Greetings rallying readers!
Trouble in Black Paradise arouses massive uncertainty in a sadly revisited American era.
I went to San Francisco’s 2017 Dr. King Day celebration riding the same wave I knew stirred through every other participant. And a suspicion of mine absolutely hit the mark. Crowd levels significantly swelled compared to a year ago, given the freshness of last November’s Tragedy Tuesday election.
I’d say at least 3 times that of 2016’s attendees walked in this year’s march.
It helped that crystal clear skies set us in a warm niche, finagled between agitations in the Pacific incessantly lining up major storms. Still-in-all one dark, unshakable “gargantuan cloud” loomed: the transfer of federal powers—which finally did arrive a mere 4 days later—had crept oh so dreadfully near.
On King Day high anxiety had gathered—like a thorough connector buzzing—the charge itself was emotion needlessly spoken. It’s the same force linking a worldwide female statement, the post inaugural follow-up drawing massive crowds on the 21st—“visibility” loudly affirming our ties.
And thankfully local bonds Kicked-off our own fortifying for the next 4 years, due to Dr. King Day’s substantial “visibility” turnout—a validation calming such dreary tones: every age, ethnic range & standard religious branch brightened this annual road—stepping forth as Bay Area envoys for humanity’s stratum.
Clearly another bit of climate control operates here: San Francisco’s Interfaith Council strives to unify broad cultural, civic & religious sectors—they sponsor the annual event.
The full day’s theme was Justice in the Beloved Community. Quite appropriate, especially given the high profile murders of unarmed citizens by local cops that cause constant fiery protests here—still failing to bring anything near the result of justice.
The concept itself is obviously prime national focus. Justice has eternally eluded all America’s beleaguered underdogs, Blacks catching it the worse—the Black gay spectrum baring the heaviest brunt of all. But what appears to draw blanks for civic officials—their interminably unsolvable conundrum—frontline activists see no mystery in an absolutely clear legacy:
Religiously “radicalized monsters” founded & set the governing “practices” (protocol) of the United States—its iron fisted grip pounding racial & class privilege, tied to administrative corruption, ruthlessly into the 21st century.
So what is spotlighted in this King Day arena under that “gargantuan cloud,” regarding SF’s & the nation’s ongoing monumental travesties of justice—on so many “solution” targeted levels—will be interesting indeed!
And there are many items to indulge: a Health & Wellness Festival; a Black Comix Arts Expo; film screenings & stage performances.
Then there’s the meat of the matter:
Discussion panels (on social issues, incidents, conditions, set-backs & progress—all related to “injustices”). There’s showcasing the means to “personal” success seen thru individual’s projects, invested social groups & workplace institutions. Here, fireside tradition gears for intimate dialogue interaction—opportunity crafted for the average citizen—mining the people most impacted to get “our” frontline solutions.
But the kick-off march from SF’s Cal Train station to Yerba Buena Center, where the main stage immediately hosts the official Interfaith Council Commemoration, sets the entire tone—they are the day’s “ceremonial centerpiece”—gathering all then launching folks off to those hands-on forums.
The Council’s theme at this year’s service was Today’s Youth…Tomorrow’s Leaders. Speakers would alternate between new generation (millennial) reps & their elder “links.” It’s obviously a critical variable to raising the next wave of activists—rare but much needed movers-&-shakers who’d join those of us currently on multiple fronts—fighting for justice, equality & higher quality (in Dr. King’s spirit, “humane systemic change”).
Sadly the annual Freedom Train that leaves San Jose to hook-up with SF marchers almost ended last year. Our route (actually chosen by Coretta Scott-King) marks the historic 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, approximately the same 54 mile distance between our 2 cities. Marchers pause at Lefty O’Doul Bridge by SF Giant’s AT&T Park, honoring the bloody incident at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Ever dwindling ticket sales & sponsors were the culprit, said longtime organizer the King Association of Santa Clara Valley. Ironically last year’s Train actually “sold out” because it was thought to be the last—a sad trend especially plaguing Black causes (discussed in a venue here that I’ll address later).
PG&E substantially stepped in to save it—being the last ceremonial Train of its kind in the U.S.—& thus made it the now “Celebration Train” that’s also now absolutely free of charge. Needless to say this year’s Train was packed!
