Patrisse Khan-Cullers on Black Lives Matter and Activism

‘We Have to Show Up Now to Build the World We Want to See’: BLM Co-Founder on the Importance of Activism

The new “Black Minds Matter” course will be open for enrollment in October.   (Photo by SAM COSTANZA/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

In Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” the character Malvolio said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” If you substitute the word “greatness” with “activism,” that aptly explains the arc of activism and community involvement that has been so much a part of Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ life.

Khan-Cullors said her activism began in childhood. The California native has, for much of her young life, been at the forefront of activism in her home city and other parts of the country, beginning as a little girl when she became aware of the disparities between blacks and whites and the pervasive police brutality visited on black and brown people.

One of the most poignant aspects of her story is the vulnerability she and others experienced.

“The mass incarceration of first our fathers and later our mothers made our lives entirely unsafe,” she wrote. “There were almost no adults who were there, present to love and nurture and defend and protect us.”

In a 2014 interview, Khan-Cullors told this reporter that her activism was rooted in the belief that Black people can’t wait on the state to take care of our Black lives. Her activism, she said, is fueled by a desire to create safe spaces and provide an array of opportunities for Black men, women and children to grow and develop.

“We have to show up now to build the world we want to see,” she said before she traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, where with the help of New York writer and activist Darnell Moore, she helped coordinate national freedom rides on Labor Day weekend that brought hundreds of activists from cities as varied as Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Chicago to protest the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. “There needs to be a reinvestment back into our communities. That’s what activists and other organizers I’ve been talking to and meeting with have been discussing.”

Khan-Cullors, 34, is most well known as a co-founder, with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, of Black Lives Matter, the global social justice organization created five years ago. She is on a national book tour to publicize her new book “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir,” co-written with author and activist asha bandele. In it, Khan-Cullors speaks poignantly and with searing honesty about growing up poor and oppressed in Los Angeles. When asked who she wrote the book for, Khan-Cullors was clear.

“This is a coming-of-age story for young black girls,” she told Atlanta Black Star. “I wanted to challenge the idea that only way to be successful is to abandon our neighborhoods and work for corporations. There are young women who stayed in the community. I feel honored to be a part of the tradition of resistance and the civil rights movement, but it’s been exhausting.”

Khan-Cullors added, “I would describe it as important and necessary to bring some of these stories together about the larger society generally, and explore the war on drugs on Black families.”

In her childhood, Khan-Cullors recalls, police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were a constant and menacing presence in her Van Nuys community, more occupying force than vehicle of service to residents. She was arrested for smoking weed when she was 12, and several of her family members also got entangled in the criminal justice system, including her father and a brother who, while struggling with mental illness, she said was brutalized by police and ended up behind bars.

“I witnessed consistent policing, militarized policing. I witnessed the impact mass incarceration had on my family members,” she told host Amy Goodman during a Jan 16 interview on “Democracy Now!” “The most early memories for me were my home being raided by LAPD and LAPD lighting up my siblings and their friends, at 11, 13 years old, stopping and frisking them. And this became our normal in our neighborhood, even though I knew it was not normal.”

“I could feel the humiliation in every stop, in every moment LAPD was around. I could feel the impact it had on my mother. I could feel it in our community. And I knew that we shouldn’t be living this way. I knew that there was more for us.”

Going to a mostly white school allowed the young Khan-Cullors to see the distinct differences between how Black and white children were treated, she said.

These experiences led Khan-Cullors, a social activist, organizer and artist, to confront the US power structure and demand police accountability, the end to state-sanctioned murders of primarily unarmed African-Americans and people of color, sensible alternatives to mass incarceration and the provision of mental health services for affected individuals, as opposed to jails.

Khan-Cullors, director of truth and reinvestment at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, said local, county, state and federal government have routinely dis-invested in Black neighborhoods and communities of color for decades. One solution, she argues, is re-investment in quality health care, education, jobs, food and shelter. But that won’t happen without concerted pressure from those most affected and by electing radical politicians to seats of power.

“Communities of color and poor communities in particular have been completely divested from,” she said. “We have very little infrastructure to access healthy food, jobs, shelter, a quality education, and so on.”

Khan-Cullors’ recognition of the importance of reinvestment has led to her involvement in projects aimed at forcing elected officials, law enforcement and government entities to reimagine what reinvestment might look like. For example, she spearheaded and partnered with more than 30 organizations last year to launch JusticeLA, a human rights and abolitionist coalition which has coalesced around stopping a proposed $2 billion plan to expand the jail in Los Angeles County. Last fall members of the coalition demonstrated in front of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration just ahead of the weekly Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“The role I play is coordinator — bringing people together to challenge the $3.5 billion jail plan — and reallocate(ing) that money into community-based solutions,” she told a Complex Magazine reporter. “The lead coalition members are Dignity and Power Now, a local grassroots organization that has been doing a lot of amazing work around challenging the issues of jail violence. We also have YJC [Youth Justice Coalition], which is a youth-led organization.”

According to data provided by Khan-Cullors, Los Angeles County has about 17,000 prisoners behind bars, with 80 percent of them Black and Latino. As many as 60 percent of the inmates in L.A. County jails are there because they’re poor, and have not been convicted of any sort of crime, Khan-Cullors said.


“We can’t jail ourselves out of these problems, but what we can do is get people access to jobs so they’re not stealing,” said Khan-Cullors.

She said Los Angeles residents need mental health care services, with some suffering from PTSD or severe mental illness, and access to housing to combat homelessness.

“They are very simple answers, but the question for our county is, ‘Do you want to do it?’” she asked. 

To date, Khan-Cullors said, the protesters haven’t been able to convince city leaders to accede to any of their demands or redirect the trajectory of the planned project, but she said she remains committed and mindful of the power of collective voices, as evidenced by the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.


Khan-Cullors, a queer woman and 2012 Fulbright Scholar, continues to travel widely, lecturing and receiving accolades and awards for her organization and activism and her association with the Black Lives Matter movement.

She recalls that Black Lives Matter (#BLM) started with a simple love note online, despite the fury and grief she, Tometi and Garza felt after an all-white jury in Sanford, Florida, acquitted Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, of manslaughter and second-degree murder charges.

She said she sees #BLM as the next-gen manifestation of the Black Panther Party and the modern civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shaped by those who came before, and she asserts that she and her compatriots are just as resolute and energized to take the Black liberation struggle to the next level.

One thing that can’t be denied, she said, it that #BLM has forced Americans to look squarely at the fallout from America’s original sin, slavery, and is coaxing them not just to come to terms with the issues of race and the continued criminalization and oppression of Black people, but also to commit to dismantling the system.

In her newly-released memoir “When They Call You a Terrorist”,

BLM co-founder memoir

Khan-Cullors, a new mother, spoke about the purpose behind those actions, and the goal of making folks outside of the movement uncomfortable or inconvenienced in the service of the #BLM cause.

“I just wanted folks to take a moment and just feel what this must be like for a community that experiences this on a daily basis,” Khan-Cullors said.

“We deserve what others have taken for granted,” Khan-Cullors also wrote.

Barrington Salmon is a Liberation Journalist

Liberation Journalist Barrington Salmon

with more than thirty years’  experience in print and visual media.  He is a modern-day Griot, from penning speeches for the legendary Marion Barry to writing feature stories on Immigration, Health, Politics and Gentrification. You can read his timely articles in The Final Call; NNPA/Black Press USA, Acumen, Trice Edney News Wire, Atlanta Black Star and the Washington Informer.  Look for his new book, A Whole Heap Ah B.S., coming soon.


Broken Promise : U.S. Looks to Deport 59,000 Haitians


Trump Revokes Protective Status for 59,000 Haitian-Americans

By Barrington M. Salmon


Contributing Writer, The Final Call

Originally published, December 4, 2017

During his 2016 campaign for president, candidate Donald Trump told a crowd of Haitian-Americans in Miami’s Little Haiti that he’d be their champion. On Monday, Nov. 20, Elaine Duke, acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security tpsannounced that the administration has revoked the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for tens of thousands of Haitians in Miami and around the country.

Former DHS Secretary John Kelly had hinted broadly that the administration might move in this direction after a review earlier this year, but the decision left Haitian-Americans dismayed, angered and concerned about the future of this affected group.

