Using lies and an ugly machine to attack Muslim lawmakers

WASHINGTON—First they came for Ilhan Omar. Then they came after Rashida Tlaib.

“They” are arch-conservative Republicans, certain Jewish-American lawmakers, White extremists, nativists, political opportunists and a wave of other critics who were consumed for a week with condemning Democratic freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib for comments she never made.

The right wing Republicans adopted a mob mentality and took to the airways, social media and traditional media to attack Rep. Tlaib—one of two Muslims elected to Congress last November—for what they say are anti-Semitic comments she made during an interview released on May 11.

Critics, including Republican House leaders Liz Cheney, Steve Scalise and Kevin McCarthy as well as President Donald Trump, released statements condemning Rep. Tlaib’s comments as anti-Semitic.

They weren’t.

During the interview on Skullduggery, a podcast on Yahoo, Rep. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, discussed the creation of Israel, details of her one-state solution and the effects of Palestinians being forced off their land. Her comments about the calming feeling she has because Jews found sanctuary in Palestine during the Holocaust with Palestinian help was mischaracterized by Ms. Cheney and the rest as her having a calming feeling when thinking about the Holocaust.

Her actual comments were: “There’s, you know, there’s a kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence, in many ways, had been wiped out,” she said. “All of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post the Holocaust, post the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time.”

During the interview, the Michigan lawmaker described the Holocaust as a tragedy.

Rep. Cheney was the first to respond and those who followed, including the president spoke of Rep. Tlaib’s “tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Rep. Cheney tweeted: “Surely now @SpeakerPelosi & @LeaderHoyer will finally take action against vile anti-Semitism in their ranks. This must cross the line, even for them. Rashida Tlaib says thinking of the Holocaust provides her a ‘calming feeling.’ ”

In response to relentless attacks from Rep. Cheney in the days following the interview, Rep. Omar addressed her colleague directly: “Give it up, we all know you never met a Muslim you didn’t want to vilify! Your deep seeded hate and Islamophobia might be a tool to rally your base, but won’t get rid [of] your colleagues. You just have to deal.”

House Majority Leader Hoyer and other Democrats also rushed in to defend Rep. Tlaib, rebuking Rep. Cheney, the president and Republicans for intentionally taking Rep. Tlaib’s comments out of context and demanding that they pull back and apologize.

“If you read Rep. @RashidaTlaib’s comments, it is clear that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are taking them out of context. They must stop, and they owe her an apology,” said Rep. Hoyer.

Rep. Tlaib didn’t hesitate to hit back at the attacks as well, blasting those who lied about her comments, while reiterating that she stands by her words.

“Policing my words, twisting & turning them to ignite vile attacks on me will not work. All of you who are trying to silence me will fail miserably,” she tweeted on May 12. “I will never allow you to take my words out of context to push your racist and hateful agenda. The truth will always win.”

Support has poured in from a wide cross-section of supporters like activists Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour; Rep. Ayanna Pressley; Sen. Bernie Sanders; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and lecturer, best-selling author, commentator and religious scholar Reza Azlan.

Yet Rep. Tlaib isn’t the only freshman member of Congress experiencing the avalanche of smears, and misrepresentations from Republicans as well as death and other threats from supporters of President Trump.

 

Rep, Tlaib’s colleague and sister-in-the-struggle Rep. Ilhan Omar has also been the target of equally vile and vicious comments from Republican critics. They have labeled her anti-Semitic. She and her family have received death threats because she had the temerity to question the clout and level of influence the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has on American politics and policy toward Israel and the Middle East. She has criticized America’s unquestioned support of an Israeli government that has occupied the West Bank for 52 years; annexed Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements, enforced a land, sea and air blockade with Egypt against Gaza since 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza strip; and killed and imprisoned Palestinian men, women and children resisting the occupation and Israel’s overwhelming military force.

Both lawmakers have spoken often about their concerns about humanitarian crisis affecting Palestinians, while criticizing the U.S. and Netanyahu governments. But as has become customary, critics say, any valid criticism of Israel and Israel policy is painted as anti-Semitic for political and other reasons.

The attacks against have been so fierce, critics say, because they have broken with Democratic policy positions. For example, they support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a Palestinian-inspired effort to, among other things, force Israel to end the occupation in the Palestinian territories. They have each challenged the political status quo of the U.S., particularly in regards to foreign policy. And they have leveled criticism against the rising tide of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias.

Much of the backlash and animus, many observers say, arises from the fact that the pair is Muslim, non-Caucasian and female. Plus they are seeking to upend the status quo in Congress to the consternation of establishment Democrats and Republicans.

So concerned was Dr. Angela Davis, Dr. Barbara Ransby and other activists, that they organized a Rally in Defense of Ilhan Omar on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on May 1.

One-hundred women were invited, including Nina Turner, a former Ohio senator and co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 election campaign; Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza;  Women’s Movement co-founder Linda Sarsour; and the Rev. Traci Blackmon.

The rally was moderated by Thenjiwe Tameika McHarris, an organizer with the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. Reps. Tlaib and Pressley came to the rally, as did Rep. Omar, whose appearance sparked sustained applause and cheers from the predominantly female crowd.

Rev. Blackmon gave a fiery and memorable speech denouncing President Trump, White extremists and others who are intent on silencing the voices of Rep. Omar and all Black women.

“I am here in the nation’s capital because of this nation’s shameful history of … systematically dismissing, devaluing and denigrating Black women who have been the most consistent block of voters in this country but who are ridiculed and ignored on both sides of the aisle,” said Rev. Blackmon, executive minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and senior pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri. “… We are not the other. This nation was built on our backs, suckled on our breasts, and was enriched by the blood and sweat of our ancestors whose labor was stolen for the coffers of the few.”

Like Reps. Tlaib and Omar, Rev. Blackmon, said Black women refuse to back down in the face of racist aggression and vowed that they would protect Rep. Omar and those leaders resisting the rise of racism, sexism, hate crimes, anti-Muslim bias and Islamophobia.

In New Jersey a week earlier, Fredrikca Bey(check make sure spelling is correct) organized a similar rally in Newark. More than 200 participants heard speakers at the April 23 event, “We The People, Support Congresswoman Ilhan Omar,” whose speakers and supporters were a cross-section of religion, politics and civil society. They included Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Sen. Cory Booker, mayors, assemblymen and women, Christians and Muslims. 

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In Newark Muslims and Black women offered strong support to Muslim lawmakers in Congress who have been attacked by the GOP the president and right wing groups and commentators.

Ms. Bey was unavailable to talk to the Final Call but Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, East Coast regional student minister of The Nation of Islam and lead minister of Mosque No. 7 in Harlem, said it was necessary to stand in defense of Rep. Omar.

“It’s very important because as Min. Louis Farrakhan said at Saviours’ Day, she has a sweet  heart. Rep. Omar was sent there by the people, but God is the overseer. She was sent there to shake up Congress,” he told The Final Call. “Neither her nor AOC (Alexandria Ocasio Cortez) are there to be part of old boys and old girls network. What she said about AIPAC is true. They control Congress and even the president. Min. Farrakhan said, why apologize for speaking the truth? Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”

Iman W. Deen Shareef agreed.

“The vitriolic rhetoric from Congress and Trump and death threats to her and family is why we had the rally,” said Imam Shareef, convener of the Council of Imams of New Jersey, Masjid Waarith ud  Deen in Irvington, N.J. “It is a misrepresentation of what she has said and as a result Sister Frederica Bey called various members of the Muslim community to come together to stand as one and voice our support.”

“I have never seen this kind of racism as well as misogyny. There are people who are supposed to represent the values of the United States but in fact, they are the very same people perpetuating this ignorance. If citizens of the United States don’t wake up, some of the people they’ve placed in office and authority who are not qualified to be there, and represent the antithesis of what America projects itself to be, will destroy the soul of this country. The danger is that if people do not adjust to the threat, the disease will spread and it will become a cancer.”

Black Pregnant Mothers Dying As Maternal Mortality Crisis Persists

By Liberation Journalist Barrington Salmon

Originally published in the Final Call

Jamila Bey remembers the pregnancy that gifted her a beloved son. The entire time leading up to his birth was magical, she said.

At the time, the D.C.-based journalist and commentator said, she thought her experience was the norm for Black women. She had a very easy pregnancy, she told The Final Call.

“I had a super, wonderful, happy pregnancy. I was 31, older than most, weighed 200 pounds and was playing with the D.C. Divas, a semi-professional women’s football team. I was eating 6,000 to 7,000 calories a day. I was an exceptional athlete in excellent health. Frankly, I looked amazing at this weight.

“I worked out for six months during the pregnancy and didn’t show until the eighth month,” she said.

Ms. Bey said while doing research in 2011 as part of an Association of Healthcare Journalists Ethnic Media Fellowship, she was shocked to learn just how pervasive and deadly childbirth is for Black women.

The deadly landscape of maternal mortality

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women are three to four times more likely to die of complications from pregnancy than White women, regardless of their social status, economic standing or education. Also, infants born to Black mothers are dying at twice the rate of infants born to non-Hispanic White mothers. National Public Radio’s Nina Martin and Renee Montaigne put the crisis in stark terms in a story titled, “Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why.”

Put another way, a Black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a White woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.

Every year, Dr. Paige Long-Sharps said, between 600 and 700 Black women die of these causes. The CDC puts that figure at 700-900 deaths annually. Many of these deaths are preventable, Dr. Long-Sharps and others say, but a host of factors—including disparities in healthcare; the inherent racism and racial bias in the healthcare system; stressors from Black women’s lived experiences which exacerbate pregnancies; and prospective mothers who lack the education and information to properly plan and prepare for a child—have a direct bearing on successful pregnancies.

In a New York Times magazine article, contributor Linda Villarosa cites reasons echoed by Dr. Long-Sharps as to why Black women are falling ill and dying before, during and after childbirth.

“High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are two of the leading causes of maternal death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, including pre-eclampsia, have been on the rise over the past two decades, increasing 72 percent from 1993 to 2014,” the article said. “A Department of Health and Human Services report last year found that pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (seizures that develop after pre-eclampsia) are 60 percent more common in African American women and also more severe.”

“Absolutely, it’s a crisis,” Dr. Long-Sharps said during a recent interview. “We live in an industrialized country but we’re behind Libya and the Third World in terms of caring for pregnant women. The numbers are real. Facts don’t lie. There are tons of studies that all lead to the same conclusions. We have a healthcare system where mortality and morbidity are so high.

“Women in Mississippi have worse outcomes than women in Palestine, Kenya and Egypt. There was a major report released in 2013 which showed that 60 percent of women of color are receiving inadequate healthcare. That’s crazy.”

Dr. Long-Sharps, a specialist in obstetrics & gynecology in Bronx, N.Y., has been practicing for 21 years and has garnered more than a quarter century of experience in the field. Citing a great need, the former medical director of Montefiore Medical Center for more than 10 years said she’s moving more into teaching and education than practicing medicine.

