Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Black Lives Matter

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change.  I am changing the things I cannot accept,” Angela Davis 
Political activist Angela Davis, 72, taught for many years at the University of California, Santa Cruz despite Governor Ronald Reagan’s attempt to ban her.  She is a founder of Critical Resistance, an organization formed in 1997 and based in Oakland, California, and dedicated to abolishing the prison-industrial complex.  In 1971 a jury acquitted Davis of conspiring in the armed takeover of a Marin County (CA) courtroom and subsequent hostage crisis.  Police killed four people, including Judge Harold Haley.  The Rolling Stones dedicated “Sweet Black Angel” on “Exile on Main Street” to Angela.
Formed in 2013 in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized network without formal structure similar to Occupy Wall Street and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) during the 1960s.   BLM uses social media – hashtag activism – to reach a large international audience.  Some have compared its amorphous structure to the Occupy Wall Street movement.  BLM chapters have sprung up in dozens of cities, including Gary.  

In 2014, Black Lives Matter organized mass demonstrations after the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, using slogans “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe” based on the victims’ final words.  2015 protests occurred after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and in more than a dozen other cities after other incidents of police brutality. In Washington, D.C., organizers rallied to end violence against transgender women.  In 2016 BLM protestors have interrupted speeches by 2016 Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  After a BLM protestor was beaten at a Trump rally, the Republican presumptive nominee said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”  Detractors have countered with the slogan “All Lives Matter,” but, as Bill Maher pointed out, “All Lives Matter implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they’re not.” 

George Zimmerman has put up for auction the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin.  He called it part of Americana.  WF?  He promised to use the money to fight Black Lives Matter and Hillary Clinton.
On the cover of “The Nation” a photo of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail last July after an incredibly horrible ordeal.  A belligerent state trooper tail-gated her and then pulled her over when she changed lanes to let him pass without first putting on her turn signal.  Instead of letting her know that she was merely receiving a warning, he told her she looked upset, ordered her to put out her cigarette, demanded she exit the car, and pulled her out when she attempted to make a cell phone call.  Charged with felony assault on a police officer, Sandra was placed in a security cell and her bond set at $515, more than she could raise.  Prison officials ignored her protestations that she was deeply depressed and left her in solitary confinement.  On her fifth day in jail, she refused breakfast, twice begged on the emergency intercom to use the telephone (and was refused), and an hour later, according to Nation reporter Debbie Nathan, “was found hanging from a bathroom privacy partition in her cell with a noose around her neck.” Two months ago, the officer was indicted for lying to a grand jury about the circumstances of the arrest and fired by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Also in The Nation Dani McClain wrote about Black Lives Matter, described as part of a Racial Justice Movement that in McClain’s words, “demands an end to the disproportionate killing of black people by law enforcement officials and vigilantes, and seeks to root out white supremacy wherever it exists.”  Other Racial Justice Movement groups include Dream Defenders in Florida, Truth Out in New York, and Black Youth Project in Chicago.  The latter, founded by Charlene Carruthers, has developed (according to McClain) a democratic decision-making process and operates from what Carruthers calls “a young black queer feminist’ perspective.”  The Racial Justice Movement encompasses LGBT rights and support for undocumented immigrants and refugees from Syria and other war-torn areas.

Sharing a Huffington Post article, “Our Immigration Police Is Not Only Unjust – It’s Un-American,” Roy Dominguez remarked:
In remembrance of my dearly departed Mexican 
grandparents who immigrated to this great country in the early 1920's, we say Gracias to ALL of the Brave Souls who stood side by side to defeat the powerful GEO Corp. and their prison-for-profit previously slated to be built in Gary, Indiana.  When it comes to standing up for human dignity for all of God's children, an American Hero - 
Cesar Chavez -  said it many times: “¡Si se puede!”
At Abuelo’s in Merrillville Ramon Arredondo treated me to lunch and filled me in on his and wife Trish’s activities on behalf of “Maria’s Journey.”  A Spanish version of the book I helped edit will be on kindle soon.  The Arredondos recently spoke to several hundred high school students and are working on a writing project with kids in Florida.  On a recent cruise they gave “Maria’s Journey” to a traveling companion who emailed that she had been reading Gillian Flynn’s 2012 thriller “Gone Girl” but read their book straight through before returning to the novel.  The chicken tortilla soup was so filling and delicious that I took most of my taco salad home. 
 Jim Leach and Ray Smock
Ray Smock informed me that Shepherd University in West Virginia awarded an honorary degree to Jim Leach, formerly Republican Congressman from Iowa and chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Leach’s commencement address decried the rise of a political-ideological complex that has threatened public civility.  Recognizing the need for dissent in a new Gilded Age, “where the gap between the very wealthiest Americans and the less well-off has widened,” Leach called for a new generation of political leadership and the overturning of Citizens United.  Leach stated:
    Brazenly, Supreme Court employed parallel logic to the syllogism embedded in the most repugnant ruling our highest court ever made, the 1857 Dred Scott decision.  To justify slavery, the 19th Century Court defined a class of human beings as private property that could be bought and sold.  To magnify corporate power a century and a half later, it defined corporations, which are a class of private property, as human beings vested with rights to infuse unconstrained amounts of money into the political process. 
  Ironies abound.  To advance the sophistic argument that 1st Amendment rights apply to corporations and that more money in politics equates to more democracy, the Court had to employ a linguistic gyration.  It presumed that “money” is “speech” and that a “corporation” is an “individual.”  But where in any dictionary or in any founding documents are these equivalencies made?
  Democracy is on trial.  The Court’s twisted linguistics and skewed logic has undercut American values and caused elected representatives to become less in synch with the voters who elect them than the corporatist oligarchy that funds their campaigns.  A tragic upshot of money-centered campaigns is that the highest levels of elective office are now open principally to candidates of substantial wealth or candidates willing to commit their elective souls to those who have the greatest financial interest in governmental policies.   
Jeff Manes wrote a SALT column on Samuel A. Love (above), active in the GEO fight and prisoners rights, among other things, entitled “Miller man shakes the status quo” (on the Tribune website the title was “Miller man embraces diversity, works for change”).  Asked to describe his work as a Gary community organizer, Sam said: “It’s hearing a lot of conversations, trying o get the essential details and then putting them together in a context.  It’s getting a group of people to listen to the other guy’s point of view.  It’s a lot of emailing and conference calls.  It should be more like knocking on doors or speaking publicly.”  Wednesday evening Samuel Love spoke at a forum in Hobart about lessons learned from the GEO fight.

Describing Merrillville High School in the mid-1990s, Sam told Manes:
  I was in choir. I had Mr. Emig. He was a great teacher. I think he still lives in Miller. He was the choir director. We had such a diverse group. Mr. Emig was the right person to be teaching or leading us at that time because he respected that diversity. We would do things ranging from Balkan folk music to African songs to hip-hop.
We took field trips to Florida and the Bahamas. I remember we had two buses. One bus contained all the preppy, snobby, privileged, white kids and the other was the mixed bus. We had so much (expletive) fun. Always go with the mixed group. It's wonderful. That's what Martin Luther King called the “Beloved Community.” We try to build that here in Miller as much as we can.

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