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The Buffalo Bullet

The Missing Op-ed page in most Major Newspapers

On Quitting the Iraqi Quagmire

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What to do about ISIS?

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by playthell benjamin

As the Iraqi’s struggle to form a viable government under Haider al-Abadi, who replaced a disgraced Al Maliki as Prime Minister, fanatical Muslim Jihadists in ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – gobble up more and more of Iraqi territory in its ruthless march toward Baghdad, destroying Christian and Shia shrines and beheading “non-believers”, it is time for us to question the decisions of our policy makers.

We need to ask: What exactly is going on there? What was the role of the US in creating this tragic mess that is destroying the nation of Iraq as it existed before the Bush invasion? And what do we do now? This matter should be examined without regard to past ideological positions and guided by the paramount objective of formulating a policy that best serves US interest. However, given the complexity of the situation in the Middle East identifying the best policy options is easier said than done.

Looking at the situation on the ground in Iraq from a historical perspective, one is forced to wonder if the professional historians are right when they argue unanimously that history does not repeat itself. It certainly seems so when observing American foreign policy over the last half century. The historical record reveals a recurring pattern of the US attempting to impose its will on the politics of other nations, especially Third World countries that are presumed to be easy pickings.

It is a record cluttered with spectacular failures – Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan and now Iraq. In Vietnam the US picked the wrong side and the result was a multibillion dollar debacle that resulted in the deaths of over a million Vietnamese and many thousands of Americans; the poisoning of the environment in Vietnam with “Agent Orange;” a crisis in American society and thousands of walking wounded who never recovered from their service in that war.

It was such a blunder that the US abandoned the selective service draft, thereby removing the requirement for military service among the more educated and affluent youths of the nation. This eliminated a major source of anti-war activism of the sort that wreaked havoc on the nation’s college campuses’ during the Vietnam War.

With an all-volunteer army we now have an armed force largely composed of the “have nots ” – the kids who years ago would have come out of high school and gone to work in a factory – thus there has been little protest from American youths. US corporations that used to provide industrial jobs have become multi-national conglomerates with global interests that are beholden only to their investors, not national states. Thus they have exported their jobs overseas and decimated the US manufacturing sector because they can reap greater profits from non-unionized industrial slaves in foreign countries. Hence for many poor working class American youths volunteering for the military appears to be their only route to advancement in life…if they survive America’s constant wars with their body and brains intact.

We have now been involved in constant wars in the Muslim world for a generation, whether backing one side in a conflict or directly waging war. Yet our policy makers appear to have learned nothing! Just as the decision by President Eisenhower to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of Muhammad Mossedeck in Iran by a CIA led military coup in 1953, led directly to the Islamic Revolution in Iran that the US constantly agonizes over today; the decision to overthrow Sadam Hussein and install and American backed Shia government in Iraq has led us to the ISIS crisis where Islamic Jihadists are threatening to take control of Iraq and establish an Islamic Caliphate under Sharia Law.

So what should the US government do now? To begin with US policymakers should be made to take an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath required of medical doctors: “First do no harm!” That would be an auspicious start given the blunders of previous US administrations, especially the last Bush man. It is essential that the policy makers are open minded and objective in their analysis, ideology must take a back seat.

The danger of allowing ideology to obfuscate reality is ever present and was at the root of the Invasion of Iraq by George Bush – a clueless neophyte in foreign policy matters who was hoodwinked by the cabal of advisers handpicked from the Project for a New American Century, a think tank founded by “Dirty Dick” Cheney and his ideological cronies. (See: How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank*)

It was because of the ideological obsessions held by these advisers, which were spelled out in position papers written at PNAC, that the US attacked Iraq in the aftermath of the massive 9/11 terrorist attack carried out by the affluent sons of well to do Egyptians and Saudi Arabians, America’s closest allies in the Arab world. Instead of examining the misbegotten US policy of arming and training Islamic militants – then known as the Afghan Mujahedeen – in terrorist tactics to be employed against the Soviet Union, out of which grew the Taliban and al Qaeda, who later used them against us, Bush was persuaded to invade Iraq!

The Bushmen callously took this nation into a war of choice against an unoffending country – which according to established international laws that govern the relations of sovereign nations is a crime – in order to achieve the long standing ideological objective of overthrowing its leader Sadam Hussein.

This is what happens when politicized intelligence colored by ideology becomes the basis for policy making – it is the same path that led us defeat in the Jungles of South East Asia. If Bushmen had listened to the leading scholars on the Mid-East region in the CIA and the academic community – such as Professor Juan Cole -we would have never invaded Iraq and they would have discovered that secular Arab strongmen like Sadam were the frontline resistance against the Jihadists. If they had heeded the warning of the Arab League that an American invasion of Iraq would “open the gates of hell” history could have taken a far different, less costly and destructive course over the past decade.

For instance, what if the US and formed an alliance with Sadam against al Qaeda? I would argue that US forces would have captured Osama within a year and two wars waged over a decade – at a cost of four trillion dollars, untold destruction of the invaded countries, and legions of wrecked families who lost loved ones on both sides – could have been avoided. Instead, just as in Iran and Vietnam, a misguided incompetent American policy has resulted in just the opposite of their stated objectives.

Are we going to repeat these historical blunders yet again and at even greater cost? The alternatives before President Obama are limited and distasteful. Hence the question before the architects of our foreign policy is which are the lesser evils? Now that the US has abandoned Al Maliki, the Prime Minister that our actions put in power, and is now supporting Haider al-Abadi, the handpicked choice of the Iraqi President in a process that al Maliki initially protested as “unconstitutional” before resigning for the sake of national unity, the question is what now?

One thing is certain: No half-assed rag tag army commanded by a government in disarray is going to defeat ISIS, a highly disciplined force driven by religious passion, armed with state of the art American weaponry and hundreds of millions of dollars to support their mission among men for whom devotion to Allah trumps the comforts of earthly status or personal wealth. Hence this money will be used to combat the “Great Satan” and his minions in the Muslim world. That’s how they are managing to support an armed force that some experts on the region estimate at 50, 000 men.

This state of affairs leaves President Obama two choices: arm the Kurdish militias with the most advanced American heavy weaponry and let them fight it out with ISIS, or form an alliance with Iran and let their elite Revolutionary Guards lead the fight to crush ISIS. In the first instance it would spell the end of the unitary Iraqi state, because the Kurds will seize their long sought independence in a separate state which a grateful US could not oppose.

