Monday, January 19, 2015

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived a courageous, heroic life. He fought against injustice and he loved black people. He loved the human race in general. He had a revolutionary spirit. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. His father was a famous Baptist preacher and his mother was a gracious, sweet woman who stood up for the truth as well. Dr. King was exceptionally smart and went into college at the age of 16 years old. He went into college in the North and received a theological degree. He studies many different economic, religious, and social philosophies. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was influenced by many thinkers and philosophies like Personalism. He married his intellectual equal Coretta Scott King, who was a great pacifist, progressive activist in her own right. It is very important to note that Coretta Scott King was not only a great singer. She was anti-war, and she supported the movement for freedom and justice too. Dr. King went into Birmingham, Alabama to pastor a church. The Birmingham Bus Boycott came about in 1955 to protest Jim Crow apartheid and racism. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person. She was tired of social indignities that black people have suffered in the buses and throughout American society in general. Dr. King, E.D. King, the workers, women, and a wide spectrum of human beings led this boycott. It was very successful after many days of carpooling, boycotts, and walking. Dr. King’s house was bombed when his wife and children were there during the boycott. Yet, Dr. King never wanted to retaliate against the white racist terrorists via violence. Dr. King believed in the ideology of nonviolent, progressive pacifism. Yet, even back during the 1950’s, he always expressed anti-capitalist views in his notes to Coretta and in his private statements. For example, Dr. King wrote the following words to his wife Correta via a July 18, 1952 letter: "... I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. And yet I am not so opposed to capitalism that I have failed to see its relative merits. It started out with a noble and high motive, viz, to block the trade monopolies of nobles, but like most human system it fail victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes..." He opposed Stalinist Communism, but he sympathized with democratic socialism. That is a fact. After the success of Birmingham, the new civil rights movement of the 1950’s spread across Americas. Boycotts and demonstrations spread nationwide from New York to Atlanta. Yet, change would be gradual. Brown v. Board of Education was not changing society fast enough. Then, in 1960’s, the North Carolina sit-in movement began and the civil rights movement grew into another level. The younger generation formed SNCC (Ella Baker supported SNCC as a leader) while Dr. King headed the SCLC as a means to fight for racial equality. SNCC increasingly rejected nonviolence unconditionally as time went on while Dr. King was committed to nonviolence all the way to his death. Dr. Martin Luther King was to the left of Randolph, Wilkins, Rustin, and Farmer, but he was to the right of SNCC back in the early 1960’s. Dr. King supported SNCC and the Freedom Riders (who were multiracial activists that wanted to desegregate interstate bus travel and end Jim Crow apartheid once and for all). Many Freedom Riders were brutally assaulted by white racist mobs.

