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Why vote? Does it really matter? As a rule, when a young black person raises these questions they are quickly dismissed and rebuked sharply. “People died so you can vote!” is the response. That response is the normal trump card, automatically ending any intelligent discussion on the matter. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss those who raise questions so easily. Just maybe they are on to something when they ask whether their votes count.

The basic idea behind voting, in a representative democracy, is that everyday people have a say in the direction of their communities and lives, vicariously- you vote for someone that carries your thoughts and sentiments and enacts them through public policy. We were taught as children that voting ensured our voices would be heard. We were told that we could help shape our world by voting people in office who feel the way we do. At this point I’m not sure if any of that holds.
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I did very well my first day in driver’s education. In fact, the instructor asked me, at age 15, whether I drove often. Actually I hadn’t driven much at all in my life up to that point. I learned to drive mostly by observing my father behind the wheel. He drove professionally and in fact drove for Greyhound for several years. By pure observation I learned to handle a car and the small nuances that accompany driving well enough that a driving instructor assumed I was experienced.

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This past week I was at a hunger symposium with a bunch of famous do-gooders. The keynote speaker referenced a commonly known (and empirically verified) phenomenon: poor people are the most religious among us, on average. Strange because I was always taught in church that God is the author of blessing (material blessing- don’t get deep and throw up inner peace etc.). Further, if God has the power to bless and serves as arbiter of the flow of blessings, logically God would choose first to bless those most pleasing to God. So then, why are the poor- the most religious- the least “blessed” in this life?

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In the past 18 months I’ve encountered four perfect women, such as I’d never encountered before. Strange because perfection is not possible with respect to humanity. Yet perfection can exist within the context of imperfection. Surrounded by their human imperfections, these four women possessed perfection to an extreme degree. May I tell you about them?

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When you see advertisements for cars or beer, they often feature some sexy model in the frame with very little information about the substance. Presidential candidates are marketed in much the same way. We are told much about nothing- their favorite foods, what questionable things they did when they were teenagers, their thoughts on certain biblical teachings (without any thought to their practice of faith) and various philosophical questions and hypotheticals that have absolutely nothing to do with the office of president.

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Am I A Racist?

By Hopewell

I have a friend who happens to be white. I love him, with extreme sincerity. He’s been there for me so many times. I admire his maturity, his brilliance and above all, the sincere love we have. I must say that I also value him deeply because he is white. I must confess, I don’t have many white friends and in this world many would take that to mean I’m a racist. Thing is, between East Cleveland and the east side of ATL, there wasn’t much opportunity growing up to befriend others of a lighter hue.

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During a 1966 speech in Berkeley, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) said: 

“Several people have been upset because we’ve said that integration was irrelevant when initiated by blacks, and that in fact it was an insidious subterfuge for the maintenance of white supremacy. In the past six years or so, this country has been feeding us a “thalidomide drug of integration,” and some negroes have been walking down a dream street talking about sitting next to white people. That does not begin to solve the problem. We didn’t go to Mississippi to sit next to Ross Barnett (former governor of Mississippi), we did not go to sit next to Jim Clark (sheriff of Selma, Alabama), we went to get them out of our way. People ought to understand that; we were never fighting for the right to integrate, we were fighting against white supremacy.”


This article, written by James Clingman Jr., was originally published in 2010. As a follow-up to my last blog on black business and the power of economic withdrawal, I thought it appropriate to reprint it. Enjoy. 

Buying Black – The Ebony Experiment

By JAMES CLINGMAN JR.


JAMES CLINGMAN JR.

John and Maggie Anderson, who live in Oak Park, Ill., embarked on a year-long initiative to make all of their purchases from Black owned businesses. This couple should be commended for such an effort and the sacrifices they are making to conduct their “Ebony Experiment.” The Andersons are doing what Marcus Garvey and others espoused; they are showing what can—and should—be done by conscious committed Black people all over this country.

As usual, the detractors are calling the Ebony Experiment “racist and divisive.” I wonder what these same folks call Black people who have for years supported White owned businesses. No one ever complains about the China Towns, Greek Towns, and Jewish enclaves that promote and, provide mutual support to their businesses and consumers. I have never heard anyone call these people “racists” and “separatists” nor have I ever read where anyone ever responded to these ethnic economic enclaves by saying they would only buy from White owned businesses.

In fact, we celebrate their “entrepreneurial spirit” and characterize them as “educated and informed consumers,” “self-supporting” and “hardworking” citizens. Now that the Andersons have started their quest to spend as much of their money with Black owned businesses, some are characterizing them as villains and racists rather than forward-thinking concerned individuals who are trying to empower not only Black people but this country as well. Black folks did not invent nor do we practice racism; we only react to it. For this effort to be characterized as racist is short-sighted, ignorant, incendiary, and disingenuous.

It is a shame that this couple would have to endure any negativity for doing what is right; but it comes with the territory. Because $850 billion moves through Black consumers’ hands each year, more than 90 percent of that amount going to businesses owned and controlled by others, it is no surprise that turning a significant portion of that money inward to Black businesses is frightening to the establishment. Because Black people have been looked upon, and in many cases conducted ourselves as mere consumers rather than producers, any effort put forth since 1964 (Integration) has been squelched. But whose fault is that?