The other alternative would permanently expand the power and influence of Iran in the region….  a development the US has long opposed. Furthermore an alliance with Iran, although clearly in the US national interests, would enrage Israel – who has tried their best to goad the US into a war with Iran – and thus mobilize the Israel Lobby against the President. Once that happens it would alienate a cowardly Congress and the President’s agenda for the remainder of his Presidency will be dead in the water.

Yet the alternative to arming the Kurds or forming an alliance with Iran who, like the US, passionately oppose ISIS, is to reintroduce American troops in Iraq; a policy most Americans would vigorously oppose – since we are still withdrawing our troops from that hell hole of our making – or just stand by and watch the murderous Islamic fanatics in ISIS take over a large swath of the oil rich Middle East.

Alas, no thinking person who understands what is at stake in the Middle-East can oppose all forms of American military action, although it should be limited to air strikes and covert operations in cooperation with Iraqi government forces, especially in situations where there is eminent danger of genocide such as ISIS’ attempts to exterminate religious minorities such as the Christians.

However it is long past time for American foreign policy to be driven by an objective cost/benefit analysis based on actual US interests. We can no longer afford to indulge ideological fantasies such as Senator John McCain is given to; a surreal vision of American military dominance of the world that would commit this nation to perpetual wars that gobble up financial and intellectual capital this nation desperately needs for our own internal development.

Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.

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Written by cs

September 1st, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Shunning:

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Reversing The ‘Don’t Forgive The Sinner, But Forgive The Religion’ Philosophy

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by Chris Stevenson

Shunning is religion’s last link to the Dark Ages. While it may be a policy in more than a few sects, not many churches actively enforce it. The reason is simple, normal people just feel awkward implementing or practicing it. Once you shun someone in society the very next step is physical abuse or even murder. On the other hand you don’t have to murder someone to cause great psychological damage through shunning, under it’s many names in various faiths or cults. It’s safe to assume that all religions that actively shun are simply a cult.

Synonyms for shunning include: To keep away from: avoid, burke, bypass, circumvent, dodge, duck, elude, escape, eschew, evade, get around. The purpose is completely narcissistic, to induce shame and guilt within the target.

Religious synonyms for shunning are; excommunication (viewed as slightly different than shunning), disfellowshipping (Jehovah’s Witnesses), disconnection (Scientology; Scientologists denied disconnection for years until they admitted it on their website. It is an especially brutal form of shunning, well-known to break up marriages), Cherem (Jewish faith. a form of shunning that ended during the 17th century’s Age of Enlightenment), vitandi (Catholic shunning, this ended in 1983), Kasepekang (Bali, Indonesia, a more communal-shunning).

A shortcut to regaining self-esteem after an individual has already been shunned, is for the shunned person to shun someone else themselves. But it’s false-esteem. Labor unions and companies have used their own form of social rejection on strike-breakers and whistleblowers respectively.

Shunning isn’t seen as dangerous on the religious extremism scale by governments or big non-profit organizations because on the surface it doesn’t seem as dangerous. In actuality it can be placed right alongside bullying, terrorism and in an indirect way kidnapping in many cases. Most strict religions will tell you not everyone is cut out for their faith, meanwhile they not only want your membership, but as many in your family as possible. it’s important for them to bring in as many followers as they can for money, and control. It used to be if they shunned you, then all the friends you made within the organization would stop speaking and associating with you. The Watchtower have now stepped up the virtually-demonic practice, by ordering blood and immediate family members to stop speaking to disfellowshipped individuals.

Although I marvel at the audacity of anyone assuming they are worth costing you your natural relationship with those whose closeness you previously took for granted, I can’t dismiss the reality of mothers telling me their son’s or grandchildren won’t speak to them or son’s and daughter stories about their parents cutting them off from the family.

The most famous form of shunning was non-religious and practiced in South Africa, it was called Apartheid. It’s goal was an economic and social denial of goods and services to the black majority there. Always understand and remember it was brainstormed and practiced by a people who didn’t even originate from that land, Europeans or white people. It officially went into law in 1948. Picture me walking into your home either as a guest or intruder, and over time convincing your mate and children to either limit or cut off their interactions and association to you. What would that make me in your own words? By strange coincidence the Watchtower Society (always watching closely the powerful tenants of the same world they outwardly condemned) began practicing “disfellowshipping;” a form of shunning where they even made up their own bizarre-sounding word between 1948-1952. Very few of today’s practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses know that before then the Watchtower openly condemned other churches that practiced shunning. Even more mind-boggling is the fact that they can be shunned just for researching their old publications and looking that up.

The man most responsible for forcing the destruction of Apartheid is of course Nelson Mandela. Few people know that during his early years as a young activist/attorney his first wife Evelyn (Mase) was a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Through her the Watchtower tried to get him to stop his anti-Apartheid activities. Using their oath of neutrality, they were able to become political while at the same time conveniently claiming not to. Back then they fully knew the value to themselves and the overtly-racist South African government had Mandela simply listened to his JW wife and resigned himself and black South Africans to 2nd-class citizenship by joining their religious order. This is part of the reason I consider the Watchtower just another component of what is known as the Religious or Christian Right. One of the jealous religion’s slick accomplishments is their prohibition of political and civic involvement through what they call neutrality, but what is actually for black members stifling of race progress through their lack of participation as a trade-off of a promise of living forever in a non-racial earthly paradise. Millions of blacks, many potentially would have been another Mandela, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall or Huey Newton, have through their intense involvement in this organization been politically neutralized.

It’s possible the people who push some form of shunning have never even been in a fistfight before. It’s born of a spoiled, low-level, confrontational, trifling spirit that simply seeks to draw others not directly-involved in the personal hangups of the shunner. Later some the most skilled religious publishers have adopted this as their policy, outwardly using a pretext of keeping the church “undefiled.” You will find no history of Jesus using shunning as a tool to teach or keep followers loyal to him. Jesus was not all into buildings of worship like that if you check his record, he advocated the most difficult task of all, improving personal character. There are more scriptures where Jesus in so-many words tells people to ‘stop being an asshole’ than there is of him ordering followers to build a church. Only after he left this planet was there a rush to form churches named after him, Christianity.

