass e-mail, Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America noted: "Stossel didn't just argue for the right to discriminate. He went a step further, suggesting the "public accommodations" section of the Civil Rights Act should be repealed, thus allowing businesses to practice racial discrimination. This is the section of the law that prohibits a lunch counter from refusing to serve African-Americans -- a practice which was commonplace when the law was passed."

Noting a pattern among FOX News personalities, Burns released this statement and corroborating video:

This isn't the first time a Fox personality has treaded the line on race. Fox News operates under the direction of President Roger Ailes, a longtime political operative with a history of race-baiting and racially inflammatory campaign tactics. Glenn Beck, one of Fox's top-rated hosts, has repeatedly called both Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor "racists" who dislike white people and white culture, and hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly have also stoked racial insensitivity with on air-comments."



Time to Send a Message to FOX

Stossel is only the latest in a long line of Fox News personalities to divide America along racial lines, Burns said. At some point, he writes, Fox's record of questionable rhetoric on race stops being a question about individual hosts or guests -- and starts to be a question about the whole network.

I agree with Burns and Media Matters for America. Concerned Americans "need to send a message loud and clear -- first to Fox, and if it's unwilling to listen, to the sponsors who support it."

Burns' closing comments is well worth consideration and massive support:

"It's time for Fox News to be held accountable for the racially charged statements and racial insensitivity that it continually allows on the air.

Enough is enough: Stop promoting racism on your network."

Friday, May 21, 2010

When one door closes ...


Since losing my job at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about 15 months ago, I've had doubts and sometimes allowed fearful thoughts to dominate my day. Part of this has been spurred by utter frustration. I was fired because I accepted an invitation from an international anti-poverty, empowerment organization to travel to Washington DC. Apparently the fact that I went without my editors' permission was reason enough to dismiss me.

At the time I considered it a blessing. I sincerely believed that it was indeed "our time" to bring about the change many of us had hoped. I turned down the union's offer to fight for the job. I felt it was time to move on and join a revolution inspired by Obama's election. It was our moment, I believed, to revitalize long-ignored urban areas and develop sustainable templates for reform and self-empowerment. There were dozens of promising initiatives already in development. A responsive administration, a leader with a resonate heart and vision was the only missing component.

I'm not sure if I was naive or if despair and negativity is just more powerful than "hope and change." Either way, the progress I imagined has been stalled by the health care reform debate, antagonistic forces dueling over the need for a "black agenda" and a tide of paranoia, racial hatred and fear.

At the age of 53 I have learned that the journey is not of my dictate. Still, I get frustrated. At times, I worry about my future as a writer and a contributor to change.

That's why reminders are so important.

This morning while trolling the web, I came across the interview below with Garrard McClendon, host of Chicago's Garrard McClendon Live and Tom Burrell, author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority and .



The interview took me back about 15 months when Burrell called the same week I learned of my termination. A year prior to his call I had researched material for a chapter in Burrell's book. He called me in April 2009 to see if I could recommend a writer who could help with the final stages of the book.

Needless to say, I had someone in mind.

Thanks to Burrell, when the Post-Dispatch door closed, I was offered entry through another. Thankfully, I'm still working with Burrell, meeting and interacting with engaging and progressive "world changers." We are currently promoting the book and working on the Resolution Project, Burrell's nonprofit established to counter destructive media and images with a barrage media-savvy, positive and uplifting material. I'm also elbow-deep in and learning what it takes to succeed in the ever-changing, fascinating world of publishing.

At times, I am frustrated with the slow momentum toward urban reform. I am afraid that ignorance and fear will effect the 2012 presidential election and our "moment" of great change will be further stalled.

However, as I watched the online interview with Burrell and McClendon I was proud. Brainwashed was Burrell's passion for more than 10 years. He believed he could make a difference and, as McClendon points out in the interview, people are inspired and responding to his message, buying and sharing the book and vowing to change how they view, participate and perpetuate media-instigated negativity.



This morning, I was reminded that I do not dictate the path. The challenge, I think, is to survive while loving, learning and growing. Like Burrell, our mandate should be to do our dead-level best to make a difference, no matter how small, while we're on this planet.

This morning, I am not frustrated. I am empowered.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Black on Beck: "Glenn Beck Has Nazi Tourette's"

This from TPM Live Wire:

Daily Show correspondent Lewis Black was surprised last night that Glenn Beck had criticized those who have compared Arizona's immigration law to Nazi Germany. "This is a guy," said Black, "who uses more swastika props and video of the Nuremberg rallies than The History Channel."