The administration plans to forcibly return more than 59,000 Haitian-American families – some of whom have lived in the US for more than a decade – and 27,000 American-born Haitian children. The decision comes two weeks after DHS officials announced that the agency was terminating TPS for 2,500 Nicaraguans and delaying an evaluation of 57,000 Hondurans. The delay gives Hondurans an automatic six-month extension.

Marleine Bastien, the voice of Haitian women and the unofficial spokesperson for the Haitian community at large, expressed disappointment.

“It was somewhat expected but people have been thrown into a complete state of shock. They are anxious with good reason,” said Ms. Bastien, founder and executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, Inc (Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami). “Trump started a witch hunt and has been criminalizing immigrants,” “He said he would be our champion but that was a lie. I wonder how he would do it if it were Europeans.”

“There’s no way to prepare people living here for eight to 20 years to return. We have 58,000 Haitian families who have deep roots in their respective communities. They’re businesspeople, homeowners, professionals, individuals who are gainfully employed. It will be very difficult for them to pick up and leave. We’re talking about people’s lives. We will continue to advocate on their behalf.”

Winston Barnes, a Jamaican vice mayor of the City of Miramar and news director of WAVS, 1170 AM radio, said there’s real sadness in Haitian-American circles in South Florida.

“There’s a lot of pain in the Haitian community. There have been actual tears that have been shed,” said Mr. Barnes, a longtime radio veteran and talk show host of Taking Care of Business. “I started getting reactions on Monday. “Young people realize that their and other people’s lives are going to change. I thought this was going to end because this is not an administration that cares about immigrants, especially black people. This group is the easiest to target.”

“When candidate Trump came to South Florida, he went to Little Haiti. That’s all they needed. That was a ploy of a politician and they played right into it.”

Ms. Bastien, who was born in Haiti but has been an outspoken advocate on immigrant and women’s issues for the last 30 years, said Trump’s decision to deport the affected Haitians is political. She and other critics castigated administration officials for acting as if conditions in Haiti have returned to normal.

She said she was part of a delegation that traveled to Haiti on a fact-finding mission on Aug. 14-21.


Haitian man walks past a sign requesting help and supplies in Port-au-Prince Haiti Jan. 19, 2010. Disaster area after earthquake struck the country Jan. 12, 2010. Photos: MGN Online

“The government can’t absorb the 60,000 Haitians poised to be sent back to Haiti and since 2013, 65,000 Haitians have lived on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border,” Ms. Bastien explained. “Haiti still has not recovered from the 2010 earthquake which killed 250,000 people. Even the most powerful country in the world still hasn’t recovered from Katrina.”

“Haiti has been reeling from natural disasters. Ten thousand people have died from a cholera epidemic and 1.2 million Haitians are contaminated and are still sick. The United Nations promised to pay $400 million to pay the victims. The US has refused to contribute. Hurricane Matthew killed 2,000 people in the worst storm in 50 years. It left the entire South Peninsula in ruins. Then Maria hit earlier this year – Haiti has had its share of calamities and disasters.”

Fabienne Josephat, a South Florida-based writer, echoed the anguish that is racking Haitian communities around the US.

“I’m very distraught. The announcement was heartbreaking,” said Ms. Josephat, who grew up in Haiti and emigrated to the US at age 18 and is author of the novel, ‘Dancing with the Baron’s Shadow.’ “I realize that is was temporary but this was just cruel. I feel like it’s just cruel not just for Haitians but anyone seeking refuge but is being thrown out of the country. What hurts most is administration officials acting as if everything is normal in Haiti.”

M.J Fievre, a Haitian-born writer, teacher, publisher and interpreter, said some of her friends on TPS had been bracing for the coup de grace, but they’re still overwhelmed by the news.

“We know that TPS was not meant to be permanent, but the situation in Haiti is still extremely difficult. What are these people going back to?” Some say that Haiti is back to normal. Unfortunately, “normal” in Haiti includes perpetual political turmoil, 80 percent unemployment, teachers on strike. Recent natural disasters have fueled the ongoing famine and poverty crises.”

“Everyone is disgusted. What mental healthcare will be available for the returnees? During the earthquake, during the storms, people lost their friends and family. The healing process is long – and it will be made even longer by the relocation. Haiti does not offer the kind of counseling that my fellow Haitians will need.”

Tom Jawetz, vice president for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP), called removing the protections for the 50,000 Haitians unprincipled and heartless. In New York City, many of the Haitians are in childcare, elder care and healthcare, he said, and the impact felt because of this decision will have implications of an economic and domestic nature. Sending these families back will also dry up remittances, he added.

“The administration’s position to eliminate Haiti’s TPS is completely unsensible,” he said. “When Duke sat down, she wasn’t working in a vacuum. Six month ago, John Kelly said that conditions on the ground met the statute to continue TPS. There were two additional hurricanes which left damage to roads flooding and other problems. The idea that Duke looked at things on the ground and came to a different conclusion is ludicrous. This is in many ways a war against immigrants.”

“People in the administration at the very highest levels saw the political value of Donald Trump’s attitude towards immigration.”

According to the Center for American Progress, the secretary of homeland security, in consultation with the secretary of state, has the discretion to grant TPS to individuals from countries where armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions make it impossible to return without jeopardizing their lives. Estimates show that more than 320,000 people in the United States hold TPS from 10 designated countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.* By statute, TPS is granted for set periods of time, ranging from six to 18 months. The Trump administration recently revoked Nicaragua’s TSP and officials are in the process of deciding the fates of citizens from El Salvador and Honduras.


Research by CAP’s Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, Angie Bautista-Chavez, and Laura Muñoz Lopez show that TPS holders are long-term, integrated members of communities across the United States. On average, recipients from Honduras have lived in the United States for 22 years, recipients from El Salvador an average of 21 years, and recipients from Haiti an average of 13 years. Nearly one-third of households with Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS holders have mortgages. This measure is indicative of TPS holders’ active pursuit of homeownership, which brings along with it important contributions to their local economies in the form of sales and property taxes. Ending TPS, and thereby removing the ability of recipients to work legally, would likely increase the risk of foreclosure for families with TPS members. And given the spatial concentration of TPS holders, eliminating TPS could have negative economic reverberations for entire communities.

In addition, several estimates point to potential negative economic effects facing TPS holders and the United States as a whole should the program be eliminated. CAP analysis shows that if Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian workers with TPS were removed from the labor force, the United States would lose $164 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) over the next decade. Furthermore, if TPS holders lost their work authorization, it would result in a $6.9 billion reduction to Social Security and Medicare contributions over a decade, as calculated by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. Finally, if TPS holders could no longer work in their current jobs, employers would experience $967 million in turnover costs.

Serge Bellegarde, Ms. Josephat and Ms. Fierve, spoke at length about their concerns and Haiti’s future.

“I’ve been following this and to tell the truth, I’m not surprised by this decision,” said Mr. Bellagarde, a retired translator and reviewer for the Organization of American States. “It was short-sighted to follow Trump but some Haitians did. Trump is a perfect opportunist who doesn’t have a clue with what’s going on in Haiti. There’s a racial aspect. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a racist. I never expected better There’s a reason why Trump is saying things are hunky-dory Either you’re lying or you have a philosophy of getting rid of immigrants.”

“It’s a tragic situation because a lot of Haitians who’ve been living here have businesses and homes. Families will be divided in half. If people were to calculated the amount of taxes Haitians pay it would be considerable. Haitians are not here on a free ride. They have paid taxes, revitalized communities. Trump doesn’t care about that and those around him are clueless.”

Ms. Fievre said Haiti isn’t in a position to properly cater to returning Haitians because of a raft of challenges and the after-effects of a succession of natural disasters.

“I used to go to Haiti at least once a month. My visits became less frequent after the earthquake. I haven’t visited in the past two years, but I still have family there, and I’m in touch with them every day,” she said. “After the earthquake, Hurricanes Irma and Maria have caused the poverty and instability to worsen. The food insecurity crisis continues after natural disasters decimated crops and irrigation canals in many areas ― a massive blow to farming and agriculture. The medical infrastructure is inadequate. Haiti remains unsafe.”

Mr. Bellegarde agreed, citing corruption and an absence of leadership.