A surprise awaited me at the front of the march:
SF Mayor Ed Lee strolled clear as the day (flanked by a couple of “suits”) just behind Deacon G.L. Hodge (Interfaith Council Chair) who carried a “Make Love Known” sign—Hodge was the march’s focus lead & is MC on the Council Stage. At Lee’s left (not seen below) was Mattie Scott, founder of San Francisco’s Healing 4 Our Families & Our Nation. A few ranks behind Lee were a modest cluster of uniformed cops, “imaged” as if inadvertently marching—but a sight not fooling the well informed.
Bay Area locals know the deal:
Last year Lee was hounded out of every MLK Day activity leading up to Yerba Buena activities—by angry activists for the Mario Woods Coalition. Woods had been literally assassinated by a squad of cops, captured on a highly damning video (yet one of many here downplayed by national media).
Lee got severe heat to fire then Chief Greg Suhr who justified the killing, then was castigated himself for backing the bogus report; activists demanded he also step down, thus Lee had come nowhere near the march—subsequently getting harassed off 2016’s Interfaith Stage itself, by relentless Woods reps.
Continued pressure soon got Suhr fired: a new “outsider” African-American chief, former LAPD deputy chief William Scott (a 27-year veteran) has been sworn in & a little cooling time has slipped past the last year (into the new).
Thus we see Lee now parading front & center—he soon spoke uninterrupted on 2017’s Council platform—his opening words “I am you, you are me”—drawing applause.
Immediate questions rocked in my head:
Have so many forgotten that there is still so much nasty, horrendous, unfinished legal business here regarding unarmed citizens murdered by cops? Forgotten the judicial stalling, official cover-ups, falsifying reports & withholding case related evidence? Forgotten victim’s loved ones still left in the lurch seeking “justice?” Forgotten that DA George Gascón has not charged a single cop?
Mattie Scott is one of 3 well deserved Council honorees on that stage.
I first covered Mattie’s work with George Jurand in 2010, as they’d cofounded the Healing Circle for the Soul Support Group. The pioneer group established a critically needed “space” where shocked & traumatized survivors of the victims taken by violence, could themselves get communal support & legal assistance.
Outreach was made to newly disoriented folks (suddenly thrown into these families’ same dreaded “boat”). In addition to healing forums the group staged rallies, lobbied City Hall, helped raise funeral funds, held press conferences, educated folks regarding legal matters—literally embracing those left behind to put their own shattered lives back together, while transforming them into informed warriors—new advocates now seeking justice for themselves & others.
And these survivors had folks murdered by both cops & “criminalized peers” in their own plagued hoods. Scott receiving her award described the young man who killed her son, “as previously having eaten & socialized right under my own roof”—all the more heartbreaking.
The Interfaith kick-off stage continued its soul stirring lineup, punctuated by Rev. Amos Brown’s recap of his own legendary involvement (in 1962 being 1 of 8 students in Dr. King’s only taught class, at Atlanta’s Morehouse College). But I sensed a change of “tone” from last year’s event.
The change would stand out in an after venue I attended titled: Grade A Social Justice.
NBA star & ex Warriors player Baron Davis was featured here; the most well known of 5 other more seasoned panelists—with a young “radio personality” moderator. Grade A signifies their career titles: artist, academician, author, activist, & administrator…Davis
being the “athlete.” He’s been quite socially involved post NBA, launching projects & the like, but his novice perspective (more locked in classic “white liberal” mode) would soon stand out—& be addressed.
Signs of the shifted “tone” leaped instantly with the moderator’s 1st question. He asked, “Is justice still relevant today?” I cringed.
Of course panelists politely gave their generically expected responses, but this was more like a 19th century white abolitionist discussion convincing a doubtful audience that something still needed to be done. Eventually obvious building block solutions got touched upon: education, skills training, etc…
And some “class” issues related to internal conflicts especially sabotaging Black progress were listed: particularly Blacks wasting “trillions” of annual dollars on frivolousness—not investing in or “trusting” one another; & making a glamorized “celebrity aristocracy” our new “leaders” (most being conflicted, co-opted, detached & basically “sold out” to a white upper class—or glamorized street “thug” interests); mainstream media thus carefully choosing them (thugs included) as our spokespersons—similar to handpicked “status-quo” voices on TV’s The View.
But Davis lit up the final moments deeply criticizing Black Lives Matter. Davis feels it’s taking the movement in the wrong direction; that protest marches are obsolete; that sitting to discuss at “the table” would be more effective; that Blacks becoming cops is the end all solution to police brutality in our “hoods.”