What has become crystal clear over the years–based on research, surveys, studies and other criteria–is that a crucial factor driving the maternal mortality crisis is racism and the inherent racial bias built into this country’s healthcare system.

“I live in Westchester County which is supposed to be affluent,” said Dr. Long-Sharps. “It doesn’t matter about one’s social and economic background, status or education. It comes down to racism. This is the crux of why we have such disparities. This is a multifaceted problem. I work in a majority-dominated environment and I see inherent racism every day but I’m not even sure if they see it.”

Dr. Long-Sharps said racism is manifested in residents and doctors when they ignore Black female patients during visits; don’t see the need to inform them of prospective procedures; disregard their concerns or desires for certain types of treatment; and don’t listen when these women try to explain how they feel or reasons for being in the hospital or doctor’s office.

“You’re starting from a place of inequality,” she said. “There are inherent stressors such as poverty, jobs, and family. Women are dealing with diabetes, hypertension. I believe, though, that as Black women the onus is on us. I also believe that there definitely is a revolution coming with doulas.”

Studies indicate that the racial gap amounts to the deaths of 4,000 babies each year, notes Ms. Villarosa, who heads the journalism program at City College of New York. What’s most unsettling, she and Dr. Long-Sharps say, is findings that education and income offer little protection. In fact, a Black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a White woman with less than an eighth-grade education.

U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren concurred in her Essence magazine opinion article.

“This trend persists even after adjusting for income and education. One major reason? Racism,” she wrote. “In a detailed report, Pro- Publica found that the vast majority of maternal deaths are preventable, but decades of racism and discrimination mean that, too often, doctors and nurses don’t hear Black women’s health issues the same way they hear them from other women.”

These are structural problems that require structural solutions, and medical institutions as well as the people who staff them must be held accountable, Sen. Warren asserted.

A trio of affiliated with the Center for American Progress researched and wrote a report, released in early May 2019, that provides a comprehensive policy framework to eliminate racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality.

“Structural racism in health care and social service delivery means that African American women often receive poorer quality care than White women,” said Jamila Taylor, Cristina Novoa, Katie Hamm, and Shilpa Phadke. “It means the denial of care when African American women seek help when enduring pain or that health care and social service providers fail to treat them with dignity and respect. These stressors and the cumulative experience of racism and sexism, especially during sensitive developmental periods, trigger a chain of biological processes, known as weathering, that undermine African American women’s physical and mental health.”

The long-term psychological toll of racism, the authors said, puts African American women at higher risk for a range of medical conditions that threaten their lives and their infants’ lives, including embolisms (blood vessel obstructions), and mental health conditions.

“Although racism drives racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality, it bears mentioning that significant underinvestment in family support and health care programs contribute to the alarming trends in maternal and infant health,” the authors continue. “In the past decades, many programs that support families in need—such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and nutrition assistance—have experienced a steady erosion of funding, if not outright budget cuts. The fact that these cuts have a harmful impact on families of color, who are overrepresented in these programs due to barriers to economic opportunity in this country, can be attributed to structural racism.”

Yet despite pervasive racial disparities in maternal and infant deaths, the authors say, public attention has only recently focused on this issue as a public health crisis.

“… And the full extent of the crisis is not yet known due to incomplete data. Compared with data on infant mortality, data on maternal mortality are less reliable and complete. While the disparities in maternal mortality across race are clear within individual states, a reliable national estimate has not been possible because data have been inconsistent and incomplete across states.”

A renewed push to confront the problem

The Black maternal healthcare and the crisis that is engulfing Black women has gotten the attention of some Democratic contenders running for the White House in 2020. California Sen. Kamala Harris recently reintroduced her Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act. The 2019 Maternal CARE Act creates a $25 million grant program to fight racial bias in maternal health care through training programs and medical schools and directs $125 million to identify high-risk pregnancies and provide mothers with the culturally competent care and any resources they need.

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Black maternal health is a critical health issue that has garnered attention from some of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

“Black mothers are dying at alarming rates from pregnancy-related causes in part because of racial bias in our health care system. Everyone should be outraged this is happening in America,” Sen. Harris told Elle magazine. “We cannot ignore the Black maternal health crisis that is happening in this country. Every day we wait and don’t address this issue is another day we allow more mothers to be at risk. This legislation is a critical step toward protecting mothers and understanding that a healthy mom means a healthier baby, community, and society.”

Sen. Harris has been joined by fellow Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Warren who have also been very vocal on the issue. In her Essence article, Sen. Warren highlighted the work being done by Sens. Harris and Cory Booker, as well as Rep. Alma Adams and her freshman colleague, Rep. Lauren Underwood, a nurse with whom she announced the formation of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. The caucus will help in developing policies to mitigate and eliminate what the lawmakers describe as “the shockingly high Black maternal death rate.”

A wide swath of organizations and individuals nationally have been involved or have joined the fight to reverse this trend. Sen. Warren said “as they have so often in the past, Black women and activists are leading the way. Widowers, mothers, and groups like the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, MomsRising, and the March of Dimes are demanding concrete actions to reverse these deadly outcomes,” she said. “The Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health is developing tools to save lives and stamp out racial disparities. Legislators in Texas and California are collecting data and rolling out new best practices. Cities are testing whether covering doula services can help.”

Doulas: An ancient solution to a modern problem

Dzifa Richards Jones, a pediatric physician’s assistant and a practicing doula for 15 years, agrees doulas are a key to getting a handle on maternal mortality.

“My clients have doulas so I don’t see the challenges, the non-successful cases and the stories of maternal mortality but I see it all around me,” said Ms. Richards Jones, a certified holistic birth and post-partum doula who has operated A Womban’s Place in the Atlanta area for six years. “There is definitely a lack of education, medical support and tough financial situations (that some women are dealing with). Also, people are less connected to their families. The more I see, it’s not a medical thing. It’s a mindset, relaxing. I think about the old midwives and that ancient wisdom. What I do is teach women to listen to themselves,” she said.

In Ms. Villarosa’s New York Time magazine article, Dána-Ain Davis, director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the City University of New York, said, “One of the most important roles that doulas play is as an advocate in the medical system for their clients. At the point a woman is most vulnerable, she has another set of ears and another voice to help get through some of the potentially traumatic decisions that have to be made.”

Doulas “are a critical piece of the puzzle in the crisis of premature birth, infant and maternal mortality in Black women,”’ concluded Ms. Davis, a doula and author of a forthcoming book on pregnancy, race and premature birth.

In addition to the weathering the toxic effects of racism and discrimination that adversely affect African American women, particularly during pregnancy, Ms. Richards Jones said Black women are very different from their White counterparts. They eat differently, live differently work hard and, more often than not, have two or three jobs.

“It’s a challenge to find peace during birth. The uterus can’t retract, and the placenta won’t be healthy,” Ms. Richards Jones said. “In some cases, the women are in single-parent households and not living healthy lifestyles.”

Among the responsibilities she has shouldered is to teach her clients tools, techniques and tips on how to change the way they eat, think and approach the pregnancy. A crucial part of the process is helping women feel empowered to deal with their doctors.

“We’re nervous seeing the physician, intimidated by the medical world, don’t feel entitled,” she said. “Caucasian clients feel very comfortable saying what they will and will not accept. But often, doctors make Black women agree to things they don’t want.

Ms. Bey echoed sentiments shared by interviewees about ways structurally, within families and medically, to ensure successful pregnancies. And there is the unspoken reality that dismantling structural racism and racial bias would go a long way to improving outcomes, she added.

“There are lots of factors that need to be addressed and changed,” she said. “Black women are under-supported, under-resourced and under-medically cared for, to coin a new word. Black mothers need more help and support than we get but we’re doing well regardless, despite the false narratives out there that Black women don’t take care of their children.”

Modern Prisons, Modern Slavery – The prison human rights movement strikes back

By Barrington M. Salmon – Contributing Writer- | Aug 28, 2018

National News

Modern Prisons, Modern Slavery – The prison human rights movement strikes back

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Supporters of Florida’s prison strike in January. Photo: @IWW_IWOCTwitter

Men and women behind bars in the U.S.—at great risk to their personal safety—began a national prison strike to protest inhumane living conditions, brutal and abusive prison guards and what they contend is modern-day slavery.

 

Representatives of the striking prisoners said inmates in institutions across 17 states are taking part in the strike action by refusing to work anywhere in prison buildings, kitchens, laundries and on prison grounds. Palestinian inmates have expressed solidarity and about 300 prisoners in Nova Scotia, Canada, joined the strike.  The 19 days of peaceful protest was organized largely by prisoners themselves, said a spokesman for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS).

“Fundamentally, it’s a human rights issue,” read a Jailhouse Lawyers Speak statement released before the strike. “Prisoners understand they are being treated as animals. Prisons in America are a warzone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us, it’s as if we are already dead, so what do we have to lose?”

The strike which started Aug. 21 is organized by an abolitionist coalition that includes Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), the Fire Inside Collective, Millions for Prisoners and the Free Alabama Movement. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak activists began preparing the action in April after prison officials in South Carolina put rival gangs in the same dormitory which ignited an outbreak of violence leaving seven inmates dead. (See Final Call Vol. 37 No. 40).

“We want to note that although there aren’t widespread reports of actions coming out of prisons, people need to understand that the tactics being used in this strike are not always visible,” said Jared Ware, during an August 22 press conference call.  “Prisoners are boycotting commissaries, they are engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge, and they will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside. As we saw in 2016, departments of corrections are not reliable sources of information for these actions and will deny them and seek to repress those who are engaged in them.

“We have spoken with family members who have suggested that cell phone lines may be being jammed at multiple prisons in South Carolina, and New Mexico had a statewide lockdown yesterday. The departments of corrections in this country are working overtime to try and prevent strike action and to try and prevent word from getting out about actions that are taking place.”

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Prison guards oversee prisoners working in one of the gardens at C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy, La., Aug. 8, 2010. More than 30 acres are farmed at Phelps growing vegetables for the 942 inmates. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

Mr. Ware, a freelance journalist who asked to be part of a team that coordinated with the press, said inmates organized nationally and carefully crafted the demands, strategically whittling them down from 35 to 10. The decision to strike, he said, was prompted by the deadly circumstances at South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Center, an understanding of how the state brings about the conditions of violence like that, and the types of changes that are necessary to prevent a repetition of that sort of violence.

 

“This is a human rights campaign and each of these demands should be understood through a human rights lens,” inmate representatives said.

The demands include:

  • An immediate improvement of conditions and the implementation of policies that recognize the humanity of men and women;
  • A greater investment in mental health services for prisoners;
  • Rescinding the Truth In Sentencing Act and Sentencing Reform Act to increase the possibility of inmates receiving rehabilitation and parole. No human should be sentenced to death by incarceration or no sentence should be imposed without possibility of parole;
  • An immediate end to prison slavery, with inmates paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory;
  • Rescinding the Prison Litigation Reform Act to give the incarcerated a proper channel to address grievances and rights violations,
  • An end to “racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and Brown humans.” In addition, “Black humans no longer (being) denied parole because the victim was White, a particular concern in Southern states.”

