Black Leaders

MLK Memorial

You will die one day for no one lives forever. When people gather to celebrate your life and mourn your passing, would it be okay if they mentioned your deeds as a teenager but not those of your mature self? Would you rest in peace knowing they opted not to tell people of your most urgent convictions? You would roll in your grave and yet this is precisely what we do every year on King Day. The nation’s annual bastardizing of King’s legacy is hindering the progress of black people seeking liberation. This most recent King celebration must be the last of its kind.

I cannot stomach another King holiday in which we make vague statements about equality and peace. Peace was the last thing King had on his mind when he died. His thoughts were of bringing pain. As he told an audience the night before his death, “Now we must…redistribute that pain.” The pain he was referring to was that of poor sanitation workers in Memphis who were striking. The redistribution of it was to be felt by corporations, which up to that point had been responsible for or at least apathetic to black suffering. In seeking to move from that suffering to true liberation, King told his audience, “We don’t have to argue with anybody.” Rather than argue and protest, King admonished his audience that night to practice the power of “economic withdrawal.” King was over marching and debating. His calculus was simple: we have money and we can simply withhold it to hurt our enemies, then use it to strengthen ourselves. No argument needed. Yet each King holiday fosters fresh arguments with those who don’t see a problem with our nation’s treatment of black people, empty marches and some hollow acknowledgment of America’s progress. This can’t actually be helping us.

The King holiday presents black America with a fresh opportunity to embrace apathy. It is an occasion in which we are reminded to be good, peaceful and love our enemies. We should reject that message and embrace a violent commitment to that which the mature King taught us. This is why HopewellThought chose to launch a yearlong buy black campaign this month. The time for arguing is over. We are celebrating King’s legacy by actually living up to it, not concealing it with empty pleasantries. If you have not already, read up on what we are doing and get involved. Reflecting on “peace” and praising America for all her “progress” has done nothing to change the fact that black unemployment has been double that of our white counterparts since we’ve kept stats. Giving America a pat on the back for spotting a black man a holiday has not created jobs in our neighborhoods or helped our entrepreneurs access the capital they so badly need. This cannot be the celebration Dr. King had in mind.

If we are to celebrate this day we must do so in a different way. No more empty words and feel-good service projects. Those things are befitting of the 26 year old Dr. King who was the front man for the Montgomery Bus Boycott but not the mature leader who came to Memphis years later to redistribute pain. King felt no need to argue with anyone–he saw an opportunity to take power. The Dr. King who spoke in Memphis the night before his death was fully grown in his thoughts and convictions. He’d seen the weaknesses of the movement up to that point. He’d learned from his earlier successes and failures. He was ready to lead black America down a path toward true progress and power. Then he was shot. Since that time his voice has been muted in history and we are annually seduced by a holiday in his honor; it has been perverted and lacks the revolutionary spirit of the man it claims to honor. Join the campaign and let’s truly honor the legacy of Dr. King because this is not helping us.




I thought I had a cold this morning but I realized I was just sick of the fake tributes to Muhammad Ali. We hated his guts, just be honest. UNC professor Matthew Andrews points out that we hated him so much, we made the movie Rocky about a white underdog beating a faux Ali because no one could do it in real life. Ali had the audacity to say that whites were universally the enemy of suffering blacks. Ali delved further into race when he refused to fight in Vietnam because those “darker people” had never lynched him or called him nigger. As he is now being celebrated, our hypocrisy is on display and we must reckon with it–we still hate what he stood for and thus we should stop our insincere praises posthumously.


Full disclosure: I’m divorced. I have hundreds of friends, family and acquaintances who’d willingly testify to my overall good character but I’m uncertain that my ex-wife and her family would extend such grace. I suspect they might be slightly more eager to tell you of my shortcomings and more dangerously, attribute innocent actions to ill intent. I would not want my ex’s family charged with writing my biography. Sadly, this is precisely the way we treat the history of the Black Panther Party.