“In Haiti, you have a situation where there is no money. People are protesting on the streets because of the budget approved by the government,” he said. “The government is remobilizing the army with money from where we don’t know. There is a lack of vision and the politicians don’t establish priorities.”

“We have a government crisis in Haiti. Those leading the country are a bunch of incompetents. They are corrupt leaders without a knowledge how or the skills to govern.”

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Are ‘Left Holding the Bag’

By Barrington M. Salmon

Originally Published in The Final Call, January 31, 2018homeless_poor_02-06-2018

In 2017, 82 percent of all of the growth in global wealth flowed to the top 1 percent, while billions of men, women and children who comprise the bottom 50 percent saw no increase at all. In 2016, annual share dividends from the parent company of fashion chain Zara to Amancio Ortega, the world’s fourth-richest man were worth approximately 1.3 billion Euros. And Stefan Persson, whose father founded H&M, received 658 million Euros in share dividends last year.

By contrast, Anju, who earns just over $900 dollars a year, sewing clothes in Bangladesh for export often works 12 hours a day, until late at night. She often has to skip meals because she hasn’t earned enough money.

Americans aren’t immune from the scourge. In 2016, according to the Bergen Center, the overall poverty rate in the US is 13.5 percent — 43.1 million people. But when the near-poor and new poor are added, the number of Americans who live in poverty is in excess of 150 million with African Americans, Hispanics, children and seniors being hit particularly hard. The middle class has been hollowed out as millions of ordinary Americans who played by the rules, have seen their lives affected by stagnant wages, the loss of millions of jobs to globalization and automation, the shredding of the social safety net by Republic politicians and corporations hiding trillions of dollars in overseas tax havens. Those who can find jobs often have to contend with low wages, less than fulltime hours and no benefits. And business owners the only concern is the bottom line and increasing profits.

With fiscal year 2016, Walmart’s revenue was $482.1 billion. The company, the largest publicly-owned retail company in the world, employing about 2.2 million employees worldwide, has the dubious distinction with Amazon – which grossed $128 billion last year – of having employees who are paid so little that they qualify food stamps and other forms of public assistance. The Walton family is worth $130 billion.

This troubling income disparity is detailed in an Oxfam report, titled, Reward Work, Not Wealth, released in mid-January which documents in stark detail the widening chasm between rich and poor, and chronicles the mélange of reasons why despite working hard, most of the poor and middle class people remain mired in poverty.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”

Ms. Byanyima said female workers often find themselves off at the bottom of the heap. Across the globe, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work. By comparison, she said, nine out of 10 billionaires are men.

rich-poor_02-06-2018“Oxfam has spoken to women across the world whose lives are blighted by inequality. Women in Vietnamese garment factories who work far from home for poverty pay and don’t get to see their children for months at a time,” Byanyima said. “Women working in the US poultry industry who are forced to wear diapers because they are denied toilet breaks.”  

Oxfam notes that 2017 saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with a billionaire being made every two days. There are currently 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide. Nine out of 10 are men. Billionaires also saw a huge increase in their wealth, an increase that was enough to end extreme poverty seven times over.

This extraordinary wealth that is concentrated in the hands of a select few is erected on the shoulders of low-paid workers who are paid poverty wages and denied basic rights.   

“It is being built on the backs of workers like Fatima in Bangladesh, who works sewing clothes for export. She is regularly abused if she fails to meet targets and gets sick because she is unable to go to the toilet,” the report’s authors said. “It is being built on the backs of workers like Dolores in chicken factories in the US, suffering permanent disability and unable to hold their children’s hands. It is being built on the backs of immigrant hotel cleaners like Myint in Thailand, sexually harassed by male guests and yet often being told to put up with it or lose their jobs.”

The report was launched as 3,000 political and business elites gather for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The impact, as stated by Reward Work, Not Wealth’ is clear: employees working long hours at a minimum or sub-minimum wages; people working without benefits reveals how the global economy enables a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes while hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive on poverty pay. Oxfam’s report outlines the key factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. These include the erosion of workers’ rights; the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimize costs in order to maximize returns to shareholders.

According to the report, billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13 percent since 2010 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just 2 percent. The number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017. It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. And in the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.wealth_02-06-2018

Oxfam found that it would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. This is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector in 2016. But greed, nonchalance and a lack of political will informs the lack of action of those enjoying the fruits of other people’s labor.

Howard University Political Science Professor Dr. Wilmer Leon, III, said he expects that the economic vice will tighten and the situation will get worse before it gets better.

“This will be the status quo for the foreseeable future,” he told The Final Call. “It will get worse before we see any real evidence of things getting better. It’s going to take a lot more suffering and deprivation before people come to realize that this is our world not theirs.”

“We’re not servants for an elite group of corporatists. What Donald Trump is using as a tactic of leverage is race. It has always been used in this country as a source of division and a distraction from the real issue of labor being taken over by management. The political elite tells white people, ‘you have it better because you ain’ no nigger.”’

Both Prof. Leon, host of Inside the Issues on Sirius/XM, and The Rev. Derrick Harkins said the political elite and the wealthy should have security concerns as the inequalities breed unrest.

“It’s amazing because throughout history, imbalance has always been dangerous, socially and economically. Here we have the one percent on one end and so many people on the far end,” said Rev. Harkins, senior vice president for Innovation in Public Programs at Union Theological Seminary in New York. “This imbalance is not just dangerous but immoral. We have to get corporate leaders to understand that being equitable amounts to fairness and equity.”

“All of us benefit when there’s fairness. We can’t ever have a fair society with such extremes. In theology, if you are solely wrapped up in possessions, that is a road to failure. It’s disheartening and threatening to see what’s going on. The US is pretty isolated but there is real unrest and instability elsewhere. The outcome could be very troubling if we don’t address it.”

Prof. Leon said the Jan. 16 report indicates that eight men own the same wealth as 3.7 billion people.

“I can’t even begin to describe how atrocious it is and impact on large numbers of people,” he said. “If you ask economists and experts what is the biggest threat it’s security. The issue has to do with the increased accumulation of wealth. And the immigration debate has to do with people trying to improve their their standard of living, quality of life.”

He explained that these wealthy men go to get the resources to generate their wealth from Africa, for example South Africa for diamonds and to the Republic of Congo for seven or eight other important minerals.

rare-earth-minerals“These countries, unfortunately, are not able to maximize the presence of these raw materials, because the raw materials is extracted and sent overseas to be processed, then sold on world market,” Prof. Leon said. “So you have a one carat raw diamond mined in South Africa sent to India, Israel or Switzerland to be cut into stones and sold in Brussels.”

“White supremacy plays an integral role in this, as does ethnocentrism. It’s not an accident that former colonial powers, now neo-liberals, are preying on the resources and human capital in China, Vietnam, and Central and South America. Nobody cares that people are suffering or the conditions under which they live. Oxfam trying to change balance of power of globalization and exploitation.”

DC Attorney Quentin Driskell surmised that making changes on the ground would make a definable difference.

“I think any new contracts like in Africa with extractive industries, it makes sense that there would be provisions for local sourcing. Very little comes from local community,” said Mr. Driskell, a criminal defense and employment discrimination lawyer. “There should be some type of apprenticeship, training and mentorship. They also need to start sourcing from the local community. That has potential because once you learn, that provides a certain amount of independence and self-sufficiency. It’s possible, though, that these contracts might be a violation of trade agreements.”

“What no one seems to be doing is attacking the corporations themselves. People should start looking at corporations and revoke their charters at the local level. For example, pharmaceutical reps pitching oxycodin said it wasn’t addiction. These corporations have been lying to you. And suing them doesn’t really stop them because it’s built into the business model. But revocations would be one solution.”

According to Forbes magazine, in 2007, the top 20 percent of the wealthiest Americans 80 percent of all financial assets. The richest 1 percent population owned 35 percent of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19 percent owned 51 percent. Thus, the top 20 percent of Americans owned 86 percent of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80 percent of the population owned 14 percent. In recent years, that gap has widened.

At the same time, the stock market has roared to 26,500 points, corporations, insurance companies and banks—many whose greed and reckless actions triggered the 2007-08 meltdown—are awash in hundreds of billions of dollars. And the general public is deeply angered by crony capitalism, corporate greed and the recent passage of tax theft masquerading as tax reform that Republican leaders engineered that shifted $1.5 trillion from the middle class to the wealthiest one percent.