Many people are baffled as to how to turn the tables on this type of archaic treatment in modern times. But what overbearing cults masquerading as religions have done is make the archaic and unnatural look normal within their own insular surroundings. But don’t discouraged, if you are undergoing this as a member of a faith that ousted you, you can still win back your family if they are still in. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say it was going to be easy. The best way is to help topple the very thing your family worships, their cult. The gullibility of many church followers is stronger than the cement holding it’s bricks together. The next option is to prove to your still-kidnapped loved one that their faith/cult is not the exclusive pipeline to God or Jesus or Allah as they claim. Free the mind, the ass will follow. For example if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses the trick is simple but complicated; you must prove to him or her the Watchtower is not God’s only channel to mankind. Once you can convince them of this, you got ‘em.

To do this most effectively you must figure out what in particular makes her or him think this is God’s ONLY true organization (people are different and do things differently), and convince her otherwise. Those whom will be the toughest, because in reality those governed by old friendships are going to be harder to convince than those who might leave based on their discovery of the Watchtower’s changes on blood, or the secret UN membership, or the unreported child-molestations. Others are simply terrified of a day when most of the people they know all turn their nose up at them. Currently right now there is a Mormon woman facing excommunication for doing what women in that faith need the most, forming a womans’ group. That’s yet another issue they have. Strict faiths hate resources.

An unwanted activist group has been growing from within the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) calling themselves Ordain Women. As much as the men worshippers hate it, I think it’s way overdue. The leader is a woman named Kate Kelly, a longtime member who is also an international human rights lawyer, feminist, and the founder of the movement.

Ordain Women’s goal is no more hard to figure out than the two words used to form it. Having been born into the church of the LDS , she has long viewed it as stifling, over-patriarchal, rigid, and in danger of losing members if they continue on in this course. She enrolled in Brigham Young University and American University Washington College of Law. She is reported to have formed OW on 3/17/13. There is a website that has grown from 19 supporters initially to over 400 today. You would think issues of gender equality and women priests shouldn’t be a concern given the runaway-freight-train of corruption male clergy have been slamming inside the churches for generations now, but it still does.

Kelly has shown herself to be an effective community organizer since her days as a college student. This year she has come under fire for her stance against LDS by of course their all-male leaders. Back on 5/5 she was put on probation for being in public opposition to the church after having been previously warned not to do so, and on 6/22 she was put on trial by a panel of judges and “excommunicated.”

Though shunned by the church she grew up in it’s notable to mention that her family has always supported her voice to reform the Mormons, and still support her actions. No small feat given their tenure in that religion (A lot of you would have shunned her because you’re dope-fiends). Churches like the LDS have long been nothing more than LSD to a society-at-large seeking to find their own line of communication to the creator. The problem comes in when they bring too much baggage with them for God to demonstrate any exclusivity with them.

Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, and a contributor to The Hampton Institute, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice for clbTV & Follow his Blogtalkradio  interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him on the link below.

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Written by cs

August 30th, 2014 at 3:32 pm

8.27.2014

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EVENT ALERT: TOWN HALL: Ferguson and Beyond (LIVE WEBCAST AUG 27 6:30PM EST/ 5:30 CST)

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by Gloria Dulan-Wilson

STAY BLESSED

I am sure the police and the rednecks and repuglycons of Ferguson and the rest of the world would like to think that now that Michael Brown’s funeral is over, things can go back to business as usual. But, ain’t no mo days like that! The world has been galvanized, and this will not end until justice has been served, the police attack/assault mode against Black and Brown brothers and sisters has been reigned in, and the perpetrators have been punished.

There has been a lot of complaining on the part of the repuglycons, who were clearly upset to find that people who attended Michael Ferguson’s funeral also registered to vote while there. Well, they can expect to see a lot more Black and Brown people registering as they prepare to make sure that there are no more situations such as have existed in the community of Ferguson, where the Blacks are in the majority, but the whites are running the show, riding roughshod over them with impunity.

No more CYA (cover your ass) lies, where they keep telling one after another to see which one is going to finally be believed. No more low wages, high taxes, and under representation in the major positions that matter – Police, city government, education, etc. Ferguson’s paradigm shift is going into high gear and taking other Black communities along with it.

And while Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama, and Rev. Sharpton are playing their roles in this, there is something that we, ourselves, must do as well. Because, no one can do our doing for us. There is an old African proverb that says: “If the people will lead, the leaders will follow.” We it’s time for WE, THE PEOPLE to lead.

Below is an invitation to be part of a live-streamed town hall meeting coordinated by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century. Take some time out to sit down and catch up with what others are doing in our behalf. Be prepared to replicate some of the strategies in your own communities.

I truly hope it doesn’t take a similar wake up call, such as the one tragically endured by Ferguson, Staten Island, Los Angeles, Florida, and other major communities where Black people are disrespected by Police on a regular basis, to get our act together and make sure that we obtain and maintain the balance of power – we do this through out votes; we do this through uniting our communities, from those next door, to those across the street and around the block; to those across the city, the state, the nation.

It’s our wake up call – if you snooze you lose. We can’t afford to be on the late show. Pass this information on – make it viral and make it your business to tune in. If no one else will save you – save yourself.

Stay Blessed &
ECLECTICALLY BLACK

bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com

 

http://ibw21.org/town-hall-ferguson-and-beyond/


http://twitter.com/share?text=FERGUSON AND BEYOND: A Town Hall Meeting on Police Killings of Black Men LIVE AUG27 6:30PM ET http://ibw21.org/town-hall-ferguson-and-beyond

http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http://ibw21.org/town-hall-ferguson-and-beyond

Panelist & Speakers
Dr. Ron Daniels

Dr. Ron Daniels, President, Institute of the Black World (IBW)

Andy Shallal

Andy Shallal, Artist, Activist, Owner of Busboy & Poets, Host

Danny Glover

Danny Glover, Actor/Activist (via Skype)

Barbara Arnwine

Barbara Arnwine, President, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights

Hilary Shelton

Hilary Shelton, Director, Washington Office of the NAACP

Nkechi Taifa

Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations

Ron Hampton

Ron Hampton, Former Executive Director, National Black Police Assn.