Most disturbing: Davis feels protestors blocking streets & freeways achieve nothing except alienating the public; that higher-ups (media, legislators, a white ruling class, etc…) will dismiss us, not inviting us to “the table”—due to their feeling insult.
Several co panelists bristled & the moderator leaped into fierce (but super contained) rebuttal mode—maybe not wanting to hurt Davis’ “feelings” here—but the elder academician said it best: Black youth out there reviving this “movement”—having to take extreme drastic action—shows how deeply “we failed them” by their having to begin where we ourselves “failed to advance.”
It flew right over Davis’ head & brings me to my original point: the “tone” has changed here.
The panel discussion I attended last year was with Elaine Brown, co founder of the Black Panther Party & Professor Melvin Newton of Oakland’s Merritt College (older brother of the late co founder Huey P. Newton). It smoked right out of the gate!
They straightforwardly clarified the systemic source of our struggle—“white power protocol”; they acknowledged young leadership lives cut down & brave elders of the time (adding the critical work of predecessors) who risked—giving it all; itemized was the “system’s” endless variations of successful resistance to Human Rights progress—they offered the best approach to successfully thwart that “monstrous force” (which includes linking every “effective method” under the sun) by “any means necessary!”
At this year’s panel instead of stagnated liberal format (their academician’s ironic “note”) the young moderator himself should have blasted out with forward gusto! For starters he could have noted that quite viable social blueprints already exist—crafted by King, Malcolm X & the like—then laid out unquestionable facts:
Address the unadulterated “racial ceiling”; the issues of class; cultural self-sabotage; machismo sexist subordination of female leadership (a “glass ceiling” in the movement itself); the challenge of “enlightening” brainwashed masses (internal & outsiders); plus more. Thus panelists have tangible substance to bite (bolstered by King’s & Malcolm’s much neglected blueprints) addressing historical insight & practical solutions—tasks the audience can immediately grab onto.
The elephant in the room screamed: absolutely being America’s Teflon tough “racial ceiling” & thorough “white protocol” systemic control. And its heart wrenching wail still remained obscured.
Does Davis not know that every major U.S. city’s police departments have Black Officer’s Associations in them for a reason? Davis must not have heard of retired LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey’s book: The Creation of a Manifesto, Black & Blue, or heard her numerous TV comments blistering entrenched national departmental racism—and severe retaliation against good cops who blow the whistle. He must not know that just this month a decade’s long, multimillion dollar racial discrimination suit was settled against the CIA.
The young moderator never mentioned a true bombshell: that corrupted & fuzzy leadership—“radicalized” Christian religious & civic—is the primary derailing factor; or that U.S. Blacks have been absolutely “physically broken & religiously restructured” to support our corrupt system—well beyond slavery—more comfortable sabotaging ourselves.
The word “self-hatred” never blatantly crystallized. And the concept of crafting a long overdue National Black Agenda (& overall Human Rights Agenda)—knowing the drive must be national—never hit mental airwaves.
Thankfully on national media platforms comedian/actor D.L. Hughley & rapper T.I. are artist standouts—excoriating Black celebs not only for indulging the “newly elect” (on his narrow, self-serving terms—“not theirs”) but for their monumental sell-out mentalities. Check out Michael Eric Dyson’s fierce interview on New York’s The Breakfast Club slamming it right here!
This in screaming contrast to retired NBA celeb Charles Barkley (a chronic, guilt wracked “Afro apologist” appeasing chronic white guilt): in an NBA program that day he boasted proposing a strange notion & I quote, “Dr. King never talked about Black rights, he never singled anybody out, he talked about Human Rights & Civil Rights…”—this is Barkley’s boldface lie & fabricated mistruth! It’s a sneaky way of trying to credit King (who soon rightfully & strategically included the broader Human Rights spectrum, dangerously addressing “foreign policy” & eventually the Viet Nam war) while still discrediting Black plight with a “backdoor” slap in the face!
For starters Barkley must not know that in the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott “Negroes” launched King to the forefront; he fought to end discrimination specifically targeting Blacks. “Negroes” were relegated to sit in the back—while suffering untold other murderous injustices—not some generically targeted populace Blacks just happened to peek out of.