“What’s playing out on the world stage we’re watching that play out here,” Rev. Harkins said. “The sad thing is that men and women who voted for Trump are excitedly waiting. I recently read an article about coal industry and they’re feeling betrayed. The rich will get rewards. Do the others think they’ll get some of those spoils? Some operate under this illusion. Some people mistakenly think that they’ve been invited to party but they never got an invitation.”

Ms. Byanyima said people were sold the idea that trade-fueled growth would spread around the world, carried by democracy, on a rising tide that would “lift up all boats” but that failed and over time, the unspoken contract between the elites and the 99 percent that unfettered market globalization and liberalization should benefit us all has been broken.

She said government officials must begin to protect those they purport to serve by strengthening labor laws and being proactive in ensuring that workers get a living wage and work in safe environments and decent conditions.

No one should expect corporate and political leaders to suddenly become enlightened, Ms. Byanyima said, but the answer lies in public pressure, tougher laws and governments taking control again by using regulations to impose business ethics. In addition, the public, advocates and activists also have to support and encourage more business trailblazers, such as the multibillion-dollar Mondragon in Spain and Amul in India, which as considered leading innovative models based on the equity – worker-owned companies they’ve allowed to develop.

“We are putting the case to business leaders that they should not pay a penny in shareholder dividends and executive bonuses until all their workers are getting a living wage and their producers a fair price,” Ms. Byanyima said in a recent column in Al Jazeera. “We do not have the patience to wait or hope. We need to look to the law. And new laws must be pushed into existence by the collective power of people. We will only close the gap between men and women’s pay by legislating it closed. At the speed we’re going now, it will take 217 years. Iceland has caught on.”

“We need to throw the book at irresponsible corporate tax behavior which alone costs poor countries $100 billion a year. That book needs to hit the corporate lobbyists while we’re at it. We need to be less worried about disruptive new technologies, but more proactive in understanding and harnessing them properly. The utility of every invention depends on how it is owned and controlled for the public good … law has the power to ensure that nobody should work on a level of pay that they cannot live a  decent life.”

She said that in the past, governments would value the masses because they needed them for their factories and armies, and so they would feed, educate and keep them healthy. That’s changed today. 

“Globalization has lifted many people out of the most abject poverty and we celebrate that,” Ms. Byanyima said. “But it has been even more successful in boosting an elite few into superyachts stuffed with stupendous wealth, while dumping hundreds of millions of people onto the flotsam and jetsam at the bottom. We are beginning to be left to trust that those at the top will rescue those below. But the worst-case scenario is – they won’t. There will be no value in it.”

“The masses will be left adrift to fend for themselves. It’s up to us all to make sure that doesn’t come to pass.”


Jamaica: Paradise and Paradox

Originally printed in the Atlanta Black Star,  January 2, 2018

Nearly 17 Years After ‘Life and Debt’ Jamaica Remains In a Precarious State, Thanks in Part to the IMF and World Bank

Almost 17 Years After ‘Life and Debt’ Jamaica Remains in a Precarious State, Thanks in Part, to the IMF and World Bank

By Barrington M. Salmon

Tourist brochures and adverts paint a lush picture of Jamaica, a 4,411 square-mile “patch of land” that is sun-kissed beaches, blue skies, puffy clouds, cool breezes and pastel sunsets.

But Jamaica is much more than the backdrop of a tourist playground. Move beyond the trendy tourist spots, Jamaicans say, and you’ll find the real treasure of these islands: 2.9 million resilient men and women making their way in the real world. Most get up and go to their jobs every day, work hard, provide for their families, raise their children, struggle to make ends meet.

Jamaica is no different from other Caribbean islands and developing countries with some of the challenges it faces. Simmering below the veneer of relative calm are a mélange of seemingly intractable problems and stark realities that Jamaicans on island and in the Diaspora say they all must confront if the island-nation is to provide more equitably for all its citizens, create a stable and safe environment and be competitive in the 21st century.

Dr. Stephen Vasciannie, president of Jamaica’s University of Technology, cited the high level of crime and violence, poverty and inequality (with their attendant challenges), and general economic issues, such as the high level of unemployment, low salary levels and low productivity as challenge priorities.   

“To be sure, these problems interact with, and reinforce, each other,” said Vasciannie, who served as Jamaican ambassador to the US from 2012 to 2015. “Thus, the crime level is stimulated, at least in part, by economic malaise, while poverty and inequality contribute substantially to a sense of alienation among many people.”

“Jamaica’s problems are not of recent vintage. Various solutions have been attempted, and some have worked to an extent. So, for example, we have accepted it as a matter of faith that improvements in the provision of education will enhance the country’s prospects, and especially the prospects of the poor. So, yes, we can undermine the high crime rate, reduce poverty and inequality, and improve economic prospects through improved education for all.”

But the problem, Vasciannie said, is that raising educational levels in significant measure tends to be a long term prospect, while Jamaica’s is grappling witth a host of problems in the present.

“We always wonder, therefore, if progress is actually being made,” said Vasciannie, formerly Professor of International Law at the University of the West Indies and one of the founding members of the National Democratic Movement.

Hotelier Franklyn Eaton echoed Vasciannie’s comments on the inequalities that exist in Jamaica and said failure to correct this could lead to a conflagration.

“In terms of growth, colonialism is still at play,” said Eaton, born and raised in Jamaica but who is currently is general manager of Villages of Stonehaven in Tobago. “The Spanish are back and have built a number of hotels. There are rosy jobs for Europeans but for Jamaicans, generally, the salaries are fairly low at about $100 (US)/week. The question is, how do we climb out of poverty? Politicians look for short-term solutions and do very little long-term planning. This is going on all over the Caribbean, not just Jamaica. It’s a Caribbean malaise.”

Eaton, who has been in the hospitality industry in Europe, Jamaica and the Caribbean for 27 years, is one of many who fault elected leaders for studiously ignoring festering problems like crime or corruption, but who instead offer lip service or only touch the problems around the edges. What these politicos seem most adept at, Eaton and other critics say, is lining their pockets rather than leading and doing just enough to get themselves re-elected.

For all of Jamaica’s accomplishments, whether it’s in the cultural or music arenas, track and field or academia, the island of almost three million people has been mired in a decades-long economic quagmire that officials from the International Monetary Fund fear could damage any future growth.

An overriding element – a powerful force out of Jamaica’s control – is its indebtedness in billions of dollars to the likes of The International Monetary Fund, the InterAmerican Development Bank and the World Bank.

According to the World Bank, by 2012 Jamaica had accumulated debt equal to 145 percent of its gross domestic product, adding that over the last 30 years, Jamaica‘s real per capita GDP increased at an average of just one percent per year, making it one of the slowest growing developing countries in the world.

Jamaica’s problems mirror that of Greece and Zimbabwe, although Jamaica hasn’t had to default on its debts like Greece or experienced the runaway inflation of Zimbabwe under former president Robert Mugabe.

IMF officials have helped the government implement what the institution says is an ambitious reform program designed to stabilize the economy, reduce debt and fuel growth. The reform program, which the IMF said has garnered national and international support, is part of a comprehensive package with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank each agreeing to provide US$510 million between April 2013 and March 2017. Meanwhile, the IMF committed a US$932 million funding program to the government through its Extended Fund Facility (EFF) covering the same four-year period.

The CIA Factbook notes that Jamaica’s slow economy growth over the last three decades has been impeded by: a bloated public sector which crowds out spending on important projects; high crime and corruption; red-tape; and a high debt-to-GDP ratio. The author note, however, that Jamaica has made steady progress, in collaboration with the IMF, in reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio from a high of almost 150 percent in 2012 to about 115 percent in 2017. While the lending institutions hope that their prescription will push Jamaica towards producing an annual primary surplus of 7 percent, so that it can reduce its debt burden below 60 percent by 2025, that has not happened as evidenced by economic growth which only reached 1.6 percent in 2016. “The Holness administration faces the difficult prospect of maintaining fiscal discipline to make debt payments while simultaneously attacking a serious crime problem. High unemployment exacerbates the crime problem, including gang violence fueled by the drug trade,” the Factbook notes.

While IMF and World Bank officials often speak in clinical terms about the financial help they offer and the impacts, there are those who are convinced that these lending regimes are just a modern-day version of economic slavery.

