“…POCASE’s survival…as a nexus overseeing the emerging People Of Color AIDS resources, came to a quick disastrous end.”
Trouble In Black Paradise Chapter 1: Distress Call, page 11; & Chapter 15: A Demon Lurking In The Closet Of Mainstream Gay Organizing, page 313.
Greetings charged-up readers!
Trouble in Black Paradise sees the rapid tide of an insidious foe swell—still missing the nation’s radar.
I’ve watched and trained a long time from the bridge—designing substitute rescue ships, overhauled crippled vessels—navigated the shellshock in trenches.
Yet, society’s underdog “fleet” still signals from the sea in deadly distress.
It’s been some 42 years after the Afro-American alternative school project C.E.B.I.S. and 29 years after I co founded POCASE.
And here’s a “reality 1” fact: conditions for Blacks in San Diego—reflecting national scenes—are also worse than ever.
So where did the C.E.B.I.S. and POCASE models go wrong? And can our current or future agencies fair any better?
These two agency’s demise is the first major clue—showing the “level” of vision, integrity and practical investment that’s absolutely imperative—but was not maintained.
For POCASE it was “nefarious”—a killing of integrity: the combination of being co-opted by a faction (of status-quo Hispanics & whites) with ruinous embezzlement by the director (who had left San Francisco’s Shanti for San Diego’s Comprehensive Health Center) where the fledgling group became housed.
Downfall happened after I’d lambasted POCASE’s corrosive usurpers, haranguing their utter smugness with my prediction that this cause was now imminently “doomed to go down in flames”—as I immediately severed ties.
“Trouble In Black Paradise” recalls the whole eye-opening scandal—definitely a must read for tips on “what to avoid” in posterity.
Now at the 2016 Black AIDS forum the same reoccurring issues cause this current squad of social workers and advocates major angst: it’s both “systemic” (bureaucratic governing) and “culturally internal” (debilitation realities of Black life).
You can guess I’d entered that room wearing my infamous “goggles,” bringing with me the measuring question: are current workers building on the “wheel” already created by forbearers (and “ancestors”) or entering the choking, smoky minefield as if no precedent exists?
And what have we here? The San Francisco Department of Public Health or SFDPH (the forum’s major sponsor) is the epitome of age-old institutional bureaucracy. The forum was held there.
Other named sponsors have “titles” indicating they’re launched specifically to target Blacks (their Black reps present) but apparently as mere “components” of other agencies—founded and run by whites.
I saw no agency present professing it was founded, run and overseen by Blacks—or indicating it builds with grassroots groups rising from the heart of a “viable” Black community.
Blacks hoping to make social change, hired by major bureaucratic dynasties, meet a terrible predicament. Your employer’s legacy is the very reason “alternative” services were founded to begin with:
San Diego’s Public Educational System was well aware of their failure regarding Black achievement—but its priority demanded student’s merely behave while “suffering” an administration’s cherished colonial curriculum; formality snuffed out the joy of learning (as it exacerbated profound “self-hatred”)—the very reason C.E.B.I.S. rallied to meet the crisis.
Departments of Public Health nationally were well aware of AIDS (awareness not being their problem); it was deadly homophobia obliterating “common sense” for quality health service (or any humane response at all) that had white gays swiftly founding AIDS institutes—their fiery new “protest” groups rigorously did Act Up, lighting hot spots across America.
White gay AIDS agencies definitely received the “stats” (knowing U.S. ethnic minorities are being hit the hardest—Blacks the worst); but their detachment (reflecting society’s racist bureaus) sparked our creating more validating people of color AIDS services across America.
Make no mistake: As is every “public good” bureau SFDPH is a civic institution charged with addressing all public health issues, overseeing all health related agencies and setting public policy therein—for all social sectors—period! No individual sector should have to create supplemental or primary services, in order for well established government agencies to accomplish their job.
But those staff “burn out” horror stories (vented in Pt. 1’s opener) may re-clarify some blurred reality: America’s major health, educational and social service agencies are standard corporations—in total duplicated structure.
The moral is: a humane overhauling of corporate “culture” (forced to have off-shoot “target agencies”) has been piecemeal and extremely miniscule—not even beginning to be complete.
All know corporate priority—in keeping with its government parent—is worshiping itself. It’s why standard “agencies” from top to bottom were America’s perfect tool to institute her prized ideals: racism, sexism, class privilege and homophobia.