Black then showed clips of Beck himself comparing everything, from global warming to the Peace Corps, to Nazi Germany. "It's 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,'" Black said, "except there's just one degree, and Kevin Bacon is Hitler. Can I play? Let's see. Mother Teresa had a mustache. Hitler had a mustache. Mother Teresa is Hitler!"

He concluded: "Glenn Beck has Nazi Tourette's."

WATCH:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

That "hopey-changey thing" is working out pretty darn good Ms. Palin

During her appearance at the National Tea Party Convention in February, undeclared 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin asked the crowd; “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?"

Well, Ms. Palin, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 15 months or so of "hope and change" is looking pretty good for many Americans. According to the latest federal labor report things are looking better than expected on the job front.

In April, more confident employers expanded payrolls the most in four years by 290,000. The government hired some 66,000 temporary census workers but the really good news is that employers in the private sector -- you know "the backbone of the economy" -- added an impressive 231,000 new positions last month, the most in new job position since March 2006, according to the Labor Department. And, as the Washington Monthly noted in "AT LONG LAST, U.S. JOB MARKET STARTS TO LOOK PRETTY GOOD," the jobless rate rose to 9.9 percent as people streamed back into the market looking for work.

Now to the folks who still believe Obama is the Socialist-leaning, Muslim Son of Satan , this job growth news probably won't excite you. However, for the rest of us, his administration has been a welcomed change from the past 2-terms of fear-based war mongering, massive job loss, economic devastation and stifled innovation.

With more than 8 million jobs lost during the course of the recession, the president said there is still much more work to do. A few days ago, on the White House lawn Obama said the "difficult and at times unpopular steps we've taken over the past year are making a difference." Obama gave his word that he would "keep fighting every single day to create jobs and opportunities. We're not going to rest until we put this difficult chapter behind us."

Call me a doe-eyed optimist, Ms. Palin, but I'm gonna pass on the toxic doses of paranoid divisive tea you and your followers swallow daily. I'll quench my thrist with liberal amounts of job growth news, innovative and concerted action and other benefits associated with that so-called "hopey-changey" thingy you scrawled on your palm.



Note: The chart has changed slightly from last month, in part to reflect revised numbers from February and March, and also because The Bureau of Labor Statistics recalculated all of 2009's numbers earlier this year.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What if the Tea Party were black?

Anti-racist writer and activist, Tim Wise, once again demonstrates why is "One of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation," according to Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. In this recent CNN interview Wise asks a relevant and thought-provoking question: "What if the Tea Party were black?"



As noted on BlackPlanet.com:

If the Tea Party was Black they would be assassinated by police and infiltrated by COINELPRO. Fox News would demonize them as anti-American radicals and their leaders would be arrested. If Black people would spit on white lawmakers and started forming militias, the right wing would call for Apartheid type laws.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bill O'Reilly gives Black Audience Advice on Race Relations?

O'Reilly at Sharpton’s Conference: "We pretty much dropped that race stuff after 9/11"

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly received a courteous welcome after Rev. Al Sharpton introduced him to a largely black audience during the National Action Network's Conference last week. The warm and fuzzes quickly evaporated after O’Reilly offered advice on improving race relations in America.

Click here for video

“It’s a much more interesting country America, if we stop with the race business. I mean, I’m not black, so I don’t know your struggle … and you don’t know my struggle, alright, because you’re not white.” The O'Reilly Factor host earned himself a noticeable round of boos after explaining how Americans “pretty much dropped that race stuff,” when we rallied after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


( O'Reilly asks Sharpton to explain why he was booed at the event: Click Here )

O’Reilly, is trapped in his own spin zone if he thinks the so-called “race business” has disappeared after 2001. Wasn’t this the same guy who, while hosting an inner-city charity fundraiser in 2003 (click here for more), jokingly asked if the black performers were out in the parking lot “stealing our hubcaps."

The “race stuff” wasn’t over in 2005 when O’Reilly claimed that many of the poor “thugs” in New Orleans failed to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina because "they were drug-addicted" and "weren't going to get turned off from their source." And wasn’t it O’Reilly who found himself thunderstruck by the nonexistence of uncivil, expletive-hurling black folk when he visited Sylvia’s, a famous Harlem restaurant? That O’Reilly jewel was covered by Media Matters for America (Click here for story):

Bill O'Reilly: "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patron-ship." Later, during a discussion with National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams about the effect of rap on culture, O'Reilly asserted: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all."