Filmmaker Stephanie Black is a harsh critic of the IMF. Her film, “Life and Debt,” made in 2001, is an examination of how IMF and World Bank policies, determined by the G-7 countries and led by the United States, have a significant impact on poor developing countries. She contends that the IMF promotes an agenda of monetary austerity, currency devaluation, and lowering wages. The stated goal is to reduce inflation by balancing a nation’s loan repayments and imports with its export earnings. The result is usually a recession. The World Bank takes a longer-run perspective. It aims for structural adjustment, which means trying to transform a borrower nation’s economy into a free-market economy. It typically proposes market deregulation, sometimes accompanied by new lending from the World Bank and private lenders.

These policies are supposed to benefit developing nations’ economies by integrating them into the global market. What actually happens is the people of those nations suffer, while commercial banks in the global north collect a great deal of interest. In Jamaica, only 5 percent of total money borrowed since 1977 has been able to stay inside the country.

The conditions that Black recounted in her documentary are largely still at play today, with financial and economic experts and politicians offering differing assessments of the progress Jamaica has made.

Researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found in 2015 that because of its agreement with the IMF, Jamaica is saddled with the most austere budget in the world, with the country paying a high interest on its debt which directs money to these institutions and away from public investment in infrastructure, education and other projects.

And according to CitiBlog Global, “Jamaica’s interaction with the IMF has had a long-lasting effect. Globalization and the establishment of so-called ‘free trade zones’ have destroyed the local agriculture. For example, the local dairy industry collapsed due the import of powdered milk from the United States, which was cheaper than regular milk, thus undercutting Jamaican farmers. The problems continued when the banana industry was forced into decline when the United States complained to the World Trade Organization about “unfair” labour practices, despite the fact the Dole Food Company had a monopoly on most of the banana trade.”

Yet despite criticism and questions about the IMF and World Bank’s roles in making Jamaica economically subservient, Vasciannie offers an opposite view.

“I believe that the IMF/World Bank/IDB Loan saved Jamaica. The loan came at a time when the Government could not find money to pay civil servants and so on,” he said. “Thus, without the loan, the prospect of massive layoffs, strikes and protests was real and substantial. We were also at the point of not being able to pay for our imports, with all the implications that could follow from that.  And we had a mountain of debt, with no clear way of paying down on it.  So, the situation was dire. 

“In the circumstances, the Government had no choice but to accept the loan, and did so gratefully. Now, some years later, stability has been returned, but we need growth. I do not think we can blame the IMF/WB/IDB for lack of growth.  They have provided the means by which we can promote growth, but we have to take the matter forward.” 

Karen Marks Mafundikwa, a Jamaican-born award-winning documentary filmmaker, producer and director, said the effects of Jamaica’s colonial and imperialist past casts a large shadow on the present.

Jamaica’s problems, she said, are rooted in the island’s colonial past. New York Times travel writer Luisita Lopez Torregrosa supports this in her story ‘Jamaica Beyond the Beach,’ explaining that “the British turned the island into a huge sugar plantation, its wealthiest colony in the Caribbean and the hub of slave trade in the Americas. Planters built magnificent houses high above their sugar cane fields, and lived lives of idleness, gorging on drink and wanton sex with slaves. And she adds, Jamaica never recovered from slavery; former slaves remained deeply impoverished, and the economy almost totally dependent on foreign capital, mining and raw materials, while importing food and other essentials.”

Mafundikwa cited the criminal justice system as an example of lingering colonial influences.

“Jamaica just legalized marijuana. Its use goes back centuries as a healing agent and part of the cultural spiritual practice,” said Mafundikwa, who produced the 2014 film, ‘The Price of Memory,’ which detailed efforts by some in Jamaica’s Rastafarian community to get reparations from Queen Elizabeth II and the British government.

“Before the (Jamaican) government criminalized thousands of youth. Decriminalization is happening in Europe and across the world,” she said. “Our debts, the laws we pass, the very system we operate in reflects our colonial past. We’re post-colonial but we’re not. We’re still tied into all the international obligations we have. Marijuana is cultural, spiritual and a source of healing but how do we go forward from here?”

Richard Hugh Blackford, a Jamaican artist and author, listed street crime, violence, government ineptitude and corruption as the chief obstacles Jamaican society faces.

“Crime and violence are at crisis levels, but there has been very little engagement by the government,” he asserted. “Fifteen hundred and fifty people has died so far this year from criminal violence. This makes Jamaican one of the most murderous places in the world. Prime Minister Andrew Holness seemed younger and more relatable, but he’s not delivering on public safety.

“We are in a death spiral in Jamaica, but the media is not prepared to carry on a discussion. The police are on the front line of defense of the community against criminals and absorb 70 percent of the national security budget, but there is a lack of accountability of the police force.”

Blackford said in a number of cases incompetent senior police divisional commanders are transferred from post to post where they affect the morale of the officers who serve under them and despite their corrosive effects on the force, the top brass rarely fire them.

Jamaican Attorney Leighton Miller agreed, arguing that inequality and crime are inextricably linked.

“Violence and murder are the key crimes in Jamaica,” said Miller, who lives in Kingston. “There’s a great deal of inequality. Few people are doing well. Those who are (doing well) are generally lighter-skinned and in the upper classes. I think there’s a hollowing out of the middle class, much as we’re seeing in the U.S. Some people are eating one meal a day and others are rummaging through garbage for food.”

“You have food insecurity and people are going to food bank, but you wouldn’t know because Jamaicans are too proud to say. One problem contributing to this situation is that we’re so wedded to colonial ideas. All law enforcement does is police the boundaries of inequality and making the barriers of equality difficult to breach.”

Miller said people’s callousness and indifference concerns him.

“There’s a nihilism and fatalism where people live ‘in the shadow of the volcano’ but are flossing, drinking and living like there’s no tomorrow. We realize that we’ve sold out and we don’t care. We go along with whoever gives us a better deal,” said Miller, who said he leans socialist and advocates getting rid of both political parties but acknowledges not knowing exactly how to do that. “You can see from Facebook posts how hypocritical we are and unconcerned about crime unless it touches them personally. We only pretend to care.”

Interviewees offered sometimes bleak analyses, but they all harbor tremendous hope about Jamaica’s future. Education, all agreed, is the key to a vibrant future, as well as a willingness by the government to invest in industries “that will allow all Jamaicans, at a minimum, equitable access to the fruits of the country.”

“If you create centers of excellence and allow any child anywhere in Jamaica to pursue any hobby, interest or vocation, whether it’s skating, dancing or gymnastics, you will change the face of Jamaica in less than a generation,” Miller said.

Ian Edwards concurred, saying that Jamaica’s outsized cultural, intellectual, artistic and sporting footprint, have laid the groundwork for Jamaica’s future success.

“Jamaicans like poet Claude McKay, who with his poem ‘If We Must Die’ played a seminal role in the Harlem Renaissance, then there is Marcus Garvey … and other distinguished children of Jamaica’s soil,” said Edwards, a English translator-reviewer who has worked at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., for 25 years. “Look at the pivotal contributions Jamaica has made. Dudley Thompson, regarded as one of Jamaica’s foremost attorneys of his generation, defended Jomo Kenyatta during a trial where he fought against Britain’s charges of treason.”

“No one can dispute the impact of this spit of rock in the Caribbean. Jamaica gave me not just a sense of pride but a sense of belonging. It is the place that gave me the foundation of life. This is where I was educated and socialized and given the tools necessary for a meaningful life.”

He said Jamaicans must think out the box and fashion indigenous solutions that suit Jamaica and will serve as a means to spur the country’s growth and development.

“Education is crucial to all Jamaicans,” said Edwards who was an Information Attaché for the Jamaican Consulate-General in New York and a member of the Jamaican Foreign Service. “I would love to see all Jamaicans getting educated and derive the benefits. We need to think and craft strategies as to how we can insert ourselves into the global and digital economies. As long as there’s life, there’s hope. Life is about dynamic change at an elemental level. The question is, who can we improve?”

“As the environment changes, we have to be thinking about how we adapt but we can’t compromise our Jamaican values. We need a deliberate and bring together people with a genuine desire to develop and implement practicable solutions. We must never accept the idea or notion that we’ll never be better. And we must never, ever accept the notion that Jamaica can’t be a first world nation.”