Dr. King worked in St. Augustine, Florida, and other communities to combat racial segregation. In 1963, he continued to fight for a strong Civil Rights bill. He spoke of his Dream in his famous 1963 Washington, D.C., “I Have a Dream Speech.” The famous March on Washington was formed by a diversity of people. Thousands came into Washington, D.C. from all over the country who desired jobs and freedom. In that speech, he spoke about racial equality and the right of people to fight for justice. Later, four little girls were killed in a Birmingham Church in September 15, 1963. That was a very evil event. People were emotional. To this day, I can’t forget about that. Dr. King gave an emotional eulogy and he rightfully blamed people who were apathetic for the deaths of the four little girls not only the white racist murderers. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and he continued to fight until the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed. Later, he worked in Selma to defend voting rights. Other leaders including black women stood up in Selma to fight for human rights too. Malcolm X came into Selma to give a speech to the youth. He wanted people to stand up for their rights and he said that the Klan was a group of cowards. Unfortunately, Malcolm X died in February 21, 1965. LBJ signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Watts rebellion in Los Angeles existed in the same year. After Selma and Watts, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. more overtly talked about economic issues. He rightfully realized that ending segregation was not enough and that we need economic justice in order for us to be free. So, he understood that riots were the voice of the unheard (and that riots were in response to poverty, bad housing, economic injustices, police brutality, and racism) and the urban ghettoes need compassion and assistance not scapegoating. In 1966, he worked in Chicago to try to end housing discrimination, covert segregation practices, and an end to slum housing. The Chicago campaign was difficult, because the Daley machine wanted to stop King's revolutionary efforts. Dr. King gained token concession, but the events of Chicago solidified his opposition to economic injustice. He worked in other cities like Cleveland, Milwaukee, etc. In 1966, Dr. King discussed about the issue of Black Power. Kwame Ture and McKissick supported the call of Black Power in Mississippi in the protest after the shooting of James Meredith. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in Black Power's call for the uniting of economic and political power in the black community. Yet, Dr. King reject separatism. He felt that using Black Power just as a slogan wasn't enough. He believed in the view that Black is Beautiful. Kwame Ture and Dr. King disagreed on the issue of nonviolence, but they agreed with opposing the Vietnam War 100 percent. Then, he overtly criticized the war in Vietnam strongly by 1967. He criticized the Vietnam War in 1966, but he became more strongly opposed to it later it. His Riverside Church speech exposed the brutality and injustice of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War not only stripped resources that could of been used to help Americans domestically. It was a war where villages were burned to the ground and where millions of human lives were killed under the basis of a lie (that lie dealt with the Gulf on Tonkin incident). He also organized the Poor Peoples Campaign in 1967 (which wanted the poor and the working class of all colors to come together in D.C. as a means for them to fight for a guaranteed annual income, for a living wage, for the federal government to intervene in eradicating poverty, and for a radical redistribution of economic and political power). He fought for the economic rights of Memphis Sanitation workers too in 1968. As he said, all labor has dignity. The striking sanitation workers wanted to be treated as men or as human beings. He was assassinated in April 4, 1968. Dr. King was only 39 years old. He was in the midst of leading another protest for the Memphis workers. Riots came in response to his death, but his Dream lives on. Since his death, massive changes occurred in America and the same problem of poverty is still a serious problem in the world. To this very day, Dr. King's relatives, friends, and allies continue in his work. His sons and daughters work to fight for justice too. We have to use our strength and our spirits to defeat injustice and promote justice for all.

There is the problem of housing and homelessness in New York City. De Blasio is the new mayor of NYC. These problems have existed long before De Blasio was elected as mayor. For the 12 years of the tenure of the previous mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the city’s homeless population increased between 60 and 71 percent (which depends on the source of the statistics). The Coalition of the Homeless reported at the end of 2013 that 53,331 people were sleeping in city homeless shelters.  After one year of the de Blasio administration, the total was 58,469, an increase of nearly 10 percent. This doesn’t count for the people sleeping on the street. That number is officially estimated at 3,300. Homeless advocates have mentioned that the total number is higher. The de Blasio administration has opened 23 new homeless shelters, barely keeping pace with the rise in the homeless population. NYC has the largest concentration of billionaires in the world. There 103 billionaires in 2014 up from 96 from the previous year. Massive income inequality contributes to poverty. Powerful real estate interests have done nothing radical to address homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. The current mayor made a pledge to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over an eight year period. The substance of this vague formulation was a pledge to give $8 billion in city funds to private developers. He had appointed a Wall Street insider at Goldman Sachs, Alicia Glen, as NYC’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development.  The plan is focused on providing tax breaks and other incentives to private landlords and developers as inducements for them to provide “affordable” housing, including the infamous “poor door” buildings in which the wealthy have entirely separate entrances and a variety of amenities (e.g. gym facilities) not available to the ordinary tenants. Rising housing costs contribute to the rise of homelessness. Some monthly rents are from $1,561-$1997 for a studio to $2,729-$4,346 for a three bedroom apartment. These problems exist not only in the Bronx, but in Brooklyn, Queens, etc. Mayor De Blasio has reportedly rejected a proposed luxury tax on absentee landlord and pieds-à-terre properties. Sending money to a select real estate developers and landlords will not solve this problem. What will solve this problem is the taxing of the super wealthy in a higher level, the ending of loopholes, and forming more programs to address homelessness including poverty.

