I sold my chance to be President

In the summer of 1961, when “Negro” anything, always meant “first” something, I was a rising senior, attending John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles. I was a member of the Scholastic Sports Association, a daily high school sports reporting network associated with the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper.

One of the SSA brass was affiliated with the Hollywood “Miracle Mile” Post of the American Legion. In 1961–as it had done for countless years and most certainly continues to do even now–the American Legion took 800 boys to the State Capital in Sacramento for a week-long camp-out, ultimate reality show, and exercise in the American form of government called California Boys State. I was chosen to represent the American Legion Miracle Mile Post in 1961.

At the conclusion of Boys State, two boys are chosen to represent that state in the ultimate assembly: Boys Nation.

It was at Boys Nation one year later when Arkansas Boys Nation Delegate William Jefferson Clinton had his picture taken with Pres. John F. Kennedy, causing young Bill to believe he was then destined to himself become President of the United States of America. Which he did.

There were seven other Black boys at California Boys State in 1961. Most were very impressive “First Negro” type of Dudes. They all seemed to be scholar-athletes destined for great things in the future.

Me? I was more the Class Clown. Hey: Dare to Giggle. Dare to Grin. That’s my motto.

So, in a cynical moment, I sold my chance to be President of the United States, for $5. Here’s how the deal was “structured.” (I realize that no White Boy worth his salt would have paid any Negro Boy good money for the Negro Boy’s life-long chance to be President.) He paid me in special 1961 California Boys State money! Worth only slightly more than your basic “Monopoly” money.

But I still think I got the better part of that deal. Continue reading

Political ‘miracles’ do happen

There’s a story that back in the 1960s when legendary football coach and racist symbol Paul “Bear” Bryant was the coach at the University of Alabama, he was approached by federal agents who told him that he had to integrate his team. Coach Bryant–whose protégé include “Broadway” Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler, among others–resisted the entreaty.

It was Alabama, in the 1960s, The Bear complained. The governor of the state, George Corley Wallace, would have none of it, he insisted. The feds put their foot down. Integration was the order of the day.

But the alumni would withdraw their support, the Bear replied. He couldn’t have an African American player on the Crimson Tide squad, it just wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t work, he complained and complained. But the feds said, they would at least have to let a Black player try out for the squad.

Finally, Coach Bryant relented. Bring the player and he would let him try out for the squad, he said. When the feds showed up with the player, the coach told him he would first have to return a punt. The Black player awaited the ball all by himself. When the ball was in the air, the coach told all the rest of the players on the team, offense and defense to cover the punt, all of them. “Go get him!” the coach said.

The Black try-out caught the ball and began to run toward the mob. The squad rushed forward. They collided at mid-field in a cloud of dust. Then, as the dust cleared, the Black player broke free and began to sprint toward the goal line.

The coach jumped to his feet and pumped his fist into the air. “Look at that Puerto Rican go!” he shouted. As the story goes, the player made the team. Miracles do happen. Continue reading

Bush’s last State of the Union address

President George W. (for Worst in history) Bush gives a pretty good speech when he’s not outright lying, or starting a war or something. Considering elocution only, His Nibs delivered a decent speech, in his twangy kind of way. He didn’t stumble over many words in his nearly hour-long delivery. He kept most people present awake, most of the time, for his final State of the Union address.

He does after all have degrees from Yale and Harvard, albeit with a C-average. His family sure got their money’s worth out of that deal.

But, oh, you didn’t know that whenever his lips are moving there’s a strong likelihood he’s trying to deceive, or just straight-out lying? You didn’t know that in the two years after Sept. 11, 2001 Pres. Bush made at least 260 separate false statements in public to lead the United States into its invasion and occupation of Iraq? You didn’t know that?

Obviously you did not read the exhaustive study released Jan. 23 by the Center for Public Integrity. The President’s untruths were “part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses,” that’s all. That orchestrated campaign totaled 935 false statements made by Mr. Bush and his top seven advisors, including Vice President Dick Cheney, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among them.