Hurricanes Reshape Caribbean, Further Expose Fault Lines


Originally Written for The Final Call, December 28, 2017


The succession of killer hurricanes that tore through the Caribbean during 2017 devastated homes and businesses, uprooted people’s existences and exacerbated the fortunes of a region where dependence is the watchword economically, socially and in some cases, politically.


Residents of the mountains around Utuado, Puerto Rico wash their clothes in mountain runoffwater, Oct. 12.

From Dominica, to St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, across the Turks and Caicos and Cuba and from Guadeloupe through Antigua and Barbuda, killer hurricanes, particularly Irma and Maria, cut a wide swathe of destruction, leaving shaken residents to slowly pick up their lives. The long-term implications are far-reaching and will touch all aspects of life in the region.

“I have one foot in hope and the other in trouble,” mused St. Thomas resident Dr. Malik Sekou, a political science professor at the University of the Virgin Islands. “Our society is in a struggle trying to overcome this desolation. What makes these twin hurricanes so devastating is that they were back-to-back in the same region.”

“It was like fighting Muhammad Ali. ‘Here comes the jab, then the overhand right.’ There are socio-psychological implications because so many Virgin Islanders have family in neighboring islands. Irma cut deep into the heart of the Caribbean. It sliced through people’s lives and what Irma didn’t hit, Maria did.”

Dr. Sekou, an author and chairman of the Department of History, Social Science and Political Science, said Caribbean leaders and residents must figure out the best way forward with tourism and agriculture in ruins and the island nations dependent on assistance from the United States, Britain, Holland and other parts of Europe.

The U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, three months after the double whammy of Irma and Maria, was still reeling from those natural disasters. A dubious federal response from the Trump administration did little to put a substantial dent in allaying the effects of the hurricanes.


Puerto Rico Army Reservists, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service Agents, U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team members, Puerto Rico Treasury Department Agents, and a Puerto Rico Ports Authority Agents deliver food and water to a family sharing the only room they have left after Hurricane Maria destroyed their home in the mountains around Utuado, Puerto Rico, Oct. 12. Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts

Hurricane Maria hit the island on Sept. 20 and on Nov. 3, more than 70 percent of the island was still without electricity. Telecommunications was spotty or nonexistent with about 52 percent of residents unable to get a cell phone signal and nearly half of Puerto Ricans—about one million people—lack clean running water and have been forced to drink from springs, creeks, rivulets and collected rainwater.

Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and government officials announced a death toll of 62 but there is credible evidence from several sources on the ground in Puerto Rico and investigations by news organizations that the death toll is almost 1,100. The governor has ordered government agencies to reopen their books and initiate a recount and review of all certified deaths that have occurred since Hurricane Maria.

Dr. Danielle Pilar Clealand said things have improved on the ground but residents are still enmeshed in a crisis.

“Where we stand now is that more people are getting power back in San Juan and outside of the city. While the situation has improved, we still have a crisis,” said Dr. Clealand, assistant professor in the Department of Politics & International Relations at Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute. “The interior is recovering slowly. Most houses there were made of wood and were destroyed. People are living with family, in shelters and elsewhere. Tens of thousands have migrated to Central Florida. This is about migration, housing, running water, disease.”

Dr. Clealand said there are well-founded concerns among Puerto Ricans about the acceleration of gentrification, the effects of crisis capitalism on the future of the island and if and how the island will be able to deal with $74 billion in debt.


Air and Marine Operations agents walk past a home on, September 24, that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Aguadilla, Puerto, Rico

“All this has the potential to change Puerto Rico,” said Dr. Clealand, whose research focuses on comparative racial politics, racial ideology, nationalism, group consciousness, and racial attitudes throughout the Americas. “Who’s migrating? Are they professionals? Will this be a brain drain? Will people who have left return? Puerto Rico was having problems before the hurricanes but since the hurricanes, no one has been talking about the debt. Debt forgiveness is going to be the key to any recovery in Puerto Rico.”

Dr. Clealand said that the worst hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years has racialized Puerto Ricans.

“Puerto Rico occupied an elite position in the Caribbean and was considered one of the whiter Caribbean islands, but they’re being racialized,” she said. “They’ve been racialized as non-Whites in ways they haven’t before. This is causing them to change their perspective as it relates to who they are. That component is something to watch as people re-envision where they stand in the world.”

There are a number of complaints from residents living in the Caribbean, who are angry, frustrated or incensed. These include corruption of elected officials, crime, indifference and inertia.

Roy Hurley, a criminal attorney living in Barbados, echoes that frustration.

“Election fever is in the air on my sun-kissed rock. But I have developed immunity. I will not be crossing the threshold of any polling station even if they sent a Bentley to fetch me,” he said on a recent Facebook post. “Let me say at the outset that I have been a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Labour Party—the party of the late Errol Walton Barrow.  A party wedded to the guiding principles of democratic socialism. These principles have become too elastic under this DLP administration. They have sacrificed them for short-term opportunism. Right now, my support is in abeyance.”

“I haven’t left the party. They have left me. Maybe one day it will return.  If it does, I’ll be waiting. In the meantime, I’m voluntarily disenfranchised.  I have no choice … .”

When reached in Bridgetown, Barbados, on the morning of Dec. 19, Mr. Hurley expressed a combination of resignation and disgust.

“It’s pretty bleak,” he said. “Our pressing problems in Barbados is a serious problem with drugs, a proliferation of drugs and senseless murders. And the politicians are scratching their heads. Barbados is a little 2-by-4 island. I think people on the island are really fed up with this administration. Early on, people realized that they had been conned.”


St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands Aerial views of the island show destruction caused by Hurricane Maria which touched down on the island on September 19. Photo: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

“All we do is reselect and recycle deadbeats. These politicians is all about greed and what people can do for you. The quality of candidates is poor. We need a third party.”

Mr. Hurley said there is a confluence of factors complicating life in Barbados. He said the island is a transshipment point for drugs; the police response is ineffective; there has been an infusion of Indians from Trinidad who have displaced Black Barbadians from various businesses; and the carnage caused by young Black men in regular gangs and drug gangs continues unabated.

“I don’t know what the answer is and the politicians don’t appear to have an answer either,” he lamented. “Young boys are killing each other and in the case of the Indians, we appear to have replaced one oppressor for another. I also want us to transfer economic power from the White elite to Black Bajans. This calls for revolution but Bajans are passive. They accept a lot crap. People mumble but do nothing.”

Strengthened Ties Between Jamaica And Philadelphia Urged

Originally Published on May 7, 2015

By Barrington M. Salmon

News Americas, PHILADELPHIA, PA, Fri. May 8, 2015 – Jamaica’s minister with responsibility with sport, Natalie Neita-Headley, says she is negotiating with Philadelphia city officials to strengthen ties between the US city and her homeland of Jamaica.

Minister Neita-Headley’s comments to NAN comes on the heels of the 121st running of the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States, the Penn Relays, and the celebration of the 21st anniversary of Team Jamaica Bickle, a non-profit group founded to support Caribbean athletes at the relays.

Neita-Headley says she is focused on twinning Philadelphia with Spanish Town, which is the site of the G.C. Foster College, the incubator for the training of Jamaica’s track and field coaches.

Fans Cheer
Fans cheer on their team as the Jamaican women trounced the US side on April 25, 2015 at the Penn Relays. (Ann Walters image)

And she said she has also had discussions around the issue for remunerations for Jamaica from the estimated $2.7 million the Penn Relays Carnival generates every year.

An Excelsior High School old boy who said he ran on at the relays in 1964, said sharing the pot with Jamaica, and by extension the athletes, is the right thing to do.

“I come here every year. When I came in 1964, there may have been 20,000 people,” said the former Delta Airlines employee and Florida resident who declined to give his name. “The University of Pennsylvania is making money, companies and concessions – all of them are making money. They need to be sending some of that money to Jamaican schools. The (Jamaican) government’s been saying they’ve been negotiating for 15 years (but nothing has happened).”