Although the United States represents one-fifth of the world’s population, 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, the highest in the world. Estimates are that about 60 percent of that population is Black or Latino. Those numbers could ratchet up with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at the behest of President Donald Trump, relaunching the failed “War on Drugs” and giving state attorneys and law enforcement the green light to crack down on criminal suspects even for non-violent crimes.

Prison reform advocates and critics of the criminal justice system note that the Prison-Industrial Complex is a multi-billion dollar enterprise which relies heavily on prison labor to work and produce goods and services for major businesses and corporations including Whole Foods, Starbucks, McDonalds, WalMart, Victoria’s Secret and AT&T.

The Prison Industrial Complex is a more than $2 billion enterprise, but many inmates literally work for pennies and others labor for free, said Dr. Kim Wilson.

“Exploitation of prison labor is at the heart of this strike,” said Dr. Wilson, a California resident and prison abolitionist. “Some people are making zero. I don’t want people to get the idea that it’s an at-will job. It isn’t a system where people have a choice to work. And nearer to the release date, you are expected and required to work.”

“At the largest wildfire in Mendocino County, thousands of inmates are fighting the fires. The reason is to save property.  Prison officials try to sell the idea of this being rehabilitative but that’s not true.”

Dr. Wilson cited examples nationally of the work inmates are forced to do. In  Angola Prison in Louisiana—often characterized as perhaps the most brutal prisons in the United States— inmates train and breed thoroughbreds and others pick cotton on the farm. Inmates in other institutions work on pepper and strawberry farms, she said.

“You also have prisoners building furniture for schools and universities, sewing Little League team uniforms and making military equipment, like helmets,” said Dr. Wilson, who has two sons serving life sentences at Vaughn Correctional Facility in Delaware. “This is not a small operation.”

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Abdullah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s National Prison Reform Student Minister, said he hopes the strikes don’t end as tragically as it did at Attica in 1971 when prison guards killed a number of inmates. He added that he doubts how successful the strike will be because of the traditional recalcitrance of prison officials.

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This Sept. 10, 1971 file photo shows inmates of Attica State Prison as they raise their hands in clenched fist salutes to voice their demands during a negotiating session with New York’s prison Commissioner Russell Oswald. The whistleblower who spurred a major state investigation of alleged crimes and cover-ups at Attica prison is still on the case four decades later. Ex-prosecutor Malcolm Bell, now 82 and retired to the Green Mountains of Vermont, filed court papers in support of opening long-sealed investigation volumes. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

“I don’t think they’ll get all they’re asking for, and what they’re asking for will take money,” he said of the strikers. “These people don’t have it in them to raise the money and change the environment. They may get a program—in time.

 

“You can’t change the system. You always have what appears to be a change and what appears to be relief. For a moment. They wouldn’t be slave masters and oppressors if they did otherwise.”

Student Min. Muhammad said he’s struck by the symbolism surrounding the protests. Aug. 21 is the 47th anniversary of the murder of author, activist and Black Panther leader George Jackson, and Sept. 9 also marks the 47th anniversary of the bloody Attica prison uprising in upstate New York which is when the current strike is set to end.

He said he vigorously supports the idea posited by one of the strike organizers, Brother Rasaan, to “redistribute the pain.”

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a program that we (Nation of Islam) executed where from October to Jan 1, no money was spent in White businesses. A lot of people lost jobs, businesses suffered. That should be the program they implement,” said Student Min. Muhammad. The civil rights leader before his assassination suggested that Black people should “redistribute the pain” to White America through economic withdrawal in the demand for justice, a call reintroduced by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in 2015 leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.

At the end of the day, though, Student Min. Muhammad explained, Blacks have no choice but to strike out and form their own nation.  “We need our own land and territory,” he asserted.

Courtney Stewart is a prison reform advocate who was released from prison in 1985 and chairs the National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens in Washington, D.C. In his opinion, the prisoners who decided to strike had no choice.

“The thing is that these people, the corporations who make up the Prison Industrial Complex, have been getting away with murder for a long time,” Mr. Stewart told a Final Call reporter. “They’ve been able to sustain the Prison Industrial Complex and they have ruined generations and generations of the Black community. It’s been so devastating, and we still haven’t recovered.

“Using the school-to-prison pipeline and the ‘War on Drugs,’ these people are criminalizing and have imprisoned Black men, women and children. It’s profit over people and power and money in this capitalist, White-privileged society we live in. They don’t see any value in the Black family or Black people. They always throw pennies when it comes to fixing the African American community. We have to address this with force and radicalism. There has to be a radical revolution in how to address this.”

Mr. Stewart is not alone in the belief that the Prison Industrial Complex has to be dismantled and Dr. Wilson agrees.

“I’m a prison abolitionist. I see prisons as part and parcel of the problem,” said Dr. Wilson, co-host of a podcast called “Beyond Prisons” with Jared Ware. “I don’t know how they (prison guards) sleep at night. But those individual people are part of a larger system. I’m more concerned with the system as a whole.

“We want an end to the physical places we call prisons and conditions that make it possible in our society. But we can’t do that without addressing the underlying issues of racism, anti-blackness, capitalism, gender violence, ableism and other issues deeply implicated in the broader prison system. We must take seriously the things the prisoners are saying.”

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson has written extensively on the history of policing, mass incarceration and the current criminal justice system. She warned that the unrest, pushback and uprisings against the harsh conditions in America’s prisons will continue.

“I think that we have as a country been involved for so long in the ‘War on Drugs’ and the ‘War on Crime,’ that we have forgotten that it’s not normal,” said Dr. Thompson, a professor of history at the University of Michigan and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.”

“But we have a whole generation of children for whom it’s normal to be pulled over, be arrested and shuttled into the system. We have been in a catastrophic prison crisis for decades now. And conditions have gotten even worse. South Carolina was a wake-up call for people,” she said.

“What cannot be understated or ignored is the fact that this is created and driven by racism. Seven point five million Americans are in the system. Most would not be here if they were the children of White lawyers, doctors and politicians. People turn a deaf ear to reform because White folks often don’t see Black children as children and think that Black people can absorb more trauma than they can.”

Dr. Thompson said she’s a White woman who grew up in Detroit and therefore, “My perspective is different. The situation is perfectly tenable as long as other people are being affected but when it becomes untenable is where White kids get caught up in the system. I give lectures and talks all over and the thing is that once they (Whites) really know what’s going on, they are appalled. They don’t know.

“Authorities cannot lock up 2.5 million people and have the trauma we have and it go on indefinitely. The incarcerated will continue to protest and people will continue to seek release,” she explained.

A strike organizer echoed Dr. Thompson’s warning. The inmate spoke with freelance journalist Brian Sonenstein, publishing editor at ShadowProof and a columnist at Prison Protest, in a story published in ShadowProof.

“No matter how many of these people they employ, it’s not going to take away from the issues and the problems of the violence that’s occurring inside the prisons,” said the inmate, a member of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS),  which is a network of incarcerated self-educated legal advocates.

“What we’re dealing with consistently is prisoncrats refusing to accept responsibility, accountability,” said the inmate, who, fearing retaliation spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Because [they] created these conditions, these are the results. Instead, what they try to do is deny any responsibility, any liability, and say, we’re going to keep the same conditions while trying to force people to be subjected to those conditions. And how do we do that? We hire more employees.

“It never works. It’s not going to work. You can’t snuff out a human’s life without killing them,” the inmate said. “There’s gonna be some type of resistance.”

If They See Us

Opinion by Barrington Salmon

If They See Us

By Barrington M. Salmon

Image result for exonerated five

‘The presumption of innocence is vaporized by the hot glare of racism.’

When it comes to the issue of race, America is in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. The dominant majority, through miseducation, a lack of exposure or willful ignorance always seems to be surprised and thrown for a loop when stories like the Exonerated Five grab headlines.

For a moment or two, as they hear or see cases of Black women, men and children railroaded by a system that pretends to be fair and equal, they are aghast, unsettled, unsure of what to do or say.

Yet for generations, Africans in America – children and adults – have been sacrificed on the altar of greed, domination, cruelty and casual racism.

People of African descent in this country have lived with the reality that the color of their skin has marked them in indisputable ways, such as being guided to the school-to-prison pipeline, the troubling disparity in the arrest and sentencing of Black and white people for the same crimes/offenses; the naked racism and the structural racism in the so-called criminal justice system that ensures that the majority of America’s 2.3 million incarcerated individuals are Black and brown.

Yet we are living in a time when a harsh light is being shined on much that’s been hidden or obscured. Acclaimed director Ava DuVernay is owed a debt of gratitude for her commitment to exposing the truth about what this country is and has done to Black people. On the heels of 13TH, an award winning documentary which explores the history of racial inequality in the prison system, she produced the heart-rending miniseries that aired on Netflix last month to much acclaim and which detailed what has been called by some “one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in history.”

I applaud her because she has been a drum major for social justice using her platform of film to force this country to confront the Original Sin of slavery and the many “children” this odious institution has spawned.

We must never forget that the five males whose youth was snatched away were CHILDREN: Antron McCray was 15; Kevin Richardson, 14; Yusef Salaam, 15; Raymond Santana, Jr. 14; and Kharey (Corey) Wise was the oldest at 16.

Image result for the central park 5 going to court

The detectives rounded up and held the boys and interrogated them for between 14 to 30 hours – without a lawyer or their parents present – telling them that if they confessed, they could go home; played them off against each other; and beat and brutalized some of the young men.

A New York Times story explained what the now grown men have talked about very openly: “Locking up those boys for a gang rape that had not happened but that most of society believed in was the same as planting a bomb in their lives that never stopped exploding. That story is told without blinking in “When They See Us,” and will enlighten even people who have followed these events.”

The five were convicted and jailed despite there being forced confessions, no physical or forensic evidence connecting them to the crime, no DNA evidence, no evidence placing the boys at the scene, but there was evidence that placed the real rapist, Mattias Reyes at the scene that investigators ignored while they pursued convictions for the five.

The conversations among and between Black mothers and fathers, with their children, with friends and relatives that has come after the Netflix miniseries were searing, heart-breaking, agonizing, excruciating. Many of us couldn’t watch the whole thing because those boys were us, they were our children.

I Googled several magazines and got a variety of perspectives that captured the maelstrom in which the boys were thrown. Ken Burns: “I think that the “Five” became the Central Park Five because they were the most vulnerable to the system. None of them had ever been in trouble with the law and their families had never been in trouble with the law, so … when seasoned detectives brought them in for questioning, they were exposed to the techniques that these detectives use so effectively.”

And in an interview with NPR, DuVernay said about the prosecution: “The city never apologized; they settled. No one on the side of the prosecution ever apologized. They’ve stuck by the fact that even though the real man came out and said: I did it, I did it alone. Even though all of that physical evidence was from him, was matched to the victim, and it was in fact him, and only him, these people still refuse to acknowledge that they—not made a mistake—lied. Lied.”