Jasiri X

Jasiri X, Hip Hop Artist and Activist

Keenan Keller

Keenan Keller, Senior Counsel, House Judiciary Committee

Don Rojas

Don Rojas, Director of Communications, IBW
**Report from DC activists who recently visited Ferguson, MO.

http://ibw21.org/ferguson/

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Written by cs

August 27th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Where Slavery Thrived, Inequality Rules Today

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by Gloria Dulan-Wilson

The tragedy of the article I’m sharing with you on this link is that this is not new news to us – we who were/are the victims of slavery, know all too well the seriousness of post traumatic slave syndrome in it’s physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional incarnations. We see it all around us, and, unfortunately, when we look in the mirror, or at many of our friends, loved ones, neighbors, enemies (?), we see it in them as well.

Try as we might, when we think we’ve defeated it in one arena, it rears its ugly head in another. Of course there are also those of us who are in denial as to whether or not we are affected by this uber-massive affliction. And I applaud them for wanting to put it behind them and move forward. Would that we could on a mass mentality level. But the sad state of affairs is that it’s like a gaping wound that has been systematically covered over with a series of inadequate band-aids, and exacerbated by the salt that is continually being rubbed in them by the perpetrators who continue to poke at it, while at the same time either telling us to “get over it” or that “it’s no big deal” or that “this is a different age or time,” while continuing to commit the same crimes in a different, more sophisticated way.

We are fortunate that we can cover our pain in a panache of false smiles, proper English, beautiful clothes, bleached blond hair or wigs, mis-education with higher level degrees up the ying/yang, and all manners of camouflage.

But those of our brothers and sisters who were not so fortunate, who got stuck in the muck of the southern sado/masochistic symbiotic relationships, are still living as if they had just stepped off the plantation; as if they had just received their manumission papers and didn’t know what to do with their “freedom.”

Now this, folks, is my commentary without having read the article – because we know this story all too well – we’ve got relatives still going through it. I find it interesting that this article has been written at this point in time, and I’m curious to see what, if any, impact or change it will make on the meanstream majority.

W.E.B. DuBois wrote “The Philadelphia Negro” in 1899, where gave sociological and statistical data on the lives of Black people during the post-slavery era, as well, Some of the same issues identified in the following article exist and continue to linger into modern times, even though Philadelphia was not part of a slave state, but a Northern industrialized community, with superior educational systems in place.  The entire text of DuBois’ study can be found online for those interested in reading this classic.

The fact remains that regardless of who did the study, or when it was conducted, there is much to be resolved if it is not to continue as a canker sore on the butt of America. We definitely should not be waiting to see whether the meanstream, is going to save us, or if we are going to save ourselves. Or whether this will be a cooperative effort.

I still maintain, “if no one else will save you, save yourself!”

Stay Blessed &
ECLECTICALLY BLACK

bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com

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Michael Brown

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A sense of Tragedy too often repeated

The killing of Michael Brown has tapped into something bigger than Michael Brown.

Brown was the unarmed 18-year-old black man who was shot to death Saturday (9/9/14) by a policeman in Ferguson, Mo. There are conflicting accounts of the events that led to the shooting. There is an investigation by local authorities as well as one by federal authorities. There are grieving parents and a seething community. There are swarms of lawyers and hordes of reporters. There has been unrest. The president has appealed for reflection and healing.

There is an eerie echo in it all — a sense of tragedy too often repeated. And yet the sheer morbid, wrenching rhythm of it belies a larger phenomenon, one obscured by its vastness, one that can be seen only when one steps back and looks from a distance and with data: The criminalization of black and brown bodies — particularly male ones — from the moment they are first introduced to the institutions and power structures with which they must interact.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released “the first comprehensive look at civil rights from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years.” As the report put it: “The 2011-2012 release shows that access to preschool programs is not a reality for much of the country. In addition, students of color are suspended more often than white students, and black and Latino students are significantly more likely to have teachers with less experience who aren’t paid as much as their colleagues in other schools.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, remarking on the data, said: “This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool.”

But, of course, this criminalization stalks these children throughout their school careers.

As The New York Times editorial board pointed out last year: “Children as young as 12 have been treated as criminals for shoving matches and even adolescent misconduct like cursing in school. This is worrisome because young people who spend time in adult jails are more likely to have problems with law enforcement later on. Moreover, federal data suggest a pattern of discrimination in the arrests, with black and Hispanic children more likely to be affected than their white peers.”

A 2010 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that while the average suspension rate for middle school students in 18 of the nation’s largest school districts was 11.2 percent in 2006, the rate for black male students was 28.3 percent, by far the highest of any subgroup by race, ethnicity or gender. And, according to the report, previous research “has consistently found that racial/ethnic disproportionality in discipline persists even when poverty and other demographic factors are controlled.”

And these disparities can have a severe impact on a child’s likelihood of graduating. According to a report from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University that looked at Florida students, “Being suspended even once in 9th grade is associated with a two-fold increase in the risk for dropping out.”

Black male dropout rates are more than one and a half times those of white males, and when you look at the percentage of black men who graduate on time — in four years, not including those who possibly go on to get G.E.D.s, transfer to other schools or fail grades — the numbers are truly horrific. Only about half of these black men graduate on time.

Now, the snowball is rolling. The bias of the educational system bleeds easily into the bias of the criminal justice system — from cops to courts to correctional facilities. The school-to-prison pipeline is complete.

A May report by the Brookings Institution found: “There is nearly a 70 percent chance that an African American man without a high school diploma will be imprisoned by his mid-thirties.”

This is in part because trending policing disparities are particularly troubling in places like Missouri. As the editorial board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out this week: “Last year, for the 11th time in the 14 years that data has been collected, the disparity index that measures potential racial profiling by law enforcement in the state got worse. Black Missourians were 66 percent more likely in 2013 to be stopped by police, and blacks and Hispanics were both more likely to be searched, even though the likelihood of finding contraband was higher among whites.”

And this is the reality if the child actually survives the journey. That is if he has the internal fortitude to continue to stand with the weight on his shoulders. That is if he doesn’t find himself on the wrong end of a gun barrel. That is if his parents can imbue in him a sense of value while the world endeavors to imbue in him a sense of worthlessness.

Parents can teach children how to interact with authority and how to mitigate the threat response their very being elicits. They can wrap them in love to safeguard them against the bitterness of racial suspicion.