If we would take more control of our dollars, it would not matter who said what about our efforts to leverage our collective income into real wealth in our communities. As I noted in my interview with Ted Gregory, writer for the Chicago Tribune, regarding the Ebony Experiment, this is not the first effort of its kind, but it is unique in its experimental aspects. It could also be unique in its sacrificial aspects, in that the Anderson family has to drive long distances to make many of their purchases from Black businesses.

Prior to integration, we did exactly what we are trying to get back to today. There were Black cooperative buying programs, Buy Black Campaigns, Double-Duty Dollar campaigns, and other initiatives that brought Black consumers and business owners together in support of one another. Maggie Anderson, who hails from Liberty City (Miami, Fla.), an all Black community in 1950’s, which thrived on mutual business support among Black people, is now doing her best to revive the economic spirit of her childhood community.” According to the Tribune article, among the responses received by the Andersons was an anonymous letter mailed to their home accusing them of “unabashed, virulent racism.” The writer stated, “Because of you, we will totally avoid Black suppliers. Because of you, we will dodge every which way to avoid hiring Black employees.”

With all of the hurdles and obstacles they face, this paragon of a Black couple has made a commitment and is following through on that commitment, which is commendable, especially when it comes to doing something positive for Black people. Drop them a line or an e-mail and tell them you appreciate what they are doing, and then get involved by starting your own Black buying “experiment” in your city.

Black owned businesses will be discovered by other consumers, minds will be changed about buying Black, and consciousness will be raised among Black consumers. John Anderson said: “Focusing the estimated $850 billion annual Black buying power on Black businesses strengthens those businesses and creates more businesses, more jobs and stronger families, schools and neighborhoods…When a thriving African-American or urban community is realized, certainly as a society as a whole, we all win.”

James E. Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. 


I know why Dr. King was killed. I’m absolutely convinced that Dr. King wasn’t killed because he cared about sitting at integrated lunch counters. Indeed, at the time of his death he was obsessed with owning the diner. The night before he died, Dr. King gave a great speech at Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ. We often remember this speech for its ending. King talks about having gone to the “mountaintop.” Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the mountaintop. What’s important in that speech is the message of economic empowerment and a new activism- the power of economic withdrawal- that scared the hell out of America.

Having gone to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, King reasoned that rather than pleading with the city of Memphis to treat black sanitation workers fairly, it would be much more efficient to force Coca-Cola or Wonder Bread to plead the cause of the sanitation workers at city hall. King advised his audience not to buy those products in Memphis. By doing so, those companies would be put under so much pressure that they would be willing to adopt the agenda of the black community as their own.

I’m certain that many people in the audience were doubtful that they were powerful enough to bring large corporations like Coca-Cola to their knees. Perhaps for this very reason, King brought to their attention that while they were a poor people individually, collectively they possessed more wealth than all other nations of the world, save nine. The objective, King reasoned, was to pool that wealth together. King gave practical steps. He urged his audience to withdraw their money from the white-owned banks and deposit it in black-owned institutions. King admonished the withdrawal of economic support from companies that did not support the agenda of the black community.

Both interesting and sad to me is that in the same speech, King admonished his listeners to withdraw their money from white-owned insurance companies and to switch to insurance companies owned by blacks. I was informed this week by a friend that at that time, 1968, there were seven insurance companies in Memphis that were black-owned. Today, in 2012, there are none. From here I think the rest of this blog post is fairly obvious so I won’t insult your intelligence or waste your time. Let’s just say that the agenda King put forth that night is still the right one.

 I called my dad and informed him that I was ready to end my life. This was not the first time I’d considered this course of action. This was, however, the first time I was bold enough to seek my father’s permission. I felt ready to do it a few times before but the thought of what pain that would cause my parents always stopped me. This time, however, I figured that perhaps if I just prepped them in advance, they would be okay with it (or at least prepared for it). My calculations were wrong. My father promptly informed that no parent would ever be okay with their child committing suicide. From time to time I hear of friends and others who are considering it. I understand completely.

I seriously considered taking my life a couple of years back because I had been chronically unemployed for a few years- I said years. I didn’t see a way out. I had degrees but none of them were marketable and I didn’t perceive myself as having any marketable skills either. I couldn’t even get a job at McDonalds or Family Dollar. No one would hire me. I tried to start a few businesses but none of them ever worked. After three years of that, I honestly didn’t ever see things changing. I couldn’t see a way out. If nothing had changed in three years, why should I hold out hope for next week? Whenever I thought about this, the student loans I had in the hundreds of thousands, the slim chance I’d have at love and marriage given my financial situation etc., the only option I felt I had was to graciously check out of life. 
Many people feel the same everyday. Like myself, they see no likelihood that the situation will change. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all go away. I wish I could give precious promises and assurance that on this date and this time the world will change for them. I wish I could tell them with perfect knowledge that it will all work out and it’s only temporary. I wish I could tell them that all the answers to life’s questions are just behind some magical door that they need only walk through next week. But I can’t.
Understanding this, I shall only speak that which I know with full confidence. I’ll tell them that I love them deeply. I’ll tell them that my world, this world at large, would be without one of the most brilliant people on the planet should they leave. I will tell them that I understand and that for me, too, life ain’t been no crystal stair. I’ll tell them that my heart hurts when they hurt. I’ll tell them that their pain truly is my own because of the love I have for them. I’ll tell them that I’ll always be there for them. I’ll tell them that whatever they need or just want, if I can find a way I’ll do or get it. I’ll tell them they mean so much to me (or someone else) and I will stand beside them in this dark cloud if they want me to because I simply love them with all purity. These are the things I can say in all truth, my friends.

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