If the “race business” was over in 2001, why was O’Reilly obsessed with Michael Jackson’s skin color in 2009? Even before he was buried, O’Reilly insisted the pop star was unworthy of black adulation because he “bleached his own skin” and allowed “white men to provide existence for his in-vitro children.”



I’m not sure if Sharpton’s black audience or O’Reilly himself understands the white “struggles” he mentioned on stage. I am convinced, however, that the audience, like other blacks across the country knows that “race” still plays a role in the disproportionate black poverty, unemployment, drop-out and death rates from treatable diseases. It is the reason why so many unarmed black men are shot dead by police officers and why there are more young black men in the nation’s prisons than its colleges.

There are heavy doses of arrogance poured into O’Reilly’s spin cycle. It’s the only rational for the grandiose illusion of a race-baiter trying to convince black people that the “race stuff” is over.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hitler had Goebbels, the Tea Party has FOX News

Fox News "hops" aboard Tea Party Express with rampant promotions, live coverage

Media Matters for America just released a stunning visual alert that details FOX News' aggressive and one-sided on air and online promotion of the Tea Party movement and the current Tea Party Express.

Consider Glenn Beck's Tea Party at the Alamo live coverage in San Antonio Texas:



Media Matters provides another example with this promo from Fox News' August 27 edition of Hannity, where the host introduces its on-the-scene reporter Griff Jenkins:

HANNITY:

And now, starting this weekend, by the way, the Tea Party Express tour kicks off, where Americans from all over the country are going to hit the streets to voice their grievances over government spending and, of course, universal government health care. And our own Griff Jenkins is going to stop every single place, and he's starting this weekend and he's going to be checking in and giving us an update and blogging with the latest video on our Great, Great American Blog, and we'll also be checking in with him in our -- all throughout the next week, so that's coming up.

Check out the April 16 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

Van Susteren says Palin's "RELOAD!" comment was "a very Alaska-type term"

This prostitution of journalism speaks to the fear I addressed in my blog yesterday. In my mind FOX News' role is no different than that of Hitler's chief propagandist, Paul Joseph Goebbels the chief architect of Nazi Germany's propaganda-fueled attack on German Jews that culminated in the travesty of the Holocaust.

When the mainstream media marginalizes, diminishes, justifies or presents a mass movement of race-based hatred as the extreme actions of a fringe group we risk turning America's clock back to a dangerous and ignorant era that only benefited a privileged few.

Check Media Matters report and judge for yourself:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Familiar Fear

I find myself repeating questions asked by my 11-year-old self: “Who are these people?”

It is absolutely nauseating for me as I watch the mainstream media’s “fair and balanced” coverage of the Tea Party Movement. Yesterday, Sarah Palin rallied a crowd at the national Tea Party Express tour in Boston, just a mile from the site of the original Boston Tea Party. “There is a growing movement across the nation, and you are it," Palin told the estimated crowd of 5,000. "Those of you who won’t sit down and shut up are sounding the warning bell.”

It's this "growing movement" of fear-based irrationalism that has me nervously reflecting on the past.

The 2008 election held profound historical relevance for me. It was no mere coincidence that the winning candidate’s mantra of “hope and change” epitomized the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Barack Obama’s election, 40 years after the fallen civil rights icon's assassination, affirmed the dream of equality and this country’s slow social evolution.

Yet, along with this empowering déjà vu moment comes another disturbing 1960’s-era reminder. It is epitomized by angry, gun-toting protesters hurling words and bricks, while depicting Obama as a radical Muslim, a Socialist, a monkey or the Antichrist. That defiant tone of privileged desperation pulsates behind the dressing down of the nation’s leader, the ugly epithets spat at supporting black or gay Democrats and the unprecedented escalation of venomous hate groups in this nation.

Last month, Daniel Cowart (left), a white supremacist pleaded guilty to a 2008 cross-country plot to commit robberies while killing and beheading dozens of black people. Then-presidential candidate Obama was also a target of Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, his neo-Nazi, co- conspirator's plot.

A note attached to a brick thrown through the office window of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) read: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” In phone messages after the passage of health care reform, Slaughter said she received a message from a caller who used the words “sniper” and “assassinate” when referring to “the children of lawmakers who voted yes," for the measure.

“If we’re going back 40 years—and I hope to heaven we are not—in the way we treat each other, we have got to stamp that out right now,” Slaughter told reporters.

Why can’t we stamp out the madness? We know what fuels it– anger, opportunistic politicians, right-wing commentators and the paranoid fear that something familiar, something privileged has -- or will be -- lost. Keith Olberman, Glen Beck, Frank Rich and others have explained, justified or ridiculed the rationale of the most extreme and irrational factions of these Obama haters.