Prosecutors like Linda Fairstein and the New York City Police Department have completed an internal review of its management of the Central Park Jogger case. NYPD brass found no wrongdoing on the part of its officers, and despite overwhelming new evidence and vacated convictions, they maintained that the young men were likely guilty.

None of those involved, the city, prosecutors, detectives and other cops, have ever expressed remorse or accepted responsibility or apologized for destroying the young men’s childhoods. In fact, former DA Linda Fairstein has doubled down, saying the Five were somehow involved and did something wrong.

As we confront, understand and unpack this story, we should know that what happened is not an aberration. Putting Black and brown people behind bars is big business. Although the United States represents one-fifth of the world’s population, 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, the highest in the world. Estimates are that about 60 percent of that population is Black or Latino. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at the behest of President Donald Trump, relaunched the failed “War on Drugs” and gave states attorneys and law enforcement the green light to crack down on criminal suspects even for non-violent crimes.

Prison labor is the new slavery. The Prison-Industrial Complex is a brutal, oppressive system which relies heavily on prison labor to work and produce goods and services for major businesses and corporations including iconic brands like Whole Foods, Starbucks, Compaq, McDonalds, WalMart, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Target and AT&T. Some incarcerated individuals work for free, others for as little as $00.04 an hour and others make $00.23 an hour making military equipment like nighttime goggles, bullet proof vests, tents, shirts and bags, as well and a range of products for other corporation. As the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights notes, there are no unions, safety regulations, pension, social security, sick leave or overtime in these sweat shops.

The sprawling Prison-Industrial Complex is a more than $2 billion enterprise and 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations who brings their operations inside prison walls.

“The thing is that these people, the corporations who make up the Prison-Industrial Complex, have been getting away with murder for a long time,” Courtney  Stewart told this reporter an interview last year. “They’ve been able to sustain the Prison Industrial Complex and they have ruined generations and generations of the Black community. It’s been so devastating, and we still haven’t recovered.

“Using the school-to-prison pipeline and the ‘War on Drugs,’ these people are criminalizing and have imprisoned Black men, women and children,” said Stewart, chairman of The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens in DC and founder and CEO of Mentoring Works2. Inc. “It’s profit over people and power and money in this capitalist, White-privileged society we live in. They don’t see any value in the Black family or Black people. They always throw pennies when it comes to fixing the African American community. We have to address this with force and radicalism. There has to be a radical revolution in how to address this.”

Courtney is right.

The question is, what are we prepared to do?

(Photos courtesy of BET and ABC News)

 

The fight for equal pay, gender parity heats up 

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Despite the United States touting itself as the bastion of freedom and equality, women in this country – despite comprising 50.8 percent of the population – have always found themselves in the position of having to fight for salary and wages comparable to men.

A range of studies show some progress, but stubborn racial and gender wage gaps persist in the United States.

Often, researchers point to disparities in education, the fact that many African-American women and other women of color are clustered at the lower end of the pay scale and that the minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 2007 as factors contributing to the wage gap. But what’s often downplayed or ignored is the racism and sexism that’s also at play.

Black women sit at the nexus of race and gender and are buffeted by the twin spectres of these “isms”, and struggle upstream against a current of prejudice and bias which is compounded by gender and race.

This intersectional discrimination exacerbates those gender and race gaps, stymies Black women’s ability to access educational opportunities, and has a pervasive and corrosive impact on their careers and career advancement, experts say.

The wage gap has real-world consequences.

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said that over their lifetimes, Black women stand to lose between $800,000 and $1 million because of these disparities.

“While the gender pay gap is an issue for all women, it is an especially wicked problem for black women,”said Dr. Jones-DeWeever, a women’s empowerment expert, international speaker and diversity consultant.

“Black women are already economically disadvantaged and face double discrimination within the workforce. The additional burden of a 38 percent pay gap exacerbates the black wealth gap in America. It’s such an engrained problem. The typical Black woman will lose more than $800,000 over her lifetime, and in DC, the inequality means that Black women could lose more than $1 million.”

“A black woman has to earn a B.A. to earn what a white man with a GED would earn. It’s huge and really hardwired into the system,” continued Dr. Jones-DeWeever, who, among her many portfolios, mentors and instructs black women on how to navigate the shoals of business and achieve career and financial success.

“It’s devastating because with Black college-educated women making as much as 30 percent less than their white male counterparts, that’s a huge disadvantage. That means not being able to put food on the table, buy clothes for your children, not being able to have a better quality of life or diverting money to wealth-building.”

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), median wages for black women in the United States are $36,227 per year, compared to median wages of $57,925 annually for white, non-Hispanic men. This amounts to a difference of $21,698 each year. In that same report, NPWF also highlighted that if the wage gap were eliminated, on average, a black woman working full time, year-round would have enough money for:

  • Two and a half years of childcare
  • Nearly 2.5 additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university, or the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college
  • 159 more weeks of food for her family (three years’ worth)
  • More than 14 additional months of mortgage and utilities payments 22 more months of rent.
  • The National Women’s Law Center reports that women of every race are paid less than men, at all education levels – and it only gets worse as women’s careers progress.

“Despite the fact that women have made enormous gains in educational attainment and labor force involvement in the last several decades, unequal pay remains pervasive in 97 percent of occupations, showing that no matter what their job, women are paid less than men doing the same job in nearly every sector of work,” an NWLC fact sheet noted.

Women who work full time, year-round in the United States are paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap, which amounts to a typical loss of $10,086 per year for a working woman – or $403,440 over a 40-year career – means that women have to work 15 months … to make what men did in the previous 12-month calendar year.”

Studies by gender specialists, academics and women’s activists have statistics showing that the occupations African-American women have does not explain away the Black women’s wage gap, the NWLC said.

  • For example, Black women working as physicians and surgeons—a traditionally male, high wage occupation—make 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as physicians and surgeons.
  • Black women working as customer service representatives—a mid-wage, female-dominated occupation—make 75 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as customer service representatives.
  • Black women working as construction laborers—a traditionally male, mid-wage occupation—make 81 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as construction laborers.
  • Black women working as personal care aides—a heavily female, low wage occupation—make 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as personal care aides.

In addition, Black women experience a wage gap even in occupations where they are over-represented. More than two in five African-American women (44.8 percent) are employed in one of 10 occupations.

In every one of those occupations, Black women are typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic men. Among the 10 most common occupations for Black women, two of those occupations – cashiers and retail salespeople and janitors, building cleaners, maids, and housekeepers – typically pay Black women a very low wage – less than $10 per hour – while they typically pay white, non-Hispanic men substantially more.

Some solutions, NWLC experts say, include strengthening America’s pay discrimination laws, pushing harder to get Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the Family Act and the Schedules That Work Act – all which would address the discrimination women face when they’re pregnant or caregiving and support those who need paid leave, predictable work schedules, and stability for themselves and their families.

Raising the federal minimum wage is yet another way to move towards parity. So far, six states and the District of Columbia have increased the minimum wage to $15 over the next few years.

Another solution is making the Earned Income Tax Credit more widely available to needy recipients. The EITC is a tax credit designed to offset payroll taxes and supplement wages for people working in low-wage jobs, providing the most benefits to low- to moderate-income families with children.

The federal EITC lifted more than 1.2 million women 18 and older and nearly 3.5 million children out of poverty in 2017, and 28 states and the District of Columbia currently offer their own EITCs to provide an additional boost.

Dalana A. Brand, vice president of Global Total Rewards at Electronic Arts, Inc., contends that Black women can’t afford to wait, arguing in an opinion piece last year for Blavity, an Internet media company, that in the midst of the flurry of publicity, tweets, posts, hashtags and calls for change, one important element is missing.

“What often gets left out of that discussion is that the hallmark day in April does not apply to black women and other women of color,” she said. “… So, while white women caught up on April 10, black women must wait for over half the year to pass before our wages catch up to what men made a year ago.”

Brand, a highly-sought after salary strategist and career transformation coach, said black women are paid 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women but “the sad fact is that most people are either unaware or don’t care about the appalling disparity black women face with respect pay equity.”

She added that a study byLeanIn.Org, which partnered with Survey Monkey and the National Urban League, indicates that a third of Americans aren’t aware of the pay gap between black women and white men, and half of them don’t know about a similar gap between black and white women.

Much like the feminist movement, black women are being largely ignored by the equal pay movement,” she added.

Dr. Jones-DeWeever and Brand said that as career strategists and salary consultants, there are a number of things that Black women can and need to do to fight back against wage disparities. The first action is for Black women to embrace their power and value and translate that into dollars and benefits during salary negotiations.

“We don’t understand the basics of negotiating,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever said. “We have to understand our value and how to negotiate. When you’re first hired, that’s when you’re most powerful. I never accept the first offer.

The first offer is only the beginning of negotiations. You’d be surprised how much money you can get. You have to negotiate for money, a package and vacation.

Black communities must also take other tacks to confront and topple this problem, they said.

“The reality of racism means that Black women will be offered less,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever. “In terms of fixing it, we have to have conversations about financial literacy and we also have a responsibility to educate our children about their power, worth and value and empowering them.”

Brand concurred.

To date, she said, much of the equal pay movement has been focused on awareness building campaigns and encouraging women to effectively negotiate their salaries.

“While these are important steps, this is only scratching the surface,” Brand explained. “Getting to pay parity must also involve addressing the corporate systems and state and federal laws that need to change.

As black women, we must unify and use our collective voices to push pay equality and the racial wealth gap to the top our agenda. Black women have always been at the forefront of the push for equality in our country, whether it was civil rights or social justice, we have been critical forces for change. The equal pay movement should be no different.”

Brand and Dr. Jones-DeWeever are called in frequently to consult with Fortune 500 and other companies.

They said Black women should also be actively engaged in tackling the equal pay issue within corporate America by participating in employee resource groups at work and collectively guaranteeing that the companies they work for are held accountable for addressing these issues.

African American churches, sororities and fraternities and civil society and community organizations need to actively engage in the political process and pressure elected officials to advance additional laws designed to protect against gender discrimination and pay inequality, they said, and concerned people also need to organize efforts and/or sign petitions to demand to push the government to act.

Guaido, U.S. fail to overthrow Maduro, again

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON – CONTRIBUTING WRITER- | LAST UPDATED: MAY 9, 2019 – 10:57:31 AM

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Various organizations held a rally in D.C. on March 16 calling for the U.S. to cease interference in Venezuela where Nicolas Maduro is president but opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president with the support of the U.S. and other countries.

Recently, U.S. social media such as WhatsApp, Twitter suddenly came alive with commentary, pictures, videos and reaction to news that Juan Guaidó was leading a coup in an attempt to topple Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly—with backing by the Trump administration and several rightwing Latin America presidents—declared himself interim president in January of this year. He argued then, that according to the constitution’s Article 233, President Maduro’s presidency was invalidated because of a disputed election last year.

On April 30, Americans and Venezuelans woke up to videos online of Mr. Guaidó surrounded by heavily armed soldiers, claiming that his military supporters had captured an air force base in eastern Caracasvenezuela_1.jpg. He called for the military to back what he described as the “final phase” of an effort to oust the Maduro government. There was sporadic fighting between troops allied to Mr. Guaidó and Venezuelan security forces.

