Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hope over Fear...

...and cynicism.

I picked up my local paper yesterday...the day after history. The headline said: 'We have chosen hope over fear' (quoting from Obama's inaugural address).

I think we have. Hope + action = change.

For motivation to continue on the path of hope, I share these inspirational videos...

Davey D video - Michael Franti- Hey Now (Inauguration 2009-Dedicated to the Elders)

click link below to see video at

Michael Franti- Hey Now
Hey World..what you sure to stick around for another day or two..don't give up on me and I won't give up on you..just believe in me like I believe in you...



Inspired by the song, I decided to flip things and make a video that includes many of the incredible elders I spoke to all week long. Many of the people shown here have rich histories that sadly may not ever be fully conveyed to the future generations. One is a pioneering entrepreneur who risked life and limb to make sure her community could vote. Another was a pioneering journalist who feels its necessary to come out of retirement and pen some things so others could benefit. Another was one of the first police officers to dawn a uniform on the UC-Berkeley campus. He did what Black officers should be doing and looked out over the Black students who were on the campus. He made sure that our experience with other police was minimized. Others had tales about growing up in the deep south...

In anycase, here's a video I put together to go along with Franti's song. Hopefully it captures the mood of the day. Enjoy and please pass along. This moment is bigger than us all and is dedicated to our mothers, fathers, grandparents and great grandparents.. Thank U for being there..

From Wikipedia: Michael Franti (born April 21, 1966, in Oakland, California) is an American poet, musician, and composer of African, American Indian, Irish, French, and German descent.[1] Franti is the creator and lead vocalist of Michael Franti & Spearhead, a band that blends hip hop with a variety of other styles including funk, reggae, jazz, folk, and rock. He is also an outspoken supporter for a wide spectrum of peace and social justice issues.

This theme was also demonstrated during the national prayer service sermon given by Rev. Sharon Watkins. Her sermon focused on the internal battle each person faces - and tells the story of two wolves to teach a powerful lesson:

People can be so poor that the only way they see God is in a piece of bread
- Ghandi

We are our neighbors' keeper.

Amazing Grace - In Honor of Our Ancestors

Inaugural activities concluded with the national prayer service on Wednesday. Wintley Phipps sang Amazing Grace. I have posted the video from the national prayer service as well as a video where he discusses the African roots of honor of our ancestors.

Amazing Grace Nat'l Prayer Service

one comment posted: Phipps hums the beginning as a tribute to what he believes inspired John Newton to write the song. Newton was the captain of a slave ship back in 18th century, and Phipps' humming is reflective of the melodic moans Newton would have heard coming from the slaves beneath the ship deck. As such, Amazing Grace is the most popular white spiritual, written in the "slave scale" - the Pentatonic Scale. Truly Amazing

Amazing Grace History/"Amazing Grace" By Wintley Phipps

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Lift Every Voice and Sing"

As I watched Obama become the first Black president of the United States today, my mind was mostly on our ancestors. I wore an Obama shirt today for the first time, but nobody saw it...Instead, I wore another shirt over it (one the UCI Afrikan Student Union gave me a couple years ago) that has pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela on the back, because it is truly on their shoulders we all stand. It also has a quotation from Dr. King that summarizes the message of the day:

"Make a career of humanity...and you will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in" - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Although I've never been very sentimental, the inauguration today was a moment in time that means more to me than I can probably ever fully express. Aretha..seeing Muhammad Ali and the Tuskegee Airman, and..all...the...people...united in spirit.

Here are a few links I want to share:

Obama Sworn in as 44th President

Picture Slideshow =

An Inauguration for the Ages

The Nation.


I also fully appreciated the understanding that Obama demonstrated in his speech. I know many may not have heard what they wanted to hear, but I think if we listened, we heard what we needed to hear.

But my favorite part of the day by far was the benediction given by Reverend Lowery. I am extremely grateful to him for including words from the Black National Anthem in his prayer today. And, you gotta love how he ended it :-) Real Hip Hop...Keepin' it all times!

Dr. Joseph Lowery delivers Inauguration Benediction for Barack Obama


The struggle continues....and it should.

Historic. Today is for...

REPOST from November 4th, 2008...

...those that paved the way (all previous generations), the many educators that have dedicated their lives to speaking truth to power and teaching generations that truth, and those that the struggle IS all about and for (the next generation)...