We may know why they think what they think, feel what they feel and do what they do, but “knowing” doesn’t dispel the fact that this country is glued to an unsavory page in history. It bothers me that the vociferous rants of Tea Partiers, Birthers and other extremists have unearthed an apprehension I considered long buried:

My fear of white people.

My father was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was raised in the Jim Crow South, a time when staying on the good side of white folk was as natural as picking cotton. Still, it was hard for me to watch my father, my hero, lower his eyes, step off a curb or cower in the presence of whites. Perhaps for good reason, my father was afraid of white people. As a child, I was ignorant of civil rights skirmishes and too young to notice the fading facade of overt racism in my Midwestern Missouri city. Fear didn’t gel for me until 1968 after I overheard a conversation between my mother and a neighbor about Dr. King’s assassination.

“They finally got him,” Mama lamented.
I remember thinking; “Who are ‘they?’” If Mama knew the answer, surely others must have known. Why weren’t “they” stopped before King was killed, I wondered.

Later, that evening, watching news reels detailing Dr. King’s legacy, I began to understand. I saw people who looked like me pulled from buses, beaten by mobs, attacked by slathering police dogs or slammed into brick buildings by fire hoses. I saw Confederate flags and signs splashed with the N-word and whites who brazenly defended their sentiments and actions. There were politicians on TV, too, pontificating about “state’s rights,” “Communist infiltrators” and “segregation forever.”


My fear today is a bit different than my father’s. I fear whites who tolerate white hatred. Observing the media’s objective reporting on the escalating Obama-inspired venom, I find myself repeating questions asked by my 11-year-old self:

“Who are these people?” Are they teachers, policemen, dentists, judges? Why do elected officials support these disgruntled fanatics? Why aren’t they ostracized by God-fearing, decent folk who are familiar with the combustible mixture of power, privilege and self-righteous, race-based loathing?

Dr. King once said; “Sometimes, silence is betrayal.” Does the rhetoric have to lead to an assassination before we realize that our silence is betrayal to freedom, common decency and social advancement?

Dr. King once said; “Sometimes, silence is betrayal.” Does the rhetoric have to lead to an assassination before we realize that our silence is a betrayal to decency and social advancement?

To pretend the government and the media have no power to address orchestrated hate is to pretend neither committed the willpower to defang, besmirch or destroy CORE, the Black Panthers, Dr. King or any other group or individual believed to be threatening or subversive.

Therein, is the answer to my question. The tolerance persists because the fears of Obama, the threat to the status quo and the thought of losing privilege are not just the concerns of extremists. After all, a recent Harris Poll noted that 40 percent of Americans believe Obama is a socialist; about 25 percent likened him to Hitler and 14 percent said Obama may be the Antichrist.

Unlike my father, I do not fear the lunatics. I fear the empathy that fuels their rhetoric and the tolerance that validates their cause.

I fear the silence that encourages the lunacy.


Sylvester Brown. Jr. is a St. Louis-based writer and a former columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Author, Tom Burrell, whom I had the opportunity to work with on his new book makes Jet Magazine's "must read" list. Coolness!
Click here for more info.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"All the Scholar Ladies" -- Young folk put a positive spin on Beyonce's hit song



Have you seen it? Hope Christian School's clever take on Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies," has shot to the top of www.youtube.com 's charts. The website Stop the Brainwash.com describes it as "a sparkling example of how we can create positive images of African Americans with nothing more than a little creativity, a camera and a computer." In fact, the folks behind the book "Brainwashed:Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority" have hosted a contest for what they call "Positive Propaganda" submissions. Check out the site for more information.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Love This ...

The Power of Powerful Images



This photo from the Chicago Tribune posted on Tom Burrell's "Stop the Brainwash" website speaks to the power of positive images that he outlines in his book; Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Superiority.

Read more here: The POWER OF POWERFUL IMAGES

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reflections on the Great Chicago Gripe Fest

by Sylvester Brown, Jr.
March, 27, 2010



Security forces at Tavis Smiley’s March 20th “black agenda” debate at Chicago State University were intense. No-nonsense policemen and men and women with the Nation of Islam (NOI) directed traffic, checked purses and electronically scanned bodies at the entrance of the university’s convocation center. NOI security personnel circled the stage where their leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and 11 other high profile black panelists joined author and PBS commentator Smiley for a dramatic discussion about a black agenda in the Obama era.