But back to his State of the Union speech, which was short on his customary bravado and bluff, and as a result, not full of policy and grandiose proposals, and therefore not likely to be as full of lies as a typical Bush war speech. Oh he did invoke the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen fighting the war. He tugged at the strings and got several standing ovations praising the troops. Of course, I’ve always said the Bush foreign policy, or “Bush Doctrine” if you will, can be summed up in three words: “Support the Troops.” That also means never question the mission their commanders assign them. Continue reading

Now that the surge is successful…

Now that the Bush administration’s Troop Surge is “working,” what’s next, war watchers? Permanent occupation, of course.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the odds-on Republican presidential nominee would be content to stay in Iraq 100 years or more. He was for the surge all along.

He’s a real, true, War Hawk. He’s a decorated combat hero. His father was an admiral. His father’s father was an admiral. War heroes. Sen. McCain is open about his justification for permanent U.S. occupation of Iraq and all lands connected to Iraq: to better fight against Islamic radicals, extremists.

Sen. McCain, and others who share his view always include the word “Islamic,” when describing their enemy. What about the rest of the people who fall under “Islamic?” How does a President McCain propose to differentiate between “bad” Islamic people and the rest of the Islamic people?

Among the leading Democratic contenders: Senators Hilary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), they all concede that U.S. troops will need to remain in Iraq at least 10 years! Give or take a year or two.

Bush wins.

Does the “success” of the Surge (in at least pacifying the Iraqi countryside for a while) mean the U.S. is more likely to declare victory and come home, or remain deployed? That is a trick question. Continue reading

Black perception vs. White perception

To say that Black people and White people live in two different worlds when it comes to world view, is an understatement.

Ask any Black person about Nat Turner, for example, and most express admiration for the man who led the bloodiest slave revolt in American history. After all, on Aug. 21, 1831 he led a company of 70 slaves in a rebellion in Southampton, Va. to end slavery.

He was a hero, a bold young captain! He fought for freedom!

Ask most White folks–especially those in Southampton–and they may very well condemn him. Let’s not forget, that during that bloody insurrection, 57 Whites, men, women and children–civilians–were slaughtered, many while they slept.

He was a murdering terrorist!

So it goes. There is a Black perception of reality. There is a White perception of reality.

Last September 60,000 young Blacks marched in tiny Jena, La. to protest racial bias in the criminal justice system down there, Six Black teenagers faced a total of 100 years in jail as adults for their role in a schoolyard fight in which a White student was beaten. But months earlier three White students were given a slap on the wrist as punishment after they hung three nooses from a tree in the schoolyard, a day after Black students had sat under the tree.

The behavior of the Black students in Jena was labeled “criminal.” The behavior of the White students was dismissed as “a childish prank.”

The following Halloween, at fraternity parties all over the country, White students, wearing black-face make-up and Afro-wigs posed for pictures at make-believe lynching parties. (White students seem to pose for pictures which they proudly post on the Internet, in black-face and Afro-wigs at Halloween parties every year.)

There is a Black perception of acceptable behavior there. There is a separate and distinct White perception of acceptable behavior there. Continue reading

President Obama, Vice President Edwards

As unbelievable and fundamentally absurd as it sounds, it may already be inevitable that a Black man will be elected the next President of the United States.

Unfathomable. We have wandered into absolutely uncharted political waters.

President Barack Hussein Obama, with his feather-light political résumé and his heart of pure gold. Get used to it.

Mr. President. And before we get to giddy with exuberance over that idea, we must follow through and make sure former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is his Vice Presidential running mate.

The unimaginable political popularity of the first-term U.S. Senator from Illinois with–as he says it–the “funny name,” in “Lily White” Iowa and New Hampshire, boggles the minds of political scientists, pundits, and informed observers alike.

Sen. Obama has wisely chosen to cast himself more as a unifier, rather than as one who speaks only for the hurt of Black people. By doing this, with his unique “bi-racial” persona–youthful madrassas in Indonesia and all–he has allowed people to look at him as an icon, a political standard bearer, not because of the color of his skin, but indeed because of the content of his character.

To put President-to-be Obama in Hollywood theatrical terms, he is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” not starring Denzel Washington, but starring Jimmy Stewart. By not staking his candidacy on the plight of Black people, it allowed other people to recognize their own hurt in his campaign and to see in him as their champion. Continue reading

Conyers: Should Great be the enemy of Perfect?

Since when did “great” become the enemy of “perfect?”