If someone followed mainstream U.S. media, he or she would have gotten the impression that Guaidó forces had the upper hand and was within inches of grabbing the presidency. Yet, by the end of the day, little had shifted to change the months-long stalemate between President Maduro and Mr. Guaidó. Forces opposed to President Maduro dissipated or were routed and more than 100,000 Venezuelans flocked to Miraflores Palace to protect the president and the Bolivarian Revolution.Cultural educator and activist James Early, a frequent visitor to Venezuela and a vocal opponent of U.S. intervention, blasted the U.S. attempts to overthrow the Maduro government.

 

“This is a dangerous escalation of a violent sector of the opposition in cooperation with the most violent sector of the Trump administration,” he said during an April 30 discussion about Venezuela on WPFW 89.3 FM. “For Eliot Abrams and Mike Pompeo, this was a gamble. They tricked a number of soldiers and are willing to put people’s lives in danger. The fascist Trump administration is trying to overthrow a government that the majority of Venezuelans voted for.”

“They need to call off the dogs of war. Citizens must press the elites in both parties,” continued Mr. Early, a member of the Institute of Policy Studies’ Board of Trustees.

“This is a threat exercised by a rightwing government and will likely open a civil war and extend wars in Latin America. This is a bloody onslaught of Trump carried out my (Sen.) Marco Rubio. We must stand up to protect the international sovereignty and independence of Venezuela and act as global citizens to aid Venezuela.”

According to Democracy Now, the Trump administration, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and other Latin American leaders openly supported the coup attempt. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business news that military action in Venezuela is possible, “if that’s what is required.”

Alex Main expressed concern for ordinary Venezuelans and said U.S. aggression could lead to civil war. “I was expecting this,” said Mr. Main, director of International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “This administration is hell-bent on producing a military coup. They are putting pressure on the military and civilians with economic sanctions. This shows that from Day 1, the military coup strategy is based on a lot of wishful thinking.”

“Threats and pressure for the U..S government show that they don’t have a plan. This strategy is doomed. They don’t have a Plan B. They should initiate dialogue towards a negotiated settlement but they (The U.S.) has been openly hostile to any dialogue. Maduro is open to dialogue and Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and the Vatican have offered to mediate. That’s where things stand.”

Grayzone journalist Anya Parampil warned during a rally in March in Washington, D.C., that a sustained war is already underway against Venezuela.

“With that gang that has taken over in the White House, anything is possible,” Ms. Parampil told the rally crowd at Lafayette Park. “They have filled the administration with John Bolton and Eliot Abrams. They are creating terror in Venezuela. People are terrified, afraid of a U.S. intervention. One woman I talked to down there said we watched the U.S. destroy Iraq and Syria. And now they want to do the same to us. It’s psychological warfare. The U.S. is creating a pretext for a military invasion, but it didn’t happen. Venezuelans aren’t afraid to fight.”

“We need to recognize that war of Venezuela is already being waged. I don’t believe that we’ll see an Iraq-style war. We have entered a new phase of using the media and the weaponizing international capital and finances. It is financial terrorism. All of this is a direct result of U.S. policy.”

To illustrate Ms. Parampil’s point, earlier this year, the U.S. government seized $7 billion of Venezuelan oils assets from Venezuelan oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), leaving it “at the disposal of the legitimate interim president,” Mr. Guaidó. Meanwhile, after pressure from Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Bolton, The Bank of England is refusing to release 14 tons valued at $1.2 billion to the Venezuelan government and according to Jorge Martin of Marxist.com, Mr. Guaidó has lobbied the British government to put these assets at his disposal as well.

Mr. Bolton has sent threatening tweets such as this one: “My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don’t deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia. We stand ready to continue to take action.”

Ariel Gold is one of several dozen protestors who have occupied the Venezuelan embassy since embassy staff was forced to leave after their visas expired in mid-April.

Ms. Gold, co-national director of Code Pink, has been at the embassy for almost three weeks, as a part of the Embassy Protection Collective. She spoke to Oscar Fernandez of the Latino Media Collective, who moderated the Venezuela discussion on WPFW.

“We’re here under the permission of the only government of Venezuela,” said Ms. Gold. “We’re here because our government is trying to orchestrate yet another coup, must like it did in Libya, Chile and Iraq. We’re here to uphold international law and the principles of democracy. Under international law, the Secret Service and police cannot enter the embassy. Six million people voted for Maduro not Guaidó.”

“I don’t like who is president, but I would be enraged if a European government overthrew Trump and gave us Pelosi. We’re prepared to put our bodies on the line, prepared to go to jail. People power will stop the U.S. government from illegally taking over this embassy.

Patricio Zamorano, editor of the publication produced by the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, said the coup was an abject failure.

“Yes, there’s no doubt that there was an attempted coup. The military mobilized, and they had tanks and weapons. Guaidó lied and said they were in the military base and then Pompeo lied that Maduro had a plane ready to take him to Cuba. They were blocks away on a highway. He called on the military to overthrow the government. This is the narrative of a coup d’etat. But it didn’t happen, it was a failure.”

“This was supposed to be a big coup d’etat. They call it the final liberation moment. And nothing happened. I’m afraid that we give Guaidó too much credit. Thousands of Venezuelans went to Miraflores Palace to support Maduro—about 100,000 people. It was impressive. But this doesn’t correspond to the U.S. narrative. It’s possible that the generals prefer another leader but they won’t give their country to the U.S.”

Mr. Main said the media gave the impression that most of the military were behind the opposition. “It was extraordinary to see the media actions. It is business as usual for the major media,” he said. “They just parroted the White House and extreme neo-cons who are openly talking about U.S. military intervention.”

Mr. Zamorano said he drove up to the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown and interviewed people who support and oppose the Maduro government. D.C. filmmaker Catherine Murphy said she went to the embassy answering the call from activists who put out the call for opponents of U.S. intervention to defend the embassy.

“It was an ugly scene was going down,” said Ms. Murphy, activist, teacher and director of Maestra, a film that chronicles the year that Fidel Castro orchestrated to dramatically increase Cuba’s literacy rate in 1961. “It was so crazy out there. The Venezuelan opposition are all white and reek of privilege based on how they act. It was so aggressive and nasty. I wish I had taken some video.”

“The Venezuelan opposition were right on the edge of being violent. They were insulting people saying nasty disgusting things, making racist, sexist and homophobic comments. They were yelling at members of the embassy staff saying that they knew where he lived and would come to get him. That’s some nasty sh*t. They had bullhorns and emergency sirens and were blasting it forever. It made me think about torture.”

Ms. Murphy, who lived in Venezuela for many years and studied in Cuba, said she got to the embassy at about 1.30 p m. on April 2 and ended up reaching back to her home at 1:00 a.m.

“I couldn’t leave. I was so concerned. The opposition was so horrible. The sirens and yelling went on for 12 f**** hours. The good news is people are still inside. They’re holding it down. The embassy supporters outside held it down too.”

She said representatives of almost a dozen organizations added their support to the Embassy Protection Collective. This includes BYP 100, members of the DMV Black Lives Matter Movement, a Peace and Justice organization from Richmond, the ANSWER Coalition and others.

“The people out here are fascists and the elite who can’t handle losing their privilege. The middle class had made who started to going to literacy classes, voting, organizing, mobilizing and having a dignified place in society and these people can’t get used to that.”

Changing the game: Ice Cube’s battle to buy regional sports networks

NNPA NEWSWIRE — …Ice Cube is looking to take the next step in not only raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, but his personal profile as a Black business mogul. In early April, with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a new deal to have games televised on the CBS network. However, armed with a high-profile group of investors with deep pockets of their own, Ice Cube has a much bigger vision. But reaching that goal won’t come without challenges, or a fight.

By Bryan 18X Crawford and Barrington Salmon, Contributing Writers, The Final Call

More and more, Black athletes and entertainers are looking to expand beyond the field of expertise that gained them fame, notoriety and riches, and leverage these positions to help them make their same mark in the world of business. There are Black people who successfully transitioned from their respective art or sport, turning themselves into well-respected businesspeople and a positive example of what entrepreneurship looks like. The life of the late rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle personifies this point.

However, Ice Cube, Nipsey’s West Coast predecessor and elder—or “O.G.”—in the rap game and one of the founding fathers of the hip-hop genre known as “gangsta rap,” has been blazing big time business trails of his own for the past two decades.

Many are familiar with O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, either from his days as a rapper in the group “N.W.A.,” or from his acting roles in popular movies such as “Boyz In The Hood,” and the “Friday,” “Barbershop,” and “Are We There Yet?” series of films. However, in 2017, Ice Cube decided to delve into previously uncharted business waters by getting involved in professional sports as one of the founders of the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league. The BIG3 features 12 teams coached by former NBA All-Stars and Hall of Famers, with rosters made up of players who have all competed professionally, either in the NBA or overseas. The BIG3 league has become one of the premier events for basketball fans during the summer, a time when there isn’t a lot of competitive professional basketball going on.

Many are familiar with O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, either from his days as a rapper in the group “N.W.A.,” or from his acting roles in popular movies such as “Boyz In The Hood,” and the “Friday,” “Barbershop,” and “Are We There Yet?” series of films. However, in 2017, Ice Cube decided to delve into previously uncharted business waters by getting involved in professional sports as one of the founders of the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league. The BIG3 features 12 teams coached by former NBA All-Stars and Hall of Famers, with rosters made up of players who have all competed professionally, either in the NBA or overseas. The BIG3 league has become one of the premier events for basketball fans during the summer, a time when there isn’t a lot of competitive professional basketball going on.

Now entering its third season, Ice Cube is looking to take the next step in not only raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, but his personal profile as a Black business mogul. In early April, with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a new deal to have games televised on the CBS network. However, armed with a high-profile group of investors with deep pockets of their own, Ice Cube has a much bigger vision. But reaching that goal won’t come without challenges, or a fight.

“The BIG3 is not part of the old boys club and that doesn’t sit well with a company like Charter, which has been called out many times for unfair treatment of minority organizations and for consistent disregard of its own customers,” Ice Cube said in a statement regarding his investor group’s bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks (RSN). The channels include networks in markets such as Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

Ice Cube and the BIG3, should they win the bid, would then have the foundation in place to build a brand new national network with original programming, sports, and other culturally relevant content.

In an April letter written by the BIG3 to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, the company accused Charter Communications of interfering with the BIG3’s investment group—which includes Ice Cube, fellow hip-hop legends LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg, basketball Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Clyde Drexler, tennis star Serena Williams, comedian Kevin Hart, and other prominent figures in sports and entertainment—bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks currently owned by Disney, which the company acquired in its recent merger with FOX. Disney has until June to sell the RSNs if they want to avoid antitrust issues in the future.

