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

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

The trouble with “radical” Islam is…

The trouble with “radical” or “fundamentalist” Islam is not that it’s “Islamic,” but rather that it’s radical, as in: “marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional,” in other words, it’s “extreme.” Radical Islamists, tend to, or are “disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions.”

It’s not unlike the trouble with fundamentalist Christianity; fundamentalist, Zionist Judaism; Neo Conservatism.

Remember: “Islam is not the problem. Islam is the solution to the problems.” Continue reading

BET: Turning its backside on its people

What with the unmitigated success of Oprah Winfrey, Gwen Ifill, Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, and the Williams Sisters in the “Free Market,” White folks in America must wonder aloud, quite often: “Why are Black people still complaining?”

Well the fact of the matter is that the vast, vast majority of us are still wallowing in the mud of civilization, believing wrongly that the answer to all our problems will be solved if we “get rich or die trying.”

There are others among us whose very access to some of the delights of their lives today, come as a direct result of the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, some such persons have turned their backs on the very souls on whose shoulders they literally stand.

One such individual is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who expresses total disdain for the Movement and its goals, in everything he says and does on the High Court, despite the fact that in Pin Point, Georgia where he was born, Black men and boys like him were beaten (if not lynched) for committing “Eyeball Rape (just looking),” of the White woman to whom he is now married. So much for “progress.”

Not to be overlooked is the ritzy Cleveland Park neighborhood where Debra Lee, the President of Black Entertainment Television (BET), now lives in Washington. Such addresses were once sold with covenants legally prohibiting them from being sold to Black folks like her parents and grandparents. There was a time when the money of prosperous Black folks was not good enough to buy the home where she now lives.

While Justice Thomas has yet to be reckoned with by the fickle finger of fate, Debra Lee has been getting hers, right in her home stomping ground. Continue reading

Uncommon Valor from the Mississippi Mud

If there ever was an unsung symbol of courage, bravery–valor–then Lawrence Guyot is just such a symbol, who deserves the accolades and praise of an entire generation. He’s just that special.

It’s not often that you will hear these words together in a sentence: “I am a native of the Mississippi Delta who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and I lived in the best of both worlds.”

I came to learn two things about my home state that pertain to our honoree, Lawrence Guyot, both of which make me admire him that much more.

The first is that Mississippi is really three states, not one. There are the lush hills of Central Mississippi. There is the Tropical Paradise of the Mississippi Gulf. And there is the flat, hot agricultural Delta region in the north of the state.

But truth be told, everywhere in Mississippi is still Mississippi. There are ghosts of martyred Black men and boys in every pond, in every creek. Continue reading

The Sad, Anti-Semitic Truth

“The canard that a powerful Jewish lobby controls the media is a well known anti-Semitic staple,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Colbert I. King in The Washington Post. But.

The canard that a powerful Jewish lobby controls the media…is true!

First, the Mea Culpa. I regret having to repeat this out loud, but I must say what has been on my heart for a long time. I am not a hater of Jewish people. I know that I may have already crossed a line. But I am not a hater of Jewish people.

Good column Colby.

Colbert King’s column takes Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) to task for telling the September-October issue of Tikkun, an interfaith, progressive Jewish magazine, “…If you cross AIPAC, AIPAC is unforgiving and will destroy you politically. Their means of communication, their ties to certain newspapers and magazines, and to individuals in the media are substantial and intimidating.”

That’s a mouthful, also true. Continue reading

9/11: Terrorism, Muslim-profiling and the “enemy”

Written Sept. 20, 2001.

A “funny thing” happened to me on the way back from the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. Only nobody’s laughing.

The world, as I’ve known it, was turned upside-down, by two airplanes which were deliberately crashed into the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center, and a third which was crashed into the very symbol of American military authority—the Pentagon.

More than a week later, thousands of people are still missing and presumed dead. It’s no laughing matter. Quite the opposite is true. There has been much gnashing of teeth, as Americans come to grips with their enormous losses.

Continue reading

Freedom Now! For Imam Jamil Al-Amin

I see nothing wrong with the unreconstructed goals I embraced in the 1960s. I pray to see the day when the descendants of slaves in America are truly free, justified and equal. I salute those who’ve gone before, paving a way for others to follow. I salute those who fell in our struggle, from David Walker and Denmark Vessey, to George Jackson. I embrace their struggle as my own, without qualification.

As the calls go out in this country over the criminal injustice-system mistreatment of the Jena 6, Troy Davis, Genarlow Wilson, and Mumia Abu Jamal, I raise my voice in solidarity. I say all that to say, I enthusiastically embrace the declaration of innocence by Imam Jamil Al Amin, a wrongly persecuted man, and I plead for justice, a fair trial, a new trial for this innocent man.

With all that said, the sad reality is that Imam Al Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, former leader of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, is at this very moment on 23 ½ hour lockdown in the Super-Max, maximum security underground prison in remote Colorado, where the “Una-bomber,” and all of this country’s most notorious convicts are locked up.

Another militant Black Muslim, former Civil Rights leader in jail. Why is that not surprising? Convicted of killing a police officer, almost as if the scenario had been scripted somewhere or another. Continue reading