This year’s 121st running of the relays marked the 12th year that attendance topped 100,000 over the course of three days. By 11 a.m. on the final day, Saturday April 25th much of the stadium had been filled. As the sun burned off the morning chill, vast crowds descended on vendors and concession stands, sampling Jamaican foodstuff, and buying food while listening to DJs spin selections of thumping Rhythm and Blues, Reggae and Dancehall.

In addition to the Jamaican contingent, athletes from Guyana, the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago also competed.

Chas Dorman, associate director of Athletic Communications, deemed the event a success.

“This is another great Penn Relay Carnival. We had 110,000 people and some really good events and strong athletic performances despite the bad weather,” he said. “It was a team effort for a great event. Our fans, Philadelphia and Jamaica have passion for this event which grows every year and brings it to a new level.

“Jamaican fans bring enthusiasm. The fan base helps drive the effort. They have flair and passion, more so perhaps than any other group. Their passion brings this event to life which is really cool. I get to see them come every year and take pride in the part they play.”

Jamaican Roots Actor In The House 

Actor Dule Hill stood up with his family on Saturday, April 25, watching intently as athletes stormed around the track in one of the eight races billed as “USA vs. The World.”

Before and during the race, loud cheers of the 49,103 spectators rattled around the stadium as people raised and waved flags of all sizes, blew discordant vuvuzelas, tooted horns, clanged cowbells and shouted at the top of their voices in an attempt to propel their teams to victory.

Hill said he’d finally made it to his first Penn Relays to see his nephew – a student at Marlboro High School – compete. His work schedule and job had proven to be obstacles in the past but Hill, the son of Jamaican parents, said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which is an annual rite-of-passage for significant numbers of fans.

“The last few years I’ve been out-of-town in Vancouver (Canada) and elsewhere. I plan to come back again,” he said. “I’m cheering for Jamaica unless my nephew is running.  His team came in sixth. This is a good experience for him. It’s showing him what he needs to do to excel. ”

Hill, most well known for roles in ‘Psych’ and ‘The West Wing,’ stood among the throng of people in the stadium to watch as one of two American teams competed against the likes of China, Guyana, Canada and Hong Kong.


The US won the 4×100 meter race in a time of 38.68 seconds, while Jamaica finishing second with a time of 36.88 seconds. In the 4×200 meter race, the US and Jamaica finished one-two again, meanwhile Jamaica’s UTech college women stormed to the 10th best time ever in the 4×200.

Jamaica’s female senior teams snagged two titles in the 4×100 meters and the 4×400. In the shorter distance, Sherone Simpson, Kerron Stewart, Natasha Morrison and Schillonie Calvert and Natasha Morrison bested their American counterparts with a time of 43.70 seconds. The Americans clocked a time of 43.79 seconds.

In the 4×200 race, US women pipped Jamaica’s by two thousandths of a second. Then in the 4×400 meter race, Jamaica’s women made history by out-dueling the Americans for the first time, finishing with a time of 3 minutes 26.58 seconds. Jamaica’s win brought America’s 13-year stranglehold on the event to an end, much to the delight of the partisan Jamaican crowd. Three-time Olympic medalist Deeded Trotter anchored the American team which finished with a time of 3:28.42.

In all, the US swept six of the eight USA vs. the World races.

At the high school and college level, Jamaican high schools and institutions of higher learning snared a total of 19 titles, including 11 relay victories and eight individual championships. Calabar’s Michael O’Hara was named High School Boys’ Athlete of the Meet after running a scintillating second leg of the 4×100 team that set a new Penn Relays record of 39.63. He also anchored the winning 4×400 team to a time of 3:09.97 with a split of 46.68. The High School Girls’ Athlete of the Meet for Relay Events went to Saqukine Cameron of Edwin Allen. Cameron ran on two Championship of America-winning teams, anchoring the 4×400 with a split of 53.88, 2.23 seconds better than any other anchor on the track. On Thursday, she ran the third leg on the COS winning 4×100 team.

Marvin Williams of St. Elizabeth Tech took home the High School Boys’ Athlete of the Meet award for Individual Events. He won the 400 Hurdles with the time of 51.11, the 4th fastest time ever run at the Relays.

It was the first time since 2013 that Jamaican performers in the high jump, long jump and triple jump won all three events when Kingston College’s Clive Pullen won the triple jump event, Wolmer’s Boys’ Christoff Bryan won the high jump and Sadiki Eddie of Kingston College took first place.

University of Technology (UTech), under coach Stephen Francis, and Edwin Allen High grabbed four first-place victories each, Calabar High had three, and St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), Holmwood Technical and Jamaica Invitational teams each scored double victories. UTech defended its College Men’s 4×100-metre and 4x200m relay crowns in the times of 39.27 seconds and 1:20.97 minutes, respectively.

Calabar’s 20-year-old Javon Francis, an athlete with great pedigree and a bright future, was philosophical after his team placed third in the 4×400.

“It was a good day for me. I ran the second leg. I haven’t done that in a while,” said Francis, who almost ran down the USA’s LaShawn Merritt at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow when he pulled his team from fifth to second and who destroyed Usain Bolt’s 400m record in Boys’ Champs in Kingston Jamaica last year. “I’m happy about everything. I finished injury-free and we placed third. Better things will come soon. Hopefully. I am going to go back to the drawing board with my coach, push back, improve, hope that the rest of the season goes well.”

For Janieve Russell, another well-decorated athlete during her high school years, her biggest challenge was the weather.

“The crowd is amazing and so supportive. Everyone has been great but the climate is hard to deal with,” said Russell, a student at UTech pursuing a degree in Hospitality Management and the 2012 World Junior Champion in the 400m hurdles. “I’ve been coming here for the past seven years and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Kingston College old boy Gerald Hector said, he was there to enjoy the purity of a sport he loves.

“I love seeing high school youngsters perform and showcase their talents,” said Hector with a broad smile. “I competed in track and field and at Howard University, I was also an athlete. I came to Penn Relays too. It’s just in my blood to see athletes perform. And I get a chance to spend time with friends and catch up.”

Neita-Headley said she continues to be proud of all the athletes from the tiny island nation of Jamaica.

“I am generally very pleased with their performance and I continue to give them support,” said Neita-Headley, who was at the Penn Relays for the third year. “What you see here isn’t magic, it’s hard work. The athletes are more resolute as they view other successful athletes and those who are successful financially. The talent and the human resources are there for the training, development and framework of a strong sport.”

Off The Plantation – Colin Kaepernick Speaks Up

Silent no more – A Black athlete speaks up, forces a look at reality of race in America.

By Barrington Salmon – Contributing Writer Final Call

In this Sept. 1 file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick walks off the field after warm-ups before an NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers in San Diego. The Santa Clara police chief has vowed to continue providing a safe environment at San Francisco home games after the union representing his officers threatened to boycott policing the stadium if the 49ers don’t discipline Kaepernick for criticizing police and refusing to stand during the national anthem. Chief Michael Sellers said in a statement, Sept. 3, that he will urge union leadership to put citizens’ safety first. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

This bold declaration by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick at a press conference following a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers set off a firestorm that shows no signs of abating.“I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Mr. Kaepernick, 28, explained after cameras caught him sitting during the playing of the national anthem, that he was protesting police brutality and institutional racism reflected in stark disparities between Blacks in America and their White counterparts.

“I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust,” Mr. Kaepernick explained to a gaggle of reporters. “People aren’t being held accountable. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”

Mr. Kaepernick, a Milwaukee native, hammered rogue cops. He said he, like many Black men, has been stopped by police and recalled when he and a friend were moving out of a house while in college. They were the only two Blacks in the neighborhood and neighbors called the police who came into their apartment uninvited with guns drawn.

“There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable,” he said. “People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.”

When asked if he was concerned that his position could be seen as a blanket indictment of law enforcement in general, Mr. Kaepernick replied: “There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change.”

“There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable. Make those standards higher. You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

Police union leaders were incensed, demanded an apology and in San Francisco, police officers are threatening to boycott Niners games.

Colin Kaepernick Kneeling Protest
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the national anthem before the team’s NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers, Sept. 1, in San Diego. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

Longtime civil rights activist Dr. Harry Edwards, a friend and advisor to Mr. Kaepernick, describes the professional athlete as “a man suddenly becoming aware his house is on fire.” Mr. Kaepernick said he had discussed issues of race with Dr. Edwards many times over the past several years and Dr. Edwards has been a mentor for quite a while.