It can be done. It is often done. But it is heartbreaking nonetheless. What psychic damage does it do to the black mind when one must come to own and manage the fear of the black body?

The burden of bias isn’t borne by the person in possession of it but by the person who is the subject of it. The violence is aimed away from the possessor of its instruments — the arrow is pointed away from the killer and at the prey.

It vests victimhood in the idea of personhood. It steals sometimes, something precious and irreplaceable. It breaks something that’s irreparable. It alters something in a way that’s irrevocable.

We flinchingly choose a lesser damage.

But still, the hopelessness takes hold when one realizes that there is no amount of acting right or doing right, no amount of parental wisdom or personal resilience that can completely guarantee survival, let alone success.

Brown had just finished high school and was to start college this week. The investigation will hopefully clarify what led to his killing. But it is clear even now that his killing occurred in a context, one that we would do well to recognize.

Brown’s mother told a local television station after he was killed just weeks after his high school graduation: “Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing to live for anyway. ‘They’re going to try to take me out anyway.’ ”

(This column originally appeared in the New York Times August. 13, 2014 under the title “Michael Brown and Black Men”)

Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at chblow@nytimes.com.”

 
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Written by cs

August 24th, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Charles M. Blow

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Remembering Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt

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by Karima Amin

Every year during the month of August, Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. devotes a program to the existence of political prisoners in the USA. While this government has patently denied the presence of political prisoners on these shores, the fact remains, there are political prisoners in America and we have taken time to recognize their presence and their pain. We have called their names, Mumia, Seth, Jalil, Leonard, Mutulu, Sekou, Sundiata, Oscar, Herman, David, the MOVE 9, and more… all imprisoned for their political beliefs… all imprisoned for decades. In discussing the plight of political prisoners, we have highlighted COINTELPRO, a counter-intelligence program of the US government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations. Under COINTELPRO, the FBI has used methods that have been sometimes covert and often illegal, discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents; planting false reports in the media; harassment; illegal violence, including assassination; and wrongful imprisonment. COINTELPRO was official from 1956-1971, though many of its tactics were used prior to 1956 and are used to this day.

In a film, “The FBI’s War on Black America” which PRP2 screened, a few years ago, historical documentation proved that COINTELPRO was especially aimed at Black leadership in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. One of those imprisoned at that time was Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, Minister of Defense for the Black Panther Party. He was tried and convicted of the kidnap and murder of Caroline Olsen, an elementary schoolteacher in 1972, crimes he never committed. After more than two decades in prison, including eight years in solitary confinement, he was freed in 1997 when his conviction was vacated.

 

 

 

 

Geronimo Pratt sometime after his release-cs (photo AP)

Before his imprisonment, believing in the promise of America, Pratt joined the army and served two tours of duty in Viet Nam, earning both silver and bronze medals and twice receiving the “purple heart.” After his stint in the army, he studied political science at UCLA and he joined the Black Panther Party when he saw that his army training could be useful there. He worked as a human rights activist before and after his imprisonment. He died in 2011, in his adopted country of Tanzania, West Africa.

Join us for the next monthly meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. when we will share more information about Geronimo and the United Nation’s recent request (August 14), issued by the CERD (Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), for the US government to officially recognize political prisoners in this country and to state specifically what it intends to do about “more than 20 civil rights era political activists and human rights defenders from 1960’s Black, Latino, and American Indian movements, now aged, and some in not so good health still being held in prison?” Please note that this is not the first time that such a request has been made.

Our next meeting will be on Monday, August 25, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng are the sponsors of this program. For further information, contact Karima Amin or BaBa Eng at 716-834-8438 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.

“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)

Karima Amin is a longtime Buffalo Activist, Educator, and Storyteller as well as founder and director of Prisoners Are People Too (PRP2).

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Written by cs

August 22nd, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Bail Fund for Ramsey Orta at Carver Federal Savings Bank

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by Alton H. Maddox, Jr.

A bail fund for Ramsey Orta was established to secure his immediate release as a “hostage” from the New York Department of Correction. The “ransom” is Seventy-five Thousand Dollars ($75,000.00). While Rev. Al Sharpton was in Ferguson, MO, with no one attending the store, I chose to become the interim guardian ad litem for Mr. Orta.

Mr. Orta is not only a key witness but also a material witness. A video-tape is not admissible in a court of law unless you lay a foundation. There is a fine print to a videotape. No grand jury investigation can start unless Orta is not a “hostage.” I have to work frantically, especially in light of censorship, in order to secure his release.

I am the only attorney in the United States to have not only secured a special prosecutor but I also successfully secured two special prosecutors. No appointment of a special prosecutor can be made without a “turf war.” This is the problem in Ferguson, MO. I may be going to Ferguson after I secure the release of Ramsey Orta.

It makes no sense to be taking a bus ride over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge while Ramsey Orta, the material witness, is behind bars. The right to march is protected by the First Amendment. The right to travel is protected by Article IV, sec.2 of the U.S. Constitution. Someone should explain the difference between these constitutional provisions to Rev. Al Sharpton. Dr. Martin L., King, Jr invoked the First Amendment. Paul Robeson invoked Art. IV, sec. 2.

Any deposit to the bail fund is refundable subject to the orders of court. If New York City were Ferguson, MO, I can assure you that Seventy-five Thousand Dollars could be collected by Thursday. If this would happen in New York, it would shock the PBA. It would also allow Blacks to put pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor and impanel a grand jury. Otherwise, P.O. Daniel Pantaleo is going home to await his pension.