FILE - In this July 6, 2009 file photo, former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry attends a news conference in Washington. Barry has been hospitalized in Las Vegas. Barry is currently a District of Columbia councilmember. His chief of staff told The Associated Press on Monday that Barry is resting comfortably and is expected to make a full recovery. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Crack cocaine was in the room. As agents swarmed Marion Barry he uttered, “Bitch set me up…I shouldn’t have come up here…goddamn bitch.” Yes, that is the man Baltimore needs for mayor. The city is still smoldering from the fires set ablaze after the death of Freddie Gray. From those embers, DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter activist, has emerged as a candidate for mayor. On February 3rd the The New York Times wrote that, “At the center of the mayor’s race will be issues of race and policing in a predominantly black city.” For Baltimore’s sake, I hope they’re wrong. If that is Mckesson’s platform, I certainly hope he doesn’t win.
The latest data available from the American Community Survey indicated that only 59% of black males between the ages of 25 and 54 are working in Baltimore. For whites, the number is 79%. The median household income for blacks is around $33,000, white households bring home about twice that. Washington- also overwhelmingly black at the time- was once a symbol for all that could go wrong in a city: drugs, crime and poverty. It was Marion Barry who laid the foundations for the city’s turnaround. Barry did not accomplish this by focusing on police violence, although the issue is an important one. Rather, it was all about the money.
Don Peebles runs the largest black-owned development company in the nation. Starting from an appointment from Barry to the Property Tax Appel Board, Peebles built a $4 billion empire in real estate. As Peebles pointed out at Barry’s funeral, Barry created the black middle class in Washington. When Barry was elected mayor in 1979, minority businesses received 3% of city contracts; that is, in a predominantly black city. When Barry started his third term as mayor, minority businesses were receiving nearly fifty percent of the city’s contracts. Peebles went on to point out that to the present day, minority businesses in New York City only receive three percent: exactly where DC was when Barry started as mayor in 1979.
That shift was not accidental. In a 1986 interview with Black Enterprise Barry said, “For blacks, it is much easier to get political power than it is to get economic power.” He also added that “Blacks in politics should see to it that more economic power is distributed to the black community. As one of those with political power, I feel that my job is to see to it that this power is achieved.” Barry’s administration required all city agencies to ensure 35% of the dollar volume of their contracts went to minority firms. Close to fifty minority firms performed more than a third of the city’s construction contracts for development projects. No, Barry didn’t change black Washington overnight- big ships don’t turn on a dime- however, in a majority black city, Barry took tax dollars from blacks and put those dollars back to work for them. In so doing, Barry laid the foundation for people like Don Peebles to create wealth and opportunity for others. Parenthetically, many have a problem with routing tax dollars from blacks to contracts for black businesses. Oddly enough, they see no issue with black tax dollars going to white firms, in predominantly black cities.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, a Baltimore Sun article from October 2015 highlighted that “City officials said they do not know how many contracts now go to small businesses” or “how much those contracts are worth.” To be fair, that article was written to announce changes to benefit small, women and minority owned firms in the area. Even so, it shows just how misplaced the focus has been for Baltimore City leaders for some time. It shows, clearly, that the next mayor has much work to do and simply focusing on matters of criminal justice reform or street activism simply won’t do.
Yes, Marion Barry did start as an activist but he matured to see the larger picture and more importantly, what his political platform could do to benefit blacks in Washington economically. There is no magic formula: tax dollars in, city contracts out. To whom those contracts go, so also does millions in wealth. The Democratic primary for Baltimore mayor is April 26th. What will the candidates choose to focus on? How do they envision the mayoral chair serving the needs of the people? They should carefully study Marion Barry.
Coretta Scott King, wearing hat and gloves, and her four children view the body of her husband, slain civil rights activist leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Atlanta, Ga., on April 7, 1968.  The children are, from left, Yolanda, 12, Bernice, 5, Martin III, 11, and Dexter 7.  Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4.  Other members in the photograph are not identified.  (AP Photo)

Between January 2014 and October 2015 nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq, according to a United Nations report. Another 36,000 were wounded and 3.2 million were internally displaced, including one million school aged children. None of this screams peace and brotherhood.

US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) visits the Western Wall in Old City Jerusalem on July 24, 2008. Photo by Avi Hayon/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** áø÷ 
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To My Jewish Brothers and Sisters,

I say with love and extreme sincerity, shalom. I feel it appropriate at the outset of this journey, wherever it might take you on this blog, to address you and all others on some very serious topics and rules of engagement.