“My position on Kaep is that he ABSOLUTELY has a constitutional right to express his opinion on the politics of diversity in America today,” Dr. Edward said in a statement to The Final Call. “He is courageous, well informed, and steadfast in his position. He is evolving through an ‘awakening’ and (perhaps) really understanding for the first time—given his background—the true depth and scope of the history of anti-Black racial hatred and injustice in America.”

Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson in his Kansas City Monarchs uniform in 1945.

He advised Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who won gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter race and each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the national anthem. Their gesture, with fists raised to demonstrate their support for human rights and in solidarity with oppressed people in the United States and the world, is one of the most powerful political acts in the history of the modern Olympic Games.

Attacks and support follow call for justice

Mr. Kaepernick’s stand incited the fury and vitriol of critics who disparaged him, calling him among other names, unpatriotic, pampered, ungrateful, disrespectful and racist. Trolls invaded his Twitter page to harangue him, call him a “f—-n n—-r” and express hope that he tears a knee or breaks his back during the NFL’s regular season.

Some 49er fans burned his football jersey; meanwhile seven of 10 National Football League executives who were interviewed by a sports journalist said Mr. Kaepernick is hated by most teams and would be a pariah if he became available to be traded. He made the 49ers roster. Even his birth mother, who gave him up for adoption as a baby, tweeted her disapproval.

But Mr. Kaepernick also drew support and praise from Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan; activist and humanitarian Harry Belafonte; former Los Angeles Lakers great Kareem Abdul Jabbar; 1968 Olympic medalists and activists Dr. John Carlos and Dr. Tommie Smith; Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith; and noted filmmaker Spike Lee.

In this March 15, 1996 file photo, Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stands with his teammates and prays during the national anthem before an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago. This was Abdul-Rauf’s first game back since he was suspended by the NBA on March 12, 1996, for refusing to participate in the national anthem pre-game ceremony. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision this week to refuse to stand during the playing of the national anthem as a way of protesting police killings of unarmed Black men has drawn support and scorn far beyond sports. Through the years, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has become a symbol of both patriotism and politics. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

“At the root of your courage is love; a love that would allow you to sacrifice yourself, your income, your reputation, to take a stand for those who are unable to stand for themselves,” he said.

“The people that terrorize others will continue to terrorize others who, in their cowardice and weakness or desire to benefit from the status quo, stand by the wayside and allow others to stand, when if they summoned courage they would stand with you as well,” said the Minister. (See his statement in this edition of The Final Call.)

Mr. Belafonte, an outspoken critic of those who overtly or covertly support the oppression of Black people, added his praise.

“I think that is a noble thing that he has done. I think speaking out and letting people become aware of the fact that you are paying homage to an anthem that also has a constituency that by the millions suffer, is a righteous thing to do,” he told News One’s Roland Martin during an interview. “To mute the slave has always been to the best interests of the slave owner. I think that when a Black voice is raised in protest to oppression, those who are comfortable with our oppression are usually the first to criticize us for daring to speak out against it.”


Fists UP 1968 Olympics
In this Oct. 16, 1968, file photo, extending gloved hands skyward in racial protest,U. S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos stare downward during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze medal in the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

“Like him, until we’re a nation that truly embodies and reflects its highest ideals, I will not stand for the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance,” asserted Dr. Jones-DeWeever, mother of two young men and president of Incite Unlimited, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm. “I would go to my sons’ games and people knew. No one bothered me. After President Obama got elected, I started standing again for a while but after all that has happened since, I’ve been sitting again.”Political commentator and international speaker Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said although she isn’t as famous as Mr. Kaepernick, she’s been sitting during the national anthem for years and has refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance since fourth grade.

“He is holding this nation to its highest ideals. His critics are okay with people being killed by the state, killed by the government and nothing is happening to the killers, there’s no accountability.”

Dr. Jones-DeWeever echoed a sentiment offered by Kaepernick supporters, that rather than focus on the issues of injustice, race and the targeting of people of color by law enforcement, his critics seek to deflect attention to the red herring that Mr. Kaepernick was anti-military.

“His critics are deliberately deflecting. They don’t give a damn about our lives, that our children are being shot on the street,” she said. “People all over the world know what’s going on here. When I was in Germany, they were asking about Michael Brown.”

“It just shows you that there is a strong element who continue to fight against Black people, who hold in callous disregard the lives of Black people. Those who don’t support him don’t care about Black people, my life, your life, every Black person’s life and I don’t care about their opinion. Those who truly love Black people should support him.”

Even as Mr. Kaepernick was rebuked by those who accused him of dishonoring the military, social media support from veterans exploded. The hashtag #VeteransforKaepernick began trending after soldier Trey Walker posted on Twitter: “If I became rich and famous today, and decided to speak out about the ongoing, systematic oppression of Black people and constant police brutality in this country, which uniform would you burn. Stop deliberately trying to miss the message by crucifying the messenger.”

Army veteran Frank J. Philips said he served his country so that Kaepernick and other Americans could exercise the right of free speech and enjoy all the rights and privileges afforded this country’s citizens.

“He’s a guy who was exercising his right as an American. I took no offense as an American who served honorably for 20 years,” said the New York City native and Laurel, Md., resident. “People who abridge that right are, in essence, un-American. You’re really against the Constitution. If he wants to do something as benign as not salute the flag, come on, I’m not gonna be moved by that. If I’m truly American, I have to accept that.”

Mr. Phillips, an associate professor of communications and public relations at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland for the past eight years, said he as a Black man clearly sees the inequalities, the inconsistencies and the vagaries of a system that is often skewed against Black people.

“I’m proud of the young man, given the losses he may incur. He’s an $11 million target. All who truly love America must support him,” said Mr. Phillips.

That support is tangible too because according to several sports outlets, Mr. Kaepernick’s jersey is a hot commodity, moving from 20th to third in sales in about a week.

Yet rather than receiving the unqualified support from his fellow athletes, few have come out publicly or joined him in his crusade. In fact, during a recent preseason game, Kaepernick teammate Eric Reed kneeled with him during the national anthem and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Seattle Jeremy Lane sat on a bench before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

According to published reports, Mr. Kaepernick expressed appreciation, particularly for Lane’s gesture of solidarity. He added that he’s received growing support from “numbers” of players around the league.

“I think there are a lot of conversations happening not only in NFL locker rooms but around the country,’’ he said. “I’ve also had friends that aren’t on football teams say, ‘You know, I respect what you’re doing; I support you. I’ve had more conversations about human rights and oppression and things that need to change in the last week than I’ve had in my entire life. And the fact that those conversations are happening is a start.’’

Dave Zirin, sports editor and columnist for the Nation, said he believes there will be reprisals against Mr. Kaepernick.

“I expect retaliation inside the NFL,” he said.

Former 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, Matt Hasselbeck, former Niners’ coach Jim Harbaugh and current New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz were among the first to disavow and castigate Mr. Kaepernick.

Dr. Edwards offered a stinging rebuke to current and former players, saying their opinions would carry more weight if they had cared to push back against all the extra judicial murders by law enforcement.

“I would take their opinion on what Kaep is doing more SERIOUSLY if I could see THEIR protest statements re: Eric Gardner being choked to death (only a few miles from where Victor Cruz, practices and plays football) or on the killing of Philando Castile (just outside of St Paul, Minnesota and minutes from where Alex Boone lines up to play football),” he said.

 “And I would really like to see their expressed opinions of outrage re: the killings of Mike Brown, or 12-year-old Tamir Rice, or 7-year-old Aryana Jones or Trayvon Martin, and the scores of others who have died at the hands of police since 2012 and the senseless death of Oscar Grant on the BART platform in Oakland, CA.”

40Million$slavesRecently retired New York Times sportswriter William C. Rhoden spoke at a September journalists’ roundtable in Washington, D.C., and discussed Mr. Kaepernick’s stance and the resulting furor. The author of the 2006 book, “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete,” said the conditions that athletes exist in doesn’t encourage stepping out as boldly as this quarterback did.

“Blacks are concentrated on the playing field, not in the front offices and earning millions weakened athletes and they shied away from social causes for fear of losing their wealth,” he explained. “White people tell you when it’s safe and you can protest within this box.”

Profile originally published in the Final Call, September 6, 2016