The frontline for preserving America’s pecking order solidified on the very opposite of my mentor’s platform: it’s called the corporate “bridge.”
Corporate climate confirms the pesky thing my fieldwork proves: only independently Afro founded and sustained services—integrating a positive Black value system—can turn the tide, and not just with AIDS. The “domino effect” will crash upon all other debilitation “boiling over” issues.
An overhauling of the entire community—from the inside out—must take place (in conjunction with civic group assistance); thereby both agencies and community leaders can be better held to task.
C.E.B.I.S.’s model launched that proven fieldwork, so now a “reality 2” show stopper question: do health agency underlings truly realize the daunting scope of what civic bosses actually lay on them (pushing for “stat results” to validate, or re up their components funding)?
A jolt of reality 3: It translates as the task to both clean up their own agency’s inner “rot” and send life revitalizing “enlightenment” rippling through the devastated halls of Blackness—a problem seemingly confounding standard preachers, teachers, parents, politicians, social and workplace advocates alike.
AIDS Forums list stigma (homophobia), debilitation (income poverty, drug abuse, mental illness) and isolation (secrecy) for exacerbating Black HIV rise. Mistrust of civic reps (police, case & social workers, medical industries, politicians, lawyers & bureaucrats) block significant inroads into the community.
Throughout this series I’ve raised a central dilemma: the “system’s demon” is overwhelmingly the dominant culprit, exploiting debilitating conditions for the maintenance of privilege in status-quo—a debilitation the system itself created to scuttle those “underdog” ships; it’s a notion Elders never budge from.
But game changing irony abounds. Veterans do know the system’s weapon of dominance has a chink in that armor: the Black community itself has the power to steer its own destiny—ample resource absolutely abounds.
Black people have the total means to pull the community up by its bootstraps. So what’s the hold up?
And the clincher: Afro-Americans on many levels will absolutely “sacrifice” their own—arguably the most explosive of endless “boiling over” issues.
Black self-hatred is bureaucracy’s state-of-affairs “trump card” (guaranteeing a debilitating Afro status crashes into the unforeseen future). It absolutely knows “self-hatred” is the chink in Black excellence armor—that armor (religious, educational, and political) was forged by bureaucracy itself, not Black advocates.
African-American “achievers” do not love Black people.
No one who moves up into “abundant means” that loves another (soul deep) in every exciting respect—solidified in streaming spiritual essence—can do this: stand by and know that brilliant loved ones were cut down who’d absolutely flourish if given the chance (disenfranchised over centuries); they’d be galvanizing a ferocious, strategized response to absolutely restore their road to excellence.
People who truly love their kin will rally to crush an “outsider’s” deep-rooted, controlling exploitation.
Reality 4’s “practicality” check:
To meet SFDPH’s mission to turn this community crisis tide—getting Blacks to pool resources (instead of worshiping their self-hatred)—the forum’s ill prepared health agents would have to do this:
Steer Afro-Americans from bleach chemicals and creams used to whiten skin; frying perms to straighten hair—mega million dollar annual commerce for “white folks.”
Convince Black women to not worship Caucasian hair, fiercely gobbling-up expensive “weaves”— delivering whites an added annual billion dollar industry.
Get entertainers who “fall through the cracks” (successfully escaping urban poverty) to trade their extreme narcissism (and squandering of wealth) for lofty investments in their old “hoods” (known as ancestral grounds).
Convince scholars, doctors, lawyers, politicians and business class (rising up the ranks) to ditch “upper crust” detachment, using those “educational opportunities” (gained on the bloodied backs of Black pioneers) for the greater purpose: planning national agendas for self-sustained institutions—instead of steering Black aspirants into white run “corporate slave pens.”
Infuse the overwhelming majority of “preachers” with spiritually based respect for “everyone,” especially outside their walls, instead of condemning social victims (the downtrodden) while selfishly exploiting fear and hypocrisy for mega monetary gain.
And ensure the community doesn’t lose track of “ancestral relevance” (the love, work, strategic insight and “opportunity” bestowed by those Black pioneers).
Next, to overhaul their own agencies (better serving public needs) the forum’s disempowered health agents must do this:
End bureaucracy’s worshiping of its own power structure; have management and staff dedicated to finding innovative ways of improving client services (instead of solely focusing on career ladders); set policy for admin to actually listen to staff needs and suggestions (with legitimate “venting spaces” immune from repercussion); clear out backstabbing staff politics (selfish isolation tactics and refusal to share cross related info); get management to end its practice of being “puppeteers,” manipulating nasty corporate climates (which keeps staff “at heated odds”)—deflected from collectively excising corrosive policies; have clear, practical goals and direction; overhaul public service procedures, eliminating “red tape” (instead of deifying it); hire staff that actually cares about “people”; and have rewards and enjoyment activities to foster good “mental health.”