The presence of the NOI defense team was just part of a stream of contradictions that, for me, summarized the entire event. Never before have I witnessed so many disciplined, self-determined, eloquent and powerful black people who failed to recognize their own muscle. Never would I have expected high-profile panelists to validate a collective prescription for powerlessness. Proclamations of “love” and protection for a beloved leader were intertwined with denunciations of Obama’s leadership. These divergent positions, if declared with enough pizzazz and spiritual timbre, were rewarded with standing ovations and thunderous applause.

While the rest of the country waited with baited breath as Obama’s health reform plan inched its way into the history books, more than 5,000 people gathered in Chicago for a glorified gripe session. Star-struck attendees may have enjoyed an emotion-laden event but they left strategically emasculated and woefully agenda-less.

April Lewis, a 30-year-old Chicago State student, told the Chicago Tribune that she was treated to an "Obama-bashing event" instead of receiving answers about health care reform or the recession: "I wanted them to focus on issues in Congress and what our community needs to do to help the president get things done. I wanted to hear more answers and solutions."

In an interview with The Root, Tracey Bruno, who lives in the western suburbs of Chicago, shared Lewis’ concern: "When you have these panel discussions, there is nothing concrete, like you can do A, B, C and D. Everybody talks about what's going on and the things that aren't working, but what can we do? What can the everyday person do?”

Most of the panelist, which included Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux,

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., scholar Ronald Walters and professors Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson focused on Obama and “the things that aren't working.” Unfortunately, they pontificated to the choir. Blacks already know they have been disproportionately crippled by the recession. They are familiar with the white power structure surrounding Obama. They didn’t need reminders about the vociferous Tea Party movement, the Right wing demonization of Obama or the racial rhetoric fueling assassination threats. Everyday people, who have to tone down their “blackness” in the workplace, understand the limitations of a “black face in a high place.”



More time was spent by the intellectual group defending the need for a black agenda symposium than was dedicated to defining and implementing an agenda. This was unfortunate considering the influence of the panelists. Smiley, who has promoted The Covenant With Black America book series, helped develop a data-based template supposedly designed to tackle economic disparity and reverse racial disparities in healthcare, housing and education. Surely, esteemed author and commentator Malveaux, with a Ph.D. in Economics, could help draft a fiscally-responsible black agenda that compliments and expands federal urban programs. As I observed the NOI soldiers, I imagined the black men interacting with at-risk youth. Long before Malcolm Little became Malcolm X, the organization specialized in retrieving lost souls from America’s prison system. There must be a way to incorporate the NOI’s strategies that stress entrepreneurship, responsibility and fatherhood (sans religious conversion), into a national urban agenda that addresses crime prevention and prison recidivism.

Smattered within the revival session where sparse affirmations of a do-for-self –with-a little-help black movement: “How long are we going to sit around begging white folks to do for us?” Farrakhan asked. “We have been looking to the wrong people to fulfill the agenda.”

Tom Burrell, author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, urged black leaders to break the yolk of “learned helplessness” and remind blacks that they’ve overcome great obstacles and have all they need to change their own lives and communities.

Angela Glover Blackwell, whose nonprofit organization, PolicyLink, has partnered with Smiley on the Covenant books and accompanying website, reminded the host that the Obama Administration has indeed responded to their agenda. “What is our job?” she asked Smiley.

In response, Dyson asked why the Obama administration was so “undercover” about its outreach to blacks. “Everything you mentioned has not been targeted to black people,” he added.

The statement underscores the dire mission of black leaders. We’ve spent centuries accessing the collateral damage of racism, decades screaming for opportunities for the disenfranchised and recent months debating what Obama should, could or must do for blacks. Now, more than ever, the choir, “everyday people” need answers and solutions.

Next month, the Rev. Al Sharpton will host another “black agenda” forum. By then, Smiley’s symposium would have been televised on C-SPAN. Hopefully, the next forum will be orchestrated in a way that rises above just another prolonged, high-profile gripe fest.

During Smiley’s event, panelist Dr. Ronald Walters warned that we have “talked too much about Obama.” I agree. These are wonderful yet antagonistic times. Nothing is promised. Despite growing opposition, a window of opportunity for dramatic social change is still open.

We have talked enough. We have an agenda. Black leaders can provide the missing components: galvanize the vision and use their talents and influence to promote an A, B, C and D plan of action that excites everyday people into a decisive and immediate mode of action.


Sylvester Brown. Jr. is a St. Louis-based writer and a former columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Brown is currently focusing on government, nonprofit and other efforts to revitalize urban communities through innovative social initiatives and grassroots activism.