Barkley’s “sell-out” styled comments wouldn’t be worth mentioning, were he not the white sports media elite’s poster boy for Black narratives—his voice propped to receive a broad platform. In him is exemplified the most stunning & insidious example of Black “self-hatred.”
Davis (who appears deluded by co “athlete” Barkley’s over exposure) could use a good huddle with Hughley’s crew who’d tweak is “consciousness.” Calling Black Lives Matter’s Civil Disobedience Acts negative & obsolete he must have missed the Interfaith Ceremony. There, Patrick Dilworth (on behalf of Christian faith tradition) quoted from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (worth quoting in full here). King says:
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is…the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension…who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” (All italics are mine).
Barkley, I do believe I read the word “Negro” (synonymous back then with Black, or Afro-American) “twice” in the excerpt quoted above.
White supremacist legislators & civic leaders paid no attention as Jim Crow & brutal lynching crashed well into the 20th century—they didn’t have to. Only when the comfortable system was brazenly disrupted (a complicit public “inconvenienced”) did they look—being “forced” to. Governors were then “forced” to have us at the “table”—otherwise the invite would never have come.
Unfortunately, no audience participation at this year’s forum (the “fireside” kind of fizzling in these changing “tones”) but had there been, as a seasoned Elder I would have told Davis this:
We are not looking for “permission, acceptance, or invite!” We’re not here to help heartless privilege “feel good.” Equal opportunity & fair (humane) treatment under the law is our right! And like the praised “American ideal” we do pull up our bootstraps demanding that rightfully claimed place at “the table,” against all odds—not begging & undaunted in the fight for justice!
Davis, before rushing off in a celebrity bubble (shaped by athletic machismo in his anxiousness to “lead”) needs to himself learn to humbly “follow”—trusting his elders & the actual voice of Dr. King—instead of conflicted, white liberal athlete mentality.
Yes, a tone has changed:
Last year Mario Woods’ murder by cops (just the month before) had his coalition advocates firing up Dr. King day! This year I saw no sign of them—or any of the other linked coalitions:
Justice 4 Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Alex Nieto, Idriss Stelley, Oscar Grant, Kenneth Harding, Jr., Derrick Gains, James “Nate” Greer, O’Shaine Evans, Jessica Nelson Williams…& so many more.
Last year was also the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s founding in Oakland. The significance of progressive, radical “action”—seeking justice while aggressively initiating resourceful community “self-help”—permeated the air!
Maybe the same pesky “trend” that threatened the Freedom Train (pumped-up attendance only when thought to go extinct) & which greatly swelled this year’s attendance (terror from last November’s Election Tuesday) caused forgetfulness around our Blue Ribbon Panel’s horror—thus it upstaged unarmed citizens continuously being murdered by cops. Chief Suhr fired & new chief Scott hired—hence Mayor Lee now marches & then speaks—undisturbed.
I did not see new Chief William Scott in attendance here & there is still a movement to “recall” Lee.
I also did not see citizen advocacy group San Franciscan’s for Police Accountability.
But while covering Woods’ coalitions’ progress (& the rest) I’d often wondered if they had ever connected with Mattie Scott’s vital effort. Both are key elements doing powerful work on the same healing & justice seeking chain.
Progress realized at this year’s (& every year’s) King Event would have organizers do this: canvass these ever growing coalition segments—that through their individual work enlighten the public—to set prominently on view as “soldiers in action for justice.”
I don’t know if the King Day leadership actually solicits groups, simply recycles them, or waits for new groups to come forth themselves. Aaron Grizzell, Executive Director of the Northern California Dr. King Community Foundation did mention that he & producers brainstorm ideas for each event.
By right (& invaluable “practicality”) coalition’s like Justice 4 Jessica Nelson Williams & Mattie Scott’s should all be facilitating their own individual workshops here, centered around their cause—& not overlapping, or simultaneous—but in sequence; thus attendees could get detailed glimpses of victim’s personal lives, their deadly incidents, their family’s stories, who the culprits are & where the legal process now stands.
Coalitions could give clear, direct means of action for public participation in countless areas needed (scores of resource folks build & operate there—just waiting for new input); many volunteers now shouldering the weight risk becoming overwhelmed—physical & emotional burnout causing huge setbacks—as is to be expected.