Of course for these agents to transform both society and bureaucracy “simultaneously” (what dual advocates failed to do over centuries) would take a magical genie that’s damn good! No agency boss can begin to singlehandedly do it and shouldn’t hold a subordinate accountable either—not nearly on this level.
But SFDPH is charged with devising means to better address and protect the entire society, overcoming obstacles that would prevent that. Yet, a thing is certain:
Only Afro-Americans who love Black people will even begin the towering effort toward self-sustenance, pulling together vital pieces along the way, completing the bigger picture bit by bit—motivated by successful increments that push back against the tide.
Black health workers who love Afro-Americans will do it because you’re compelled by legacy. You cannot turn the tide locked in and hampered by those agencies—limited solely to nurturing individual careers. You’ll have to make extracurricular efforts; addressing every “elephant in the room” (constantly sidestepped by all) while utilizing every possible outside connection—centered from the heart of “Black community.”
At both the 2009 and recent 2016 summits I did find this:
“Barebones reality” was laid out—the battlefield details stark and troubling; a “blueprint” hit the direction of C.E.B.I.S.’s model, but not nearly as far reaching.
Every Afro based social center, health agency, recreation program, political group, church (and whatever) must be compiled for contact and follow-up; developing ongoing intimate relationships politely keeps them connected (out of sight, out of mind); it enables at least an inadvertent participation (for starters) and expands your engaged “base”—while holding them accountable.
Black titled and “targeting” AIDS agencies should be marching right up front, with AIDS banners at every Black Lives Matter protest and every “general” minority rally.
Here’s an idea for Black gays deeply affiliated with white gay social affairs:
Start hosting Castro fundraisers for obscure groups seated in the Afro community (AIDS related or not); hetero Blacks and white gays have mostly “foreign” relationships you can help bridge—concurrently, you’d be moving into your own “cutting edge” frontier (embracing your neglected ancestral home) and hosting future charities there.
At neither forum did I even hear the term self-hatred, every advocacy planning room’s “elephant.” Approaching any progress attempt sidestepping this reality guarantees setback and collapse.
Nor did I hear the term “positive Black value system,” though snippets of the model are set in action here. It being the furthest thing from Afro-American minds flushes a two pronged adversary with terrible power—both the enemy “within” and the demon “outside.”
And no mentioning at all of the “ancestors”: Malcolm X; Fannie Lou Hamer; the inexorable David Walker; Lorraine Hansbury; Bayard Rustin; Rep. Shirley Chisholm; Rev. Leon Sullivan; James Baldwin; King Ashoka the Great! Inspirational navigation strategies from forbearers should kick-off every event.
Clinical “terms” are important and must be defined clearly, but shouldn’t be batted around as if everyone’s a clinical scholar—it leaves lay volunteers baffled and in the dust.
No volunteer, self-identified “resource person” or group should ever be allowed to languish outside of your “action center”—left unutilized. Most people excitedly approaching me after both forums, far more astounded by my input (than that of clinicians) were not agency staff. It speaks volumes about agents, baffled while sharing ever worsening stats, but lackluster with effort to intimately “engage”—keeping “polite distance” from proven experience is not an option.
And if you haven’t done so Black SFDPH staff must form your own offshoot “support group,” a place to freely vent and receive intimate, sensitive support. Black staff from separate bureaus could be “co members.” Outside folks could be invited in to tap their resources; even present workshops. If necessary the group should be held offsite (maybe even at a Black “center”) yet it should exist.
But after all is said and done, there’s this:
The “system” is a jealous God, demanding reformers strictly rely on its touted provisions for progress and change (guaranteeing financial resources and allegiances remain with “corruption”).
The systemic demon is vast and well entrenched; it’s self-defending weapons successful for millennia—well planted “seeds” baring powerfully efficient tactics long ago sprouted.
That product, now towering with religious (and “politically moralistic” force) sways underdogs to benevolently lash themselves—and then stifle those who are “like” them; always ready to ambush other rare, brazen reformers.
But backup had better be that damn good genie!
Next blog: white gays on the fast track to duplicate (this article’s) Black Liberation set-backs.