Carver Federal Savings Bank Branches: “Bail Fund for Ramsey Orta” (Account # 500586090)

Manhattan 125th Street Branch 75 West 125th Street at Lenox Avenue New York, NY 10027 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m. –5:30 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Pathmark 125th Street Branch (Inside Pathmark Supermarket) 160 East 125th Street at Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10035 Open Monday–Wednesday 10:00 a.m. –7:00 p.m., Thursday–Friday 10:00 a.m. –8:00 p.m. Saturday 10:00a.m. –4:00 p.m., Sunday 10:00 a.m.– 2:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Bradhurst Branch (Inside Pathmark Supermarket) 300 West 145th Street at Frederick Douglass Boulevard New York, NY 10039 Open Monday–Friday 10:00 a.m. –7:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. –3:00p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Malcolm X Boulevard Branch2 142 Malcolm X Boulevard at West 117th Street New York, NY 10026 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.– 5:30 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Brooklyn Atlantic Terminal Branch 4 Hanson Place at St. Felix Street Brooklyn, NY 11217 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m. –5:30 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Bedford-Stuyvesant – Restoration Plaza Branch 1392 Fulton Street at Restoration Plaza Brooklyn, NY 11216 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Crown Heights Branch 1009 Nostrand Avenue at Empire Boulevard Brooklyn, NY 11225 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. –1:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Flatbush Branch 833 Flatbush Avenue at Linden Boulevard Brooklyn, NY 11226 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. –1:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Queens Jamaica Center Branch 158-45 Archer Avenue at 160th Street Jamaica, NY 11433 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m. Telephone: (718) 230-2900

St Albans Branch 115-02 Merrick Boulevard at 115th Street Jamaica, NY 11434 Open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ATMs on site with 24 hr. access Telephone: (718) 230-2900

Too honest for the White Press and too black for much of today’s Black Press; bullet columnist Alton Maddox upsets the same people and status quo as he did as an uncompromising Defense Attorney. He is also a founding member of the Freedom Party. Please support the movement to Reinstate him. Contact him at c/o UAM P.O. BOX 35 BRONX, NY 10471.

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Written by cs

August 21st, 2014 at 10:19 pm

A “Message” to my Sisters & Brothers in #Ferguson, MO

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by Zachary Husser

Dear Beloved,

The showing of a video saying it’s Mike Brown taking cigarillos has nothing to do with murder of the 18 year old young man! We shall not be sidetracked by films nor no information about the death for seven days! Nothing is going to take Us off focus from the White Supremacist actions in Ferguson, MO. The Actions include murder as well as Military Occupation of American People by Facist/Racist for several nights. Military equipment pulled out to treat Black Americans like we’re in a War Zone.

There’s nothing the Missouri Police Department from any part of the State can say to make the murder and Occupation correct! We’ve seen what these White Supremacist will do to Black People and now We must prepare to protect ourselves! This entire situation must be cleared up. A Recall Vote is needed to throw out the Police Chief, the Mayor, and All other politicians that had input into what we All saw, the reckless disregard for Black Life!

Just finished reading the survey put out by folk involved in Education and I want you to see what they’re findings say. We know a Story that isn’t being told in these “Surveys” because it deals with our daughters and sons. What are WE going to do about the “Educational Gap” that leaves Our Children in NEED of so many resources to catch up with other ethnic groups by age appropriate rankings and ratings?? This eduction of Our Sons & Daughters is a JOB we have to DO!

The high drop out rate from high schools by our boys working to become men tells Us WE have to take charge of the Education of Our Children. We’re involved in an “Epidemic Educational Crisis” as it relates to Black Boys dropping out of high school and WE are not responding like an Epidemic is upon Us! Why? That’s something WE have to answer and deal with. If not Us, then Who?

Check out the following link at www.huffingtonpost.com for the assessment of the facts by the Casey Foundation as well as the personal financial site Wallethub. These outcomes are what these organizations are telling us based on their research. Past this information along to your network. Do You Read Me Loud And Clear?

In the Interest of Excellence in Education By Us,

Brother Zachary C. Husser, National Communications Advisor
Fathers in Education Campaign, Inc.

Note: Go to www.facebook.com for more about Fathers in Education Campaign, Inc.

Zachary Cornell Husser is a NY/NJ Community Organizer and member of the Columbia University men’s basketball teams of 1967–70. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Written by cs

August 21st, 2014 at 10:34 am

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Press Release: Downtown Stadium Update

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Press Release:

August 15, 2014

Contact: George Hasiotis, Partner
Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex, LLC
716/553-6557

“GBSEC, in Exchanges with Prospective Bills’ Buyers, Moving Forward on Plans for Outer Harbor Complex”

A Representative of GBSEC, LLC announced today that the company has engaged in a significant exchange of information, including face to face meetings, with representatives of multiple franchise bidders for the Buffalo Bills and that they are also in communication with State officials assigned to study the issue of a new stadium and site selection.

George Hasiotis, GBSEC Junior Partner, stated:

“Since May we have been engaged in an ongoing, albeit private, process which centers on the bedrock economic issues of creating a facility that can deliver economic benefits to a new team owner, the NFL and tax-payers. Our business model also seeks to keep ticket prices affordable for fans and provides $1 billion in private financing. Due to the confidential nature of our interaction with prospective owners, we cannot provide any additional information, other that to say that on the part of out of area bidders there is healthy and serious interest in keeping the team in Buffalo. These parties are focused on how to make the economic model work and the potential of a facility to provide significant non-football revenue. The composition of such revenue is as much media/entertainment content and revenue driven as it is from football operations.

There has been so much misinformation in press reports about the future of the franchise and the need for a new facility that it is important to remind everyone that “economics” is the final arbiter in this deal. It serves no constructive purpose to get worked up about peripheral issues because in the end, only a new, site-specific model based on multi-source revenue – multi-sport and entertainment sources of income – can meet the economic parameters of investors, tax-payers and the NFL.

The Buffalo Common Council presented our Outer Harbor proposal, with its attendant business model, to the NFL Commissioner and NFL Stadium Committee six months ago, in preparation for a prospective franchise sale. As of today, this proposal is still the only NFL grade, comprehensive and detailed plan that can facilitate keeping the league here and meeting all stake-holders’ objectives. In the final analysis, no other plan is based on such a high level of private financing and public benefit. The best leverage the tax-payer has is the hope of a public-private partnership where a percentage of profits repay the public treasury and create a progressive relationship with professional sports in this town.”

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Written by cs

August 15th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Get On Up!

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The James Brown Story Comes to the Silver Screen

 

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 by Playthell Benjamin

In her insightful magisterial study “The Daemonic Genius of Richard Wright,” Professor Margret Walker says of the great Afro-American novelist “Richard Wright came straight out of hell;” the same can be said of James Brown, an iconic figure in American popular music. Browns life story is both an epic tale about the triumph of the human spirit through the agency of art and a representative anecdote for American civilization – which that peerless interpreter of American culture Albert Murray defines as “any story of steerage to boardroom” or the rags to riches tales of Horaito Alger. It is a story of tragedy and triumph that allows us to look into the life, loves and art of one of the unique American public figures of the 20th century.