The Afro-Brazilians are wonderful people. The more that I learn about them, the more blessed I feel as a black American. Now, many Afro-Brazilians are not only fighting against racism and discrimination (they have supported a massive affirmative action program which has helped countless Brothers and Sisters in Brazil). They are fighting also against misogyny and police terrorism. According to a study by the Latin American Study Center, the number of white Brazilians killed by law enforcement has decreased while Afro-Brazilian deaths have increased greatly. Brazil’s population is about a third smaller than that of America, but Brazil has almost five times as many killings by the police. The urban ghettos in Brazil called the favelas suffer economic oppression. Mãe Baiana, 53, President of the Ile Axé Oyá Bagan terreiro have said that: “Our fight is the fight against intolerance and prejudice. Do they think that we’re still slaves? Because we take lashes every day.” There have been a lot of black people being killed by the police in Brazil. Joana Darc Brito was shot in a favela in Rio de Janeiro and died en route to the hospital.  Maria de Fátima dos Santos and her daughter Alessandra de Jesus were executed in an rally. Claudia Silva Ferreira was shot by law enforcement back in March, and died after falling out of their car and being dragged for two blocks. We should condemn the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin. Also, we have to condemn the deaths of Renisha McBride, Islan Nettles, Kathryn Johnson, etc. The beating of Marlene Pinnock by a demented cop was evil. We should know about the stories of Stephanie Maldonado and Ersuala Ore as well. Worldwide, we have racial justice organizations, artists, musicians, and activists coming together to defend the human dignity of black people. Marisandra Layla (an Afro-Brazilian Sister), 31, Social educator and member of the National Forum of Black Youth said: “We are here to say that, in spite of everything, we, black women, are still alive!” So, we have to fight against the evils found in this white supremacist, patriarchal, and capitalist society. Nilma Lino Gomes is the first black woman in Brazil to be dean of a federal university. She is now the Minister of Racial Equality Policies of Federal Government. We all wish her the best. Mãe Gilda, who is an Afro-Brazilians has fought for religious freedom and racial justice in Brazil as well. The Black consciousness movement is very strong in Brazil.

This is very tragic story. People have every right to express anger at the deaths of 2 precious children. Ciarria Johnson dropping the ball in her responsibilities is an understatement. What she did was totally reprehensible, unjustified, and cruel. She deserves no sympathy and she ought to experience accountability for her actions. Raising children is a serious responsibility. These 2 children have lost their lives because of the selfish choices made by Ciarria. It is a total shame that these children will never have the chance to go to high school, they will never have a career as adults, and they will never be married and have children. The story breaks your heart and it shows that we have to always defend the humanity and the dignity of black human life. The story of these 2 little children shows what is important. What is important is not about the distractions, the foolish infighting, and the unnecessary divisions. It is about caring for the humanity of black children, so they can grow up to become strong adults. RIP Clifton and Ta’shae. Community oversight over the police being opposed by some extremists shows how reactionary the extremists are. The protesters have spoken their minds and they are right to oppose police brutality. We know how militarism, domestic oppression, and economic exploitation are interrelated. We have to continue to believe in hope and keep our eyes on the prize. More and more people are waking up and black people have every right to stand up for justice amid police terrorism. We have to organize and unify with those who want to strategically end oppression. It is obvious that the current system must end and a system of justice must rise in its replacement. We have to fight for our freedom or continue to be oppressed. We choose to fight for our freedom. The one percent wants to maintain their privileged power. Fundamentally, we have to fight for our independence and black communities have every justification to grow our solidarity and our community institutions. Community building is a key function of a revolutionary spirit. We need to support not only community development, but unity with black people of all of the Diaspora including Africa. Making a demand is fine, but we need to also build. SNCC and the old school Black Panther Party had great strategies that we can be influenced by. We need short term and long term plans and we have to act in our strategies. Constantly, we have to condemn imperialism, police brutality, racism, discrimination, etc. Independent media sources have shown the truth much better than the corporate run media. We can't quit. We will not stop and we have to keep doing the right thing.

By Timothy

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