BIG3 said that Charter threatened to drop the RSNs from the cable networks it owns should they come under new ownership. Pre-emptively making this threat would effectively lower the current $10 billion price package. However, what makes the move curious is that Liberty Media, Charter’s largest shareholder, is also bidding for the RSNs. Charter has been accused before by a Black man for biased practices. In 2016, Byron Allen filed a $10 billion discrimination suit against the company, accusing them of not giving networks owned by minority groups the same broadcasting opportunities as White-owned media companies.

“In response to our filing, Charter says they are willing to talk to ‘whomever.’ Given their consistent animosity toward diverse ownership groups with inclusive messages like ours, we say we don’t believe them. Anyone who looks at the facts won’t either. They have done everything they can to keep us from owning these RSNs and that’s why we have asked the FCC and the DOJ to investigate,” Ice Cube said in a statement.

In response to the letter, Charter didn’t explicitly push back against the allegations, saying, “Charter currently has an agreement to carry these networks and welcomes the opportunity to discuss a future carriage agreement for these networks with whoever ultimately owns them, including Big3. Regardless of who owns the programming, we approach all negotiations with the same singular objective of reaching carriage agreements that best meet the needs of our customers.”

The BIG3 met on April 17 with the antitrust division of the DOJ, two days after the deadline to enter bids for the RSNs. Others in the bidding include conservative media company Sinclair Broadcast Group, Major League Baseball in partnership with Liberty Media.

At Final Call press time, it was unclear if anything regarding the sale had been resolved.

Cori Harvey, an attorney who specializes in business law, economics and entrepreneurship, said the mere fact that Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Serena Williams and other athletes and entertainers have joined forces to purchase the sports channels is deeply significant. He predicts a ripple effect on Blacks and the larger Black community.

“If this succeeds, even the attempt I think, represents movement along a much-needed path,” said Ms. Harvey, a former law professor at Florida A&M University. It shows that it takes generations to shift into this space of access and mentorship. African Americans have had to build across generations. This is also our Horatio Alger story. Hip hop and sports is often how we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.”

“This is a coming-of-age story. This is an example of employees buying the company. It shows that many hands make light work.”

Dr. Wilmer Leon, III, agreed.

“This is incredibly, incredibly important if we’re ever going to have a chance of moving our situation forward,” he said. “We’re seeing major assets and more media assets falling into fewer and fewer hands.”

 

Dr. Leon, who teaches at Howard University, said it is gratifying to see this clique of celebrities coalescing around a common goal. It’s important, he added, that the group appears to have the financial wherewithal to withstand whatever challenges they may face.

“They are not immune (to being derailed) but their financial wherewithal gives them a definite mechanism to withstand challenges,” said Dr. Leon, the political scientist, author, columnist and talk show host. “These resources put them at another level. They’ll have resources to pay an attorney like Willie Gary.”

The most immediate challenge is apparently Channel Communications and Liberty Media. According to the New York Post, BIG3 accuses Charter Communications of conspiring with Liberty Media and the owner of the Atlanta Braves and was trying “to pollute the bidding process.”

Ms. Harvey said, without knowing all the details, if Charter and Liberty Media may have engaged in, these tactics, it may be simply cut throat business as usual.

“I think a part of this is learning how to function in this environment,” she said. “It may not necessarily be a race-based issue. This may be a competitive obstacle. Some people may react viscerally to Black people seeking to jump into the bidding, but the Black celebrities are dealing with people who have had generations of exposure to this playing field. We see people battling for six inches of land, not willing to give up an inch of ground. Business is no different.”

“This is the cost of doing business. Throwing money to thwart the opposition isn’t unusual. It’s a part of the game, a part of the business. They are creating barriers to entry for all competition.”

Dr. Leon said those entering business and other arenas should come prepared to make a difference. “The only way to change the game is that you gotta play the game,” he said. “And the only way to win the game is to play the game. It may be a White man’s game, but I’m not ready to give it to them yet.”

Ms. Harvey said she’s struck by the positive turn this development represents.

“What jumps out is this is a shining light because many of these ills in the Black community are because of the impact of the hip hop culture of consumerism and violence,” said Ms. Harvey, a former Philadelphia public defender. “This a good foil.”

Dr. Leon argued the ownership group should seek to use the venture as more than a more investment. “If your belief system is not focused on the liberation of your people, it’s a waste of time,” he said.

Ms. Harvey disagreed with Dr. Leon’s premise, while noting the importance of what the ownership group is attempting to do. “We don’t have enough archetypes,” she said. “I’m sick of the fact that the only available archetypes are the drug dealer, hip hop artists and athletes. We often don’t have enough role models at high levels. Fourteen-year-old Black boys’ role models need to be a Black man in a suit. The image of Barack Obama and his beautiful, strong, Black family is something all of us can aspire to. All we can imitate is what we see.”

From bad to worse? America’s eroding race relations

Originally Published in the FINAL CALL, APRIL 24, 2019

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON -CONTRIBUTING WRITER-

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Charlottesville Protesters clash with white identity extremists August 12, 2017

A new report produced by the Pew Research Center reveals what many Blacks in America knew and what a majority of Americans now acknowledge: “that race relations are generally bad,” with many holding the belief that “the country hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality.”

The study, “Race in America, 2019,” illustrates the deep fissures between Black and White Americans, as well as between Democrats and Republicans, stubborn racial animus and an unwillingness of many Whites to acknowledge the damage racism has caused, none of which bodes well for America or its future.

About 70 percent of Black people say race relations are terrible, with half saying they think it’s unlikely that Blacks will eventually have equal rights with Whites. Black people are particularly disillusioned about the country’s racial progress. More than 80 percent of Black adults say the legacy of slavery affects their position in America today, including 59 percent who say it affects it a great deal. A plurality of Americans (45 percent) say the country hasn’t gone far enough in fostering the conditions for Black people to enjoy equal rights with Whites. Thirty-nine percent say it’s been about right and 15 percent say the country hasn’t gone too far. Black adults stand on the other side of the chasm and are by far the most likely to say the country hasn’t gone far enough— 78 percent, compared with 37 percent of Whites and 48 percent of Hispanics.

The divisions are most stark when respondents’ political party affiliation is taken into consideration. While 64 percent of White Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the country hasn’t gone far enough in giving Blacks equal rights with Whites, only 15 percent of Republicans and those leaning Republican say the same. About a third of White Republicans (31 percent) say the country has gone too far, compared with five percent of White Democrats.

Prof. Robin Marcus, a Georgetown University Teacher of Writing, said things have gotten worse in recent years. There’s been a “kind of larger acceptance of people’s inclination to hate and be intolerant,” she explained.

She and others said the pervasive and virulent strain of racism that has reared its head since Donald Trump took office is just a reminder of the reality that racism is etched deeply into America’s DNA.

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Anti-racism protest march in Maumee, Ohio, Aug. 13, 2017.

“I think this nation has always had a type of White American with a sense that the country belonged to them,” Prof. Marcus said. “They have been inculcated with the belief, in their historical DNA, that this was/is their birthright. There was never any attempt to resist the notion of their right to dominate.

“This feels right and natural to a lot of white people. In fact, in the last few years, there’s been a rising tide all over the world of White people alarmed by the rising tide of blackness. It is the strain of American whiteness that has had enough and found a leader who’s so overtly for them. He’s gotten in the house and opened all the doors.

The Pew study found that majorities of Whites, Blacks and Hispanics say race relations are dismal and many believe they’re getting worse. Those who say race relations are generally bad are particularly pessimistic, with 69 percent of that group saying race relations are getting worse, compared with 30 percent of those who say race relations are generally good.

A majority of Americans – 56 percent – say President Trump has made race relations worse. Further, 15 percent say he has made progress toward improving race relations, 13 percent say he has tried but failed and 14 percent say he has not addressed the issue. Most Blacks, Hispanics and Asians believe that President Trump has made race relations worse, while about half of Whites say the same.

Dr. Shaun R. Harper agreed with Prof. Marcus that the Pew report revealed nothing new.

“I will say that these results do not surprise me but I am disappointed that we’re still here as a nation,” said Dr. Harper, the executive director of the University of California’s Race and Equity Center. “If we think about the segregated lives people live it’s no surprise. There’s not much meaningful racial interaction and most schools are increasingly segregated along race and class lines.”

He said this segregation is a choice for and made by White people. Many Blacks and Latinos don’t have much of a choice because of the vast disparities in race and wealth.

“White people have a choice to not live around other people,” said Dr. Harper, an expert in minorities, gender and higher education. “These are not new phenomenon, they are very longstanding trends and threads that go back to slavery. And they’re not residual but deep-rooted.”

Since ascending to the White House, President Trump has proven to be a full-throated supporter of White nationalism charge critics. His rhetoric and policies are illustrative of his disdain and hatred for Black Americans, Latinos and non-White immigrants. He has the support of former Klan Grand Wizard David Dukes, Neo-Nazis and other White nationalist groups; called Haiti and African countries “shitholes”; described Mexicans as murderers and rapists; caged undocumented immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S.; and has implemented or tried to implement policies designed to punish, block or expel African, Hispanic and other non-whites from America.

Milwaukee native Dr. Ramel Kweku Akyirefi Smith said Black Americans are dealing with the White backlash of an Obama presidency.

“In 2004, people were blown away by Barack Obama when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Some people said we were living in a post-racial society,” said Dr. Smith, a licensed therapist, activist, professor and author. “Before and since he left office, we’ve seen the venom spew out in a very overt and covert manner. No president has gone through what Obama did.

“And now we have Trump. This is where the Hitler brilliance of Donald Trump comes in. He’s not stupid. He tapped into the deepest, darkest parts of Middle America. He played on their fears. He called Mexicans rapists and with every problem, he blames Barack Obama and all the rest of the Black community.” Dr. Smith said President Trump has acted with “deviant brilliance.” “Look what he did to Sister (Rep. IIhan) Omar. His words have led to her life being threatened. He’s constantly changing, causes confusion. He’s done a masterful job. Meanwhile, 95 of 102 judges in circuit court have been filled with White men who think like him. He is slowly turning this democracy into a fascist, authoritarian state,”  he said.

“People emboldened, say things they never would. The president sets the tone. He is loose with the lips, shows no respect, and has engaged in outright criminal behavior, hypocritical behavior. When you have a leader who sets this tone, he unleashes people who wanted to do this all along.”

America, Dr. Smith said, isn’t a country but a corporation, so the idea of Americans fighting for the soul of America is an incorrect analogy.

“This country never had a soul,” he asserted. “If we really are a democracy, would a small group of people run and control everything? Why would we be given people to select for president? This country serves big business and corporations. We’re all modern-day sharecroppers one paycheck from ruin.”

Plessy vs. Ferguson, mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, redlining, widespread discrimination, and the state-sanctioned murders of Travyon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Rekia McBride and countless other Black men, women and children, are just some of the roots and by-products of racism, Dr. Smith said.

“But they would point to people like Jay Z and show that they acceded to that level of American society and posterized it to make it seem as if anyone of us could do that,” he said.

Drs. Harper, Smith and Prof. Marcus said it’s imperative that African Americans and their allies use every tool at their disposal to fight back against institutional racism.