The elements of a great movie are a good story, a well written script, imaginative sets and costumes that capture the milieu – i.e. spirit of the time and place – a good musical score, thoughtful creative directing and great acting. This film has them all…an embarrassment of riches. While Shakespeare’s observation that “the play is the thing,” is true enough, it takes actors to transform those words from inanimate symbols scrawled on paper into living breathing believable characters. Through their agency the words become flesh…in a god-like act.

I have never seen anyone do it better than Chadwick Boseman. As I watched him bring the larger than life character of James Brown to life, I conjured up the voice of Sir Lawrence Olivier, who is thought by many to be the most accomplished actor of the 20th century, warning young thespians who aspire to greatness as actors: “Acting is a noble profession but an actor should never be caught doing it.” Boseman must have taken Sir Lawrence’s words to heart and placed it at the center of his art because after a few minutes I completely forgot that he was not James Brown! He was every bit as convincing in the role as Jamie Fox was as Ray Charles….and he won the Oscar for his performance….jes sayin.

It was a strange experience for me because I witnessed James Brown’s entire career. I first saw him perform in 1956, when he was enjoying his first hit record “Pleas, Please. Please.” He was the headliner at the “Two Spot,” the premiere black night club in Jacksonville Florida. All of the great Jazz, Blues and Rhythm and Blues acts performed there. People came from all around, not just Jacksonville, but the surrounding towns and counties, such as St. John’s County where I lived in the ancient city of St. Augustine. Some party people even drove down from Augusta Georgia, James Brown’s home town to check out the show.

Please, Please, Please was burning up the airwaves on WOBS, the radio station serving the large Afro-American communities in the Jacksonville area. Their star D.J Johnny Shaw “The Devil’s Son in Law,” played it constantly. We had listened to the record on the radio and everybody was running to the nearest record store to buy it. So me and my boys were very excited to see this guy James Brown perform live. Never having seen him we were totally unprepared for the spectacle we witnessed. I was actually too young to even be in the club, but since I was singing with a R&B group that was performing on the Sunday Afternoon Matinee I was allowed to enter this magic temple where great music was made.

The Sunday Matinee at the TWO Spot was a talent contest between competing singing groups in the area. It was like a scene in Robert Townsend’s great movie homage to the golden age of live R&B performance “The Five Heartbeats.” The place was packed with pretty girls out to “let the good times roll,” a frame of mind immortalized by Brown’s New Orleans contemporaries Shirley and Lee on their hit record “Come on Baby Let the Good Times Roll.”

All of the five members of my group, “The Dewdrops,” could croon their asses off; we were members of the Murray High Glee Club, directed by my Aunt Marie, and we sang everything from J. Rosamond Johnson and Harry T. Burleigh’s arrangements of the “Negro Spirituals” – that marvelous body of sacred music produced by Black American slaves – to Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s B Minor Mass. Hence when “Bubba Duck” Jackson, a ruggedly handsome football player with a high falsetto tenor voice, fell to his knees while singing “This is Dedicated to the One I Love” – a Hank Ballad and the Midnighters hit – with tears rolling down his cheeks, the girls went crazy! But that was just the dress rehearsal.

Like us, the ladies were there to see “James Brown and the Famous Flames.” After the talent contest was done, with us coming in second in a very tough competition, the Master of Ceremonies announced “It’s star time at the Two Spot! Hereee’s James Brown and the Famous Flames!” The audience exploded in applause and began to move to the groove of the band as we waited for the man of the moment to emerge from the wings. Suddenly this ebony black guy in a white tuxedo with tails strolled onstage followed by a group of back ground singers dressed in black pants. White shirts, black tuxedo jackets with purple satin lapels and bow ties closely followed. He opened with his arrangement of a Louis Jordan hit from an earlier period “Cladonia!”

From the outset his dancing was a marvel, although we recognized that at root it was his improvisations on the “Mashed Potatoes’” and the “Camel Walk” two popular Afro-American vernacular dances au courant at the time, but when James added his unique moves they became something different and something more. It was love at first sight, I fell for the James Brown sound completely, as did my peers, and it is a love that has lasted a lifetime. It was an enchanting evening in a magical place, the Two Spot dance hall and supper club in Jacksonville Florida, where great musical performances was common fare, because most white clubs and concert halls wouldn’t book black artists. They preferred the corny white artists who “covered’ their records with saccharine corny versions aimed at white America – ala Pat Boone’s cover of Little Richard’s rousing Rhythm& Blues hit “Tutti Fruti.”

This movie captures the essence of those magic moments in American popular music and more. The writers, John-Henry and Jez Butterworth, capture all of this in their well written script and the actors bring it convincingly to life under the able direction of Tate Taylor. Alas, despite the artistic success of this film, the fact that these major creative functions were all performed by whites and blacks were reduced to the artistic equivalent of ventriloquist dummies whose movements and speech echo the words and ideas of whites, raises some serious questions about the ongoing phenomenon of Euro-American creative artists appropriating Afro-American cultural ingredients and epic tales that define major black historical figures. What, the thoughtful observer is compelled to ask, does this tell us about the persistence of rampant racism and cultural imperialism in the movie industry.

The broadly learned and insightful Afro-American cultural historian and critic Harold Cruse discussed this issue in depth a half century ago in his masterwork “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.” But considering the fact that Tate Taylor also directed “The Help” – a hit film about black maids working for racist whites in the apartheid south of the first half of the 20th century – and the recent hit biopic on the life of Jackie Robinson was also written, produced and directed by whites it’s time to take up the subject of the Afro-American creative artists in the cultural arena again. However neither time nor space affords us the opportunity to do justice to this this critical issue here; that subject will be addressed in a future essay devoted to this topic.

Chadwick Boseman proves that he is not only a great actor, but a hell of a singer and dancer too! James Brown is the most influential dancer/singer in a genre in which dance is central to the performance. Every major dancer in Rhythm and Blues i.e. “Soul” music since the 1950’s has been influenced by James Brown. Some of James Brown’s R&B contemporaries – Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Bo Diddly, Chuck Berry, et al – had their own moves.