Speaking of fuzzy leadership:
As usual LGBTQ politicos were introduced on the Interfaith Stage: new Senator Scott Wiener & new Supervisor Jeff Sheehy (an AIDS activist & the 1st HIV-positive Board Member, replacing Wiener)—both drew applause. But like previous years absolutely none spoke—& none were introduced as “openly gay.”
One Grade A panelist did mention LGBTQ folks in the overall Civil Rights stratum—another addressed a major issue: Black Lives Matter in the U.S. South showing extremist level homophobia—colonial religious machismo flaring its ugly head (an entire forum topic unto itself).
But no workshops on Black gays at the forefront of advancing the movement—like the incomparable Bayard Rustin, Lorraine Hansberry, Barbara Jordan, James Baldwin, et al.
No workshops either on Black Lives Damaged by our “radicalized” Black Church’s virulent homophobic history—or on rampant racism riddling the white gay mainstream (its segment being “economically & visibly” dominant)—or on Black gays being marginalized everywhere (viciously trapped in-between).
I, as an openly gay Black man at the forefront of groundbreaking leadership does know a thing: the fact that no Black gay groups were on hand—pushing for inclusion of our voice’s “presence”—means Bay Area Black gay organizing itself is “token” & in shambles!
In San Francisco it’s nonexistent.
Doubtlessly since gay “technical” presence here is based on white political standards these “leaders” accept just getting their “own props”—white liberal-like! Settling comfortably into gay tokenism seems their “end game”—not rocking the boat (by sharing their own personal contributions towards overall liberation). True inclusion would see them laying out what they expect here—on behalf of liberating (& involving) their constituents—the heart of which being absolutely gay!
I couldn’t imagine the late S.F. Supervisor Harvey Milk sitting on that stage ignoring the opportunity to address this crowd—proudly including SF’s impact on gay movements everywhere & solidifying LGBTQ Civil Rights position with colorful flair!
And at least I’ve not forgotten:
While still an SF Supervisor Scott Wiener vehemently backed the ruthless Police Officer’s Association (POA) Union every dastardly step of the way. This powerful, big moneyed lobbying force came under fierce Blue Ribbon Panel fire & still derails their suggested dept. “reforms”—in the face of damning evidence (where murderous cops have falsified reports). Wiener remains their boy.
San Francisco then rewarded Wiener—sending him off to represent us in the Senate.
The fact that SF’s enormous Inaugural Night City Hall Protest Rally had people marching 5,000 strong to hit the Mission—but 1st up to the Castro for a spontaneous rally (at
Hibernia Beach’s infamous 18th street intersection)—shows the Gay Mecca is considered a significant “force” to include—and reckon with!
But added irony sees nuance in reverse: a predominantly white Gay Men’s Chorus does perform at this major Black based event—but no LGBTQ rep “addresses” it.
And an Interfaith Council promoting a spiritual base to root out injustice, but not addressing the white power system’s major tool—“radicalized” Christianity—relegates the Day to a “tea-&-crumpets” affair. No one wants to address the Black Church’s disgraceful neglect nationally in our communities—& its pervasive calamitous effect—due to wholeheartedly embracing the master’s “radicalized” Christian brand. It’s the reason Black Preachers are scarce to be found in Black Lives Matter marches.
The very same condition & its disconnect “effect” dogged Dr. King—as the thick of the
Black religious iceberg snubbed his brave Civil Rights organizing. King lamented about it in speeches.
Black folk preferring “radicalized” Christian tenets over say, a Universalist Unitarian brand—where hospitality & Civil Rights advocacy shapes the forefront of their “creed”—shows glamour, rationalized hostility towards the downtrodden & a “saving me” mentality rules—not spiritual love for the oppressed “we.”
Hence the old abolitionist’s diamond saying: “You cannot dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools.”
Tons of unfinished business—eternally polluting a unified drive—adds heavy drag that King Day producers shouldn’t overlook: unless it wishes to remain a mere “ritual.”
And given that infamous “trend” I raised earlier, known to plague (& shorten) the “shelf life” of Black causes, the event’s future could be as tenuous as a new Celebration Train’s. Long-term survival here requires a constant infusion of new ideas, while building upon the foundation that’s been gathered—success cannot happen without “across the board” acceptance in “unity.”
Interestingly—though gripped by 2017 fear & uncertainty—much of the “unfinished business” has nothing to do with threats from you know who:
This ultimate businessman as incoming “elect” exploits disunity & exclusion—he didn’t “invent” it.