“I am an optimist. One of my favorite scholars is Derek Bell, one who is often misunderstood,” Dr. Harper said of Dr. Bell, who is credited with developing the Critical Race Theory. “He talked about the ‘permanence of racism’ thesis—of ordinary, everyday and deeply entrenched racism in all areas of our lives—schools, housing, the way resources are allocated—he argued that we’re stuck with it.

“People misread him as being a pessimist but he talked about where we are and where we have been. Four-to-500 years of evidence shows that this isn’t going to go away soon. Dr. Bell says we have to fight against racism institutionally. Black people have to demand that Whites assume more responsibility for cleaning up the mess they made, and I also think we have to form stronger coalitions with others facing this racism such as underserved groups, such as Pacific Islanders and Latinos.”

The Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins calls himself a pragmatist, but said while he’s troubled by the retrenchment of racism and the animus and anger that accompanies it, he remains optimist, as well.

“Racial issues and animosities are growing. I don’t know how anyone can say otherwise,” said Rev. Harkins, senior vice president for Innovations in Public Programming at Union Theological Seminary. “We’re in a very divided point in history but I’m very optimistic. This is different now than with Obama because people feel emboldened. I think we’ll get on the other side of this but electing someone in 2020 won’t be enough.

There are a lot of ugly sores now laid bare. Fixing this may be generational, it may take much longer,” he sighed. “I think because we’re at a demographic turning point – 2040 – and we’re seeing it now. This is what Trump exploits. We’re seeing a heightened sense of fear and insecurity for people in control. What’s going on at the border represents fear and insecurity unfolding.”

As Whites try to hold onto their power, Rev. Harkins said, retail politics will be a key to reversing the trend.

“The next few years will be telling. We need to have a sense of purpose and resolve and leverage our vote,” said Rev. Harkins, who served as national director of Faith Outreach for the Democratic National Committee, and advised the Obama administration on faith-related issues. “We need to vote for people who appoint judges who understand and are empathetic to the marginalized and disadvantaged. It’s frustrating because it’s sometimes hard to motivate them. It’s amazing that poor and marginalized Whites support politicians and policies that are against their self-interests.

Dr. Smith described racism as “a toxic disease where White people don’t want to understand because they’ve been indoctrinated that way.”

“The system as we know it is dysfunctional, unable to heal itself,” he said. “We’re in a state of inertia. When we’re willing to rise up, then the needle will move. The 1 percent manipulate the rest of us while the real leaders are invisible. America is on an automatic cycle. Weapons, drugs, illegal businesses and human trafficking controls America. We have to recognize the real enemy. What we need to do is build an army but if we’re not willing to sacrifice jobs, titles, material goods, even our lives, we’ll continue to be prisoners of this system.”

White nationalism, a worldwide threat unlikely to cease

Originally Published in The Final Call on March 25, 2019 – 2:24:26 PM

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON -CONTRIBUTING WRITER- |

The murder of at least 50 Muslims in New Zealand—struck down during Jumu’ah, traditional Friday congregational prayers—was the latest mass killing of Muslims, Blacks or others by White extremists intent on attacking innocent people they despise and hoping to start a race war.

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A woman holds a sign reading “No more White Terrorism” at a rally close to Finsbury Park Mosque in London, UK on March 15. The rally was organised by Stand up to Racism in response to the recent shooting in New Zealand. At least one gunman killed 50 people and wounded more than 50 during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques. Photo: Claire Doherty/Sipa USA; Sipa via AP Images

The victims were at the Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in Christchurch, the country’s capital, when the gunman burst in and opened fire. Witnesses said he shot into people on the ground and went back to his vehicle at least once to reload.

 New Zealand authorities say at least another 50 worshippers were injured and the alleged gunman was later arrested. A young Muslim man confronted the armed attacker, who dropped his weapon, fled, and was later apprehended by police.

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Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 16 where one of the two mass shootings occurred. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Baker

The prime minister characterized March 14 as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” and called the massacre “an unprecedented act of violence.” The terror attack drew global condemnation and expressions of solidarity for Muslims and the “Kiwi” nation. Four days later, the prime minister said lawmakers had essentially agreed to tighten gun laws in the country. The single-day murders in Christchurch equaled the average number of murders in the country for a year and the broader and global community joined Muslims in mourning as they buried their dead.

The suspected killer, a 28-year-old Australian, wrote a manifesto outlining the reasons for his actions. Brenton Tarrant described resenting immigrants in New Zealand and countries in Europe he visited. He wrote that while touring Western Europe in 2017, an Uzbek man killed five people after he drove a truck into a crowd in Stockholm, Sweden. He was enraged by the death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl.

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Ash Mohammed, right, talks to a police officer about his father and two broth- ers who were missing near the Masjid Al-Noor mosque, site of one of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand March 16. Photo: AP Photo/ Mark Baker

The accused mass murderer, said he trained for the attack for three months in New Zealand, but had been plotting for two years. While in New Zealand, he decided it was an acceptable place for his deadly rampage. By attacking that country, Mr. Tarrant allegedly would show no place on earth was safe—and that even a country as far away as New Zealand was tainted by immigration.

The gunman credited mass shootings in the U.S. with inspiring him to kill immigrants. He also praised President Trump. The suspect idolized American, Canadian and other White nationalist mass shooters and had White supremacist lingo emblazoned on his weapon.

The alleged shooter did not have a criminal record and “was not known to authorities in connection with far-right violence,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a press conference March 16 in New Zealand. The onetime personal trainer began legally buying guns last December, had two semiautomatic weapons, two shotguns, and a lever-action firearm, she said. Authorities in Australia raided properties belonging to members of the alleged killer’s family March 18.

What happened in Christchurch isn’t an aberration or a one-off.

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Brenton Tarrant

Seventy-seven people died in a massacre by a White terrorist in Norway a few years ago. Last year, a White nationalist gunman killed 11 worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill. Another White gunman shot two Black shoppers dead in a supermarket in Louisville, Kentucky; a then-21-year-old White boy killed nine church members in Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 because he resented what he saw as Blacks taking over. Similar incidents have occurred with depressing regularity in Europe, the UK, Canada, Denmark and other parts of the White world.

Meanwhile, burgeoning White resentment is reflected not just in shootings, but demonstrations, the emergence of political movements and other means of expressing perceived outrage and racial resentment.

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A police officer directs pedestrians neat the site of one of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Baker

President Trump’s rise and popularity, his supporters’ view of him as their champion; his statements and policies, his remarks about race and his denigrating and condescending remarks about “the other” and his defense of White nationalists are well known. 

Wider afield, incendiary and racist statements by Iowa Republican Steve King about protecting White civilization and society, anti-Islamic violence in America and Europe, the rise and power of the right wing in Europe, the UK and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s visits to Europe indicate an ideology on the march.

Asha Castleberry, a foreign relations expert, said attacks by White terrorists are consistent with the rise of populism and rightwing movements and governments in Europe, the U.S. and Latin and Central America.

“Global extremism is at its peak. Extremists are targeting immigrants, Muslims and other non-Whites,” she told The Final Call. “Look at Brexit and Muslims targeted in Belgium, France and other European cities. These are inspired by nativism and populism ties in with this extremism. We’re seeing the growth of social movements that embrace nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment and action.”

Ms. Castleberry said those drawn to such movements tend to feel they’ve been marginalized by the system.

“They feel disenfranchised, are unhappy and are driven by emotion, which makes the movement erratic,” she argued. “Populist movements are short-term because they lack an objective. Donald Trump embodies that. He isn’t good thinking long-term, makes decisions on the spot and promotes the idea of isolationism.”

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NYPD increasing security at mosques and places of worship in light of the New Zealand attacks. Photo: MGN Online

She said the U.S. president bears a good deal of responsibility for these terror attacks because he liberally uses White nationalist rhetoric and by word and deed, has emboldened White nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, White militias and other groups and individuals. 

When asked at a White House event March 15 if he saw White nationalism as a rising problem, unsurprising, President Trump said no, downplaying the threat. “I don’t really, I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case,” he said. “I don’t know enough about it yet … but it’s certainly a terrible thing.”

But despite his denials, Mr. Trump cannot escape his role in empowering the reappearance of overt White nationalism. In his manifesto, the alleged gunman called the president “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Labor union organizer Bill Fletcher said the president has demonized Black people, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims and other Brown or foreign people inside and out of this country. Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, critics contend, is feeding an upsurge in hate crime, violence against “others” and even murder.

FBI.jpgThe Federal Bureau of Investigation released data at the end of last year showing the number of hate crimes reported to the bureau rose about 17 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. 2017 is the latest year for which those statistics are available. It is the third-straight year that incidents of hate crime rose. But, according to the feds, only about 50 percent of hate crime victims report incidents to authorities. Blacks, Jewish Americans and members of the LGBTQ community were the top three targets of hate crimes. 

But over the last decade, the overwhelming majority of murders linked to domestic terrorism have been committed by White nationalists or White supremacists.

Mr. Fletcher, who is also a talk show host and racial justice activist, said White terrorists need to be dealt with firmly and ruthlessly.

“There are a few things that have to be factored in such as self-defense,” he explained. “Every mosque needs to have armed guards. They need to take them out. That will send a very important lesson: If they (White nationalists) attack, they get wiped out.”

“The nature of rightwing populism is violence based upon articulating that there’s an existential threat to White people, so how can you be surprised? They attack a mosque, you have to smash them. There should be no tolerance for right wing populists. They encouraging violence and they have to be stopped,” Mr. Fletcher added.

Dr. Wilmer Leon, III, agreed with Mr. Fletcher’s assessments.

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Masjid Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand

 “This is White supremacy. These White people are afraid of being annihilated from the planet,” Dr. Leon said. “The one thing this guy talked about was immigration … the one thing that links all these nuts together is annihilation: ‘Immigrants are taking over my space.’ ”

“Ninety percent of attacks are Europeans and European-Americans against people of color,” Dr. Leon continued. “We’re encroaching on their economic space, cultural space, music and food, and encroaching on their genetic space. They have always been the minority in the world, but always seen themselves as a dominant force in the world but that’s only because they have such a truncated view of the world.”

“Yes, this is the new normal at least for the rest of my lifetime and well beyond that,” Dr. Leon predicted soberly. “This is not going to be resolved anytime soon. Because we’re not going anywhere and we have biological superiority. Yes, it is the new normal, because the economic elites don’t want to come to grips with the fundamental reality of the chaos that they cause.”

 

No Safe Spaces for Black People

No Safe Black Space?

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON CONTRIBUTING WRITER @BSALMONDC | LAST UPDATED: DEC 31, 2018 – 12:34:35 PM

Hate targeted the Black community from the beginning to the end of 2018.  Incidents continued to pop up around the United States with depressing regularity: Black folks being confronted and challenged by random White people acting out of the belief that they have the right to govern and monitor Black bodies.