The Delta blues man Muddy Waters was also a great dancer, and Cab Calloway – who was from the preceding generation, taught them all. But James Brown is by far the most influential dancer in the Rhythm and blues tradition. Michael Jackson, Prince, MC Hammer and even the Filipino star Bruno Mars are all extentions of the spectatular artistry of James Brown. And Brown himself belongs to a long tradition of Afro-American vernacular dance. For insance it is easy to see how he was influenced by the great Song and dance man Cab Calloway, who also fronted a dynamic band.

One need only look at such great dancers as Prince, Michael Jackson, Morris Day, MC Hammer, Chris Brown, et al to recognize the indelible influence of James Brown. In Fact MC Hammer made a video calling Michael Jackson out for not giving props to the “God Father” of dance in the R&B idiom.
James Br
It is no mystery why Afro-Americans have created every popular dance craze in the US. The ever insightful Albert Murray attributes this to the “tendency of Africans to turn all movement into dance like elegance.” Growing up in Georgia, and spending his early boyhood in the backwoods where he was immersed in the black folk culture that retained elements of West African culture, James attended a sanctified “Holy Roller” church, and witnessed the power of music to move people…and the way the dancing preacher – a fairly common figure in black fundamentalist churches – used music, chants and movement to hypnotize his followers.

The movie captures all of this in a powerful vignette, and affords us an insider’s view of the origins of James Brown’s performance style. It is no wonder that Albert Murray would observe that a James Brown performance created the emotional power of a great revivalist preacher in his seminal text on Afro-American music “Stomping the Blues.” Like Little Richard, Sam Coke, Ray Charles, et al, James began singing in the Afro-American church – an institution that has produced more great original American musicians than Julliard. Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, who revolutionized western instrumental music, as well as the grand operatic divas Leontine Price, Jessie Norman, Kathleen Battle, et al and legions of musicians in all genres were products of the black church.

But James Brown remained close to his musical roots, the black southern country churches and those unlettered preachers the black bard and 20th century Renaissance Man James Weldon celebrates in his epic poems “God’s Trombones.” Of these untutored sable clerics who claimed to be called to the pulpit by God almighty himself, Johnson said “The old time southern Negro preacher had all the devices of eloquence at his command.” James Brown converted that eloquence into music. In him we see the evidence of Zora Neale Hurston’s claim that black folk religion is for “people who love magnificence and can’t get enough of it.”

This however, was not the church of the formally educated black middle class, of whose church services the ‘Poet Laureate of Harlem” and peerless observer of Afro-American life and culture Langston Hughes says was the result of a decision to “Let’s be boring like the Nords” in his path-breaking essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” James Brown, a country boy molded in the hell of America’s racist apartheid South, kept it real and relied on the power of his folk roots for the source of his artistic inspiration. And he brought the funk like nobody else; any R&B or Rap artist who does not understand this is faking the funk!

The movie explores all of this and more, as it takes us into aspects of James Brown’s life that are not well known to many of his fans…this writer included. With Browns’ longtime musical colleague and personal friend Bobby Bird as a historical consultant we get intimate details of Brown’s life that we could not have gotten from any other source. And no doubt this is because of the guiding hand of Mick Jagger in the project. A rock music legend that saw James Brown perform live during a tour of the US and never forgot it – in fact he includes the scene in the movie – Jagger understands the intricacies of keeping a band on point and ready to perform on the road.

Thus we are afforded a view of the problems of a touring band that usually never meet the public eye. We get to see what a strict task master Brown was, docking the musicians pay for every infraction, sometimes seeming petty and ego-maniacal, but the result was one of the tightest bands in the history of the Rock and Roll era. That’s why they were able to respond dramatically to every gesture of his body the way they did. Or go directly to the bridge when he called for it. We all enjoyed watching him cue the band with words or body movements….but we never understood the hard work required to achieve such precision in performance.

However the greatest revelation about the life of James Brown that I experienced is his relationship with his parents and how he was raised. Dirt poor and stuck in the back woods, reliant upon a brutal father whose meager pay working as a laborer in the pulp wood industry was routinely squandered on whisky and gambling, who was ignorant, and a mother who confused and abused, James had to figure things out for himself while yet a child. His mother, tired of poverty and abuse, ran away and became a whore, and when his daddy joined the army to escape his miserable dead end existence in the racist backwoods of Georgia, James was left to live with his aunt, who was the madam of a thriving whore house.

When we look at the conditions these black women endured in the South – oppressed on the basis of race, gender and class – who among us is righteous enough to cast the first stone of condemnation….not I. They played the bad hand they were dealt as best they could, and some of them aspired to better things for the youths than were available to them. This was especially true of James’ aunt who ran the cat house. She told him that he had something special, that one day the whole world would know his name and that he would be fabulously wealthy. Raised by kind hearted hos James got a look at life that was raw like Sushi.

All of these factors contributed to the personality formation of the man the world came to know as the God Father of Soul. He was a man who understood that everything good that had happened to him in life was because of his talent as a performer. And life became very good indeed; luxury jets, fine cars and mansions of many rooms were all his – as well as an endless bevy of black, brown and beige beauties. No doubt he could have had his pick from a multitude of snow queens, but he stayed with the sistas. Yet his childhood memories of seeing his mother turning tricks with soldiers, and all the whores he grew up around, made him more than a tad puritanical about the women in his life. It also made him abusive.

Some of the most dramatic moments in the film involve James and his wife – played by the voluptuous brown beauty Jill Scott – a type A female who stood her ground….what the folks in Georgia used to call a “Tushie.” When he slaps her down in one scene it is shocking to behold: but then, James Brown, like all of us, is a product of his socialization – or lack thereof. Hence it should come as no surprise that he was relentless and ruthless with is band members in his quest for fame and fortune, and a unapologetic patriarch with his women, or that he showered them with expensive gifts and took good care of his children.

We can see the seeds of all these adult traits being forged in his personality by virtue of his experiences as a boy. This film captures it all: the glamour, the tragedy, the good times and bad, the pathos and bathos of Afro-American culture…and most of all the marvelous music! According to the director, Boseman pulled this amazing performance off with only two months of preparation. “We got the go ahead from Universal around the end of August. Chad Boseman had September and October to become James Brown—the dancer, the singer, and played him as a 17-year-old all the way to a 63-year-old. I literally can’t understand how he did it.” Taylor recalls. The resulting product of all this hard work and generous talent is a cinematic tour de force: Bravo!

Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.

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