I’ve been pondering that thought since protest demonstrators sat-in in the office of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), a Founder and now the Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The protestors, are angry that Chairman Conyers has not initiated impeachment proceedings against President George W. (for Worst in history) Bush, and his combination brain and gonads, Vice President Dick Cheney–also known as Darth Vader.

Get a life, protestors. John Conyers is a good man, and a great member of Congress, who deserves the respect and admiration of all Americans and all peace loving people on earth.

If you want to get in a lively conversation with lots and lots of opinions, just ask a group of music aficionados, “Who is the most important musician in Jazz?” So, I figured I was on pretty safe ground, when I wrote10 years ago, in a profile in Midwest Arts Magazine, that “John Conyers is the most important non-musician in Jazz.”

His contributions to American Classical Music are monumental; HR-57, the Act of Congress which proclaims Jazz to be an “American National Treasure,” and The American Classical Music. Of course there is the annual CBC Jazz concert which he has sponsored and hosted for more than two decades during the CBC’s Annual Legislative Weekend, and much, much more.

When I told Rep. Conyers about the quote he responded, “what do you mean non-musician?” He reminded me of the bass violin in his office, which he said he still plays. Nobody’s perfect! Continue reading

Mumia Abu Jamal, innocent all along…

It’s hard for me to fathom how people can hate so purely that their loathing goes well beyond the bounds of reason. But so it is, with those who want to see Mumia Abu Jamal executed. The former radio journalist and taxi driver was convicted in 1982, of the killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, but Mumia has always maintained his innocence.

Now there is convincing proof that Mumia was right all along. On the eve of the publication of a new book by Mr. Faulkner’s widow, who claims in a new book that she knows Mumia did it, a series of photographs has been discovered and released recently in Philadelphia, adding even more proof that Mr. Abu Jamal is innocent.

We’ve known all along that the jury pool was tainted, stripped of Blacks, that he was framed by a police force, a prosecutor, and a judiciary tainted by racism. But now, these pictures, by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff taken the night of the shooting, prove that the conspiracy to blame Mr. Abu Jamal began that night at the crime scene, according to Mumia’s supporters.

“These photos effectively refute key elements of the prosecution’s case. And clearly, one picture is worth a thousand words, this is irrefutable evidence,” Linn Washington, a Temple University journalism professor and a member of Journalists for Abu Jamal said in an interview. Continue reading

President Bush’s lips are moving. You know what that means?

You have to at least admire President George W. (for Worst in history) Bush’s chutzpah. Of all his many, many, many faults, we will never be able to say that the guy was lacking for moxie.

The President is once again attacking Congress as a “do nothing body,” and he’s getting away with it. So far this year, the now Democratically-led Congress has not re-funded his immoral and illegal war and occupation of Iraq, so he’s attacking them (too bad for him that the “Surge” thing didn’t kick in sooner, he might have been able to have another “Mission Accomplished” photo opportunity).

Congress has not yet legalized his administration’s Constitutionally suspect, warrantless spying program on American citizens at home, and the public is simply going along with his rhetoric. Talk about the power of the “bully pulpit.”

“The end of 2007 is approaching fast, and the new Congress has little to show for it,” His Nibbs said in the Rose Garden recently. “I call on members to use the time left to support our troops and to protect our citizens, prevent harmful tax increases, and responsibly fund our government.”

Huh? Talk about Orwellian “Double-Speak.” Continue reading

WPFW at 30, Pacifica Radio, Washington Style

Imagine, if you will, the hep Village Voice, Washington, DC, “Chocolate City” version. Then open your eyes and notice WPFW 89.3FM.

I first noticed WPFW in September 1977. The station had just been on the air six months. I produced a 14 minute radio show: “I Remember Elijah Muhammad” to be aired around October 7, the 100th birthday anniversary of the leader of the Nation of Islam. WPFW accommodated my effort. I worked and produced the program, and became a volunteer, as well as a contributor to the companion Pacifica National News Bureau.

The marriage of the left-radical Pacifica Foundation, to the Jazz, Blues, Oldies, Caribbean, African, and Latin rhythm-loving indigenous DC community–Chocolate City, if you will–is, without question, a marriage made in Heaven–the Village Voice on the Potomac. WPFW, the offspring of that marriage turned 30 in 2007, and celebrates with an Anniversary Gala on Dec. 15 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Continue reading