So thank you:

Fannie Lou Hamer...and all that lived and died fighting the struggles of slavery and jim crow for our humanity.

This historic day is dedicated to our ancestors...their struggles and their victories. A friend of mine wrote a very personal reflection that placed this day in this proper context..this day is not really about is about them. This is their day, and we owe them EVERYTHING.

African Americans understood this and exercised our right to vote in record numbers to honor our foremothers and forefathers that could never have imagined this day....but made it possible.

As a student turned teacher of African American studies, today and emotional day.

and thank you:

Teachers and Professors. The education you provide molded the new electorate and made this historic result possible - the "under 50" and educated voting blocs helped make this possible. Job well done, fellow educators.

and finally, thank you:

Generation Next. Your grassroots work paid off...You stepped up and proved you are now ready to lead...your time is now...The future is yours to make. It was never about was always about you.

I wish I had time to really reflect on this historic moment but I'm still glued to my TV and absorbing the magnitude of this moment...hopefully I'll be able to write a decent reflection by weekend.

...but for now, I am just relieved and enjoying the moment.

Rise up Hip Hop Nation! The torch is now yours. Let’s get free.

Monday, January 19, 2009

'Where Do We Go From Here' - Martin Luther King Jr.

In remembrance....

'Where Do We Go From Here'

Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Atlanta, Georgia
16 August 1967

- "Your whole structure must be changed." A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them - make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"

- Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on.

- Make a career if humanity...and you will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Worst President what?

One more week...Good...Riddance...Bush.

I've said a number of times that I do not know why anyone would want to be president at this time but for all our sakes, I wish Obama well and hope he is able to be effective. But as I've argued, change will come from us, not a president or new administration. So with one week to inauguration day, I have a couple questions to ask (I ask my students these questions at the end of every semester):

1. What local, national, and global issues would you like to see change?
(examples: education, health care, gang violence, police brutality, global warming, AIDS, Iraq War, freedom for Palestine, End "isms" like racism, sexism, etc.)

2. What DO you do to address your chosen social issues?

3. What CAN you do to address your chosen social issues?

Post replies in comments and let's start to build solutions to the problems Bush has made a million...times...worse. There's no time to waste.

Justice for Oscar Grant

Here are a number of links to important videos and articles about the murder of Oscar Grant (BART police officer shot Grant in back killing him why he lay down with his hands behind back). Please be informed and support all efforts for Justice for Oscar Grant (as well as justice for all other young brothers and sisters victims of violence in their communities by police and others). There's a related link in post below where Bobby Seale discusses police brutality and the communities need to organize to "police" the police.

You can sign's petition to CA Attorney General Jerry Brown and the US Department of Justice here:

Justice for Oscar Grant? It's up to Jerry Brown

James Rucker

Posted January 13, 2009 | 02:33 PM (ES

Davey D's Ultimate List of Links for Oscar Grant Police Shooting Coverage



Thursday, January 1, 2009

“Where the Ball is, the Game is”

This is an essay I planned to write a long time ago but the timing actually works well now as we say goodbye to one historic year and look forward to another. Two years ago I wrote an essay about actions individuals can do to foster sustainable change ( This time after a year where “change” was the buzzword, I want to add a philosophical note on how we sustain it.

When trying to think of how best to summarize my ideas, something my son’s basketball coach says came to mind. During practice and games, he would often (in a call-and-response chant) start this little ditty: “Where the ball is” and the kids respond in unison “the game is”. They’d repeat this a few times to get focused and then play ball. That team went undefeated. Maybe there was something to that little ditty.

The premise of the essay was going to be about the debates raging on whether Obama would or would not bring “real” change or would just be “more of the same”, politics as usual. While the question is interesting, it is not the most relevant question…kind of like the sports questions about Dream Team v. Redeem Team and such. It is fun to debate but that’s about it. Even if there is an empirical answer to the question, does it really matter?

In the same vein, the “Obama” question doesn’t really matter because it is the wrong question to focus on if our goal is social justice and a more equitable world. I sometimes think we don’t know where the ball is in the game of life and sustainable change. Who has the ball? World leaders? Multi-national corporations? No, we do. Without our support, there would be no leaders. Without our business, there would be