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Byron Ragland addresses reporters in front of a frozen-yogurt shop Nov. 20, in Kirkland, Wash. The police department there has apologized for an incident in which officers helped the owner of the Menchie’s shop expel Ragland, an African-American man, from the business because employees said they felt uncomfortable. The Seattle Times reported that the shop’s owner called police on Nov. 7 about Ragland, who works as a court-appointed special advocate, who was in the shop supervising a court-sanctioned outing between a mother and her son. Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

At every turn, Black people were prevented from going about their business or engaging in normal behavior because some White person deemed their behavior criminal or dangerous. 

Whites, primarily women, called cops on Black people of all ages including—a Black child selling bottled water in front of the apartment she lives in; Black people barbecuing in an Oakland, Calif., park; Black men trying to enter their apartments; a Black Harvard student sleeping in the common area of a dorm building; a Black teen riding in a car with his White grandmother; a Black man trying to cash a check from his employer; a Black male caregiver babysitting two White children; a Black woman canvassing a neighborhood while running for political office; and Black women golfing too slowly. And that’s just what was captured on cellphone videos.

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In this file image taken from a Dec. 19 video provided by SNJTODAY.COM, Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson gets his hair cut minutes before his match in Buena, N.J., after a referee told Johnson he would forfeit his bout if he did not have his dreadlocks cut off. A lawyer for Johnson is suggesting the impromptu hair cut was due in part to the referee’s tardiness. Buena Regional High School wrestler Johnson, who is Black, had a cover over his hair, but referee Alan Maloney, who is White, said that wouldn’t do. Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

Dr. Ramel Kweku Akyirefi Smith said unjust policing of Black bodies is one facet of a pervasive and persistent war being waged against Black people. He spoke of his anger and frustration he feels every time he hears or reads about the death of a Black man, woman or child at the hands of law enforcement. In too many cases, he said, the victims were minding their own business­— such as 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin or 23-year-old Korryn Gaines. 

“My thing is this, we’re at war and have to be ready,” said Dr. Smith, a Milwaukee-based psychologist and mental performance coach. “We have to be very vigilant and stay in a state of warfare. I remember Min. Farrakhan talking about being pulled over and the cop tried to bait him. He kept calm. But even if you act like he did, you could end up being shot, beaten or arrested. Cops act with impunity and have a certain amount of impunity.” He was referring to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.

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White people have taken to governing the way Black people style their hair. School administrators have sent Black students’ home for sporting locs, twists, braids and Afros; employers have told workers that their Black-centric hairstyles are inappropriate in the workplace; the courts have sided with companies; and the military has flip-flopped several times recently about what it deems appropriate styling. 

A recent incident thrusting this assault on Black existence to light created national outrage, inflamed passions across the United States and angered Dr. Smith and others because of the blatant nature of the racist act. On Dec 19, a White referee with a documented history of racist behavior, ordered Andrew Johnson, a Buena Regional High School wrestler, to cut his dreadlocks before competing or forfeit the match.

“This hit close to me because I wrestled in high school and what I saw pissed me off,” said Dr. Smith, a licensed therapist, author, educator and former consultant to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. “When you weigh in, they do everything, check everything. For the referee to wait and not forewarn him … What really pissed me off is that coaches didn’t walk out. This was a way to say ‘Nigger this ain’t what we do. If you don’t assimilate to our ways, you can’t participate in our games.’ Now this young man has to live with this forever. This was trauma-induced despite him doing the right thing and is a microcosm of the racism we deal with on a daily basis,” he continued.

“The punishment for everyone involved has to be so harsh that they wouldn’t even think about doing this again.”

Philadelphia resident Kimberly Rollins expressed deep anger as well. She was so upset about what happened to the young wrestler that she took to Facebook Live to vent her frustration.

“I was on Twitter, following my people and I saw a post from Shaun King. During the wrestling match, the ref said the young man had to cut off his locs,” said Ms. Rollins, owner and operator of Oxsun Salon and a beauty image consultant. “I was really pissed about what I saw. It resonated because they took something from him that he can’t get back. It felt like a whipping and rather than the whole team walk out, a White coach cut his hair and they talked about him being a team player. He cuts his hair, goes back into the match, wins the match,” said Ms. Rollins.

“(This) racism and this oppression that you continually perpetuate upon us is making me crazy,” Ms. Rollins said in the first of two Facebook postings about the issue. “When has hair ever murdered anyone? When has hair ever oppressed anyone? When has hair teargassed a women at the border? When did our hair become a physical threat to anyone? Not for one second can you justify this young man’s hair, having to cut his hair off. He wasn’t a team player, he was the sacrificial lamb. Who’s going to step up and when is this ref going to be fired?”

In the second posting, Ms. Rollins said she wanted to be proactive versus being reactive and asked anyone who might know Andrew Johnson to link them up.

“I will start his locs over for him,” she explained. “I don’t know if he has a stylist or loctition but in the event that he doesn’t, I’ll offer him a complimentary service to restart them. I support you, honor you and respect you as the wrestler and champion you really are.”

Andrew Johnson’s mother, Rosa Santiago-Johnson, said on Facebook that it was the hardest thing she’d ever seen, saying her son was “good now” but that his ordeal was “brutal emotionally and physically.”

Referee Andrew Maloney has been pulled from officiating any subsequent games while the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association investigates. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey weighed in, declaring in a tweet: “This is not about hair. This is about race. How many different ways will people try to exclude Black people from public life without having to declare their bigotry?”

Hate crimes escalate

“The economy is getting worse and people are looking for someone to blame,” Caleb Maupin, journalist and political analyst told The Final Call.  “Tensions that have been long brewing below the surface are starting to erupt.” Those tensions erupted all across the country.

In a Phoenix, Arizona, high school play, three students walked down the middle of an assembly dressed as the KKK. “They were in hooded robes,” said a parent who wanted to remain anonymous.  The audience was stunned.

At a Baraboo, Wisconsin, high school, 50 male students were photographed in a widely-shared social media image that appeared to show students giving the Nazi salute. A Black Baraboo student told reporters he’s worn headphones to drown out hearing the N-word at school.

Gregory Bush, a White man, is accused of fatally shooting Vickie Lee Jones and Maurice E. Stallard at a Kentucky supermarket after he had tried to enter the predominantly-Black First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown. Church members saw him outside aggressively trying to open the door.  He drove away when he couldn’t get inside.

The list of hate incidents and crimes in America continued to grow.  Hate crimes/incidents rose 17 percent in 2017, the third consecutive year of increases, according to the FBI Hate Crime Statistics released November 13.  Blacks, again, top the list as nearly half of all race/ethnicity/ancestry motivated hate crimes.

“The increase in reported hate crimes is a chilling reminder that we must redouble our efforts to combat the rise in hate crimes and hate-inspired incidents across the country. We are especially concerned about hate incidents directed at African Americans and other racial minorities which reflects the toxic rhetoric and racially divisive policies that we too often see at the federal level,” explained the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a statement. 

Ms. Rollins, Dr. Smith and many others blame the toxic racial environment on the occupant of the White House. Since he assumed office, President Donald Trump has pursued a strategy and policy of racial division, the scapegoating and demonization of Blacks, Latinos, immigrants and others, argue critics.

Mr. Trump has continued with a steady negative drumbeat, inciting fear in White people and warning that Whites will soon be overrun by the Black and Brown hordes. He called Black players in the National Football League “sons of bitches” for kneeling in protest against racial injustice, intolerance and police brutality. And he directed scorn and derision towards strong and powerful Black women, including U.S. Congresspersons Maxine Waters and Frederica Wilson; former Ambassador Susan Rice; sports journalist Jemele Hill; and White House reporters April Ryan, Yamiche Alcindor and Abby Phillip.

Mr. Trump’s eschewing of political correctness, politeness and civility has emboldened other Whites who have seized upon the opportunity to confront, question and challenge Black people in just about every social venue and call police “just because.”

Ms. Rollins, mother of a 12-year-old daughter, said Black Americans are under siege.

“A lot of this creation of unsafe spaces for Black people is Trump’s fault. White people were sitting at the gates of hell waiting for permission,” she said. “Whites and others have infiltrated our safe spaces. There is public support for this type of behavior and no repercussions for what they’re doing. Hate crimes rose under Obama and they’re through the roof now,” added Ms. Rollins.

“The perpetuation of the marketing of race and oppression continues. We’re not in control, never were. It’s crazy and it’s untenable. Something’s going to happen. I think the bubble will burst. A race war isn’t far-fetched. You can feel it in the air and it’s so sad. I’m leaving this country.”

Karen Fleshman, a San Francisco-based anti-racism educator and founder of Racy Conversations, echoed what experts, Black scholars, historians and others already know: that the phenomenon of White people and women calling the cops and asserting authority is nothing new.

“It was present during slavery, Jim Crow and what happened to Emmitt Till,” she told The Final Call. “The National Rifle Association has an ad with a White woman saying she’s unsafe and feels so secure now that her husband has a gun. This is a longstanding practice and way of behavior with White women. It stems from a deep dissatisfaction and anger of their role in society and they take it out on Black people.”

Ms. Fleshman, an attorney and activist, said blaming Black people makes no sense. White women should be taking out their anger and frustrations on the White men who are oppressing them but they don’t. Historically and now, most White women act against their own self-interest, siding most times with White men.

Ms. Fleshman, who is White, calls the targeting and criminalization of normal Black behavior “disturbing and sick.” She recently penned an “Open Letter to White Women” and released a video expressing her worry and concern.

“I’m profoundly disturbed but not surprised by the spate of White, college-educated women calling police on people of color for absurd reasons,” she said in the video. “… why are White women so miserable and angry White women? And why are we taking our anger and frustration out on people of color who have done nothing to harm us? Black women have been trying, telling us for centuries that you can’t end sexism without ending racism. It won’t work. White women, everybody hates us. And with the exception of White men, we’ve earned that hatred through our lack of self-awareness and empathy.”

The “mask of civility” of White people will continue to come off as they become more angry, Min. Farrakhan forewarned. “As Caucasians begin to feel ‘threatened,’ and their ‘security’ is compromised, ‘the mask of civility’ comes off—and then you see murder coming out of their hearts and their eyes,” warned Min. Farrakhan in part 27 of his lecture series, The Time and What Must Be Done.

“It is the same in France; it is the same in Belgium.  It is the same in Norway and Sweden, and Finland, and Denmark.  It is the same in Germany, and in Russia.  All over our planet, the hatred of Black is manifesting,” said the Minister.

Dr. Smith observed that there’s nothing he’s seen and no current establishment institution that gives him any confidence that the conditions and circumstances confronting Black people will change. Consequently, Africans in America must be cautious, fight back and protect themselves and their families, he said.

“We have to somehow defend ourselves or we’re prey,” he said. “Power respects power. Maybe we need to speak their language. You don’t want to send people to a slaughter but they have to understand that if someone gets struck, there’s a vanguard. We have to be strategic,” said Dr. Smith.

“We’re not going to change what’s here,” he continued. “We need a new political party that breaks away from the Democrats and Republicans. It will take a new generation to rise up. We need a movement.” (Nisa Islam Muhammad and Final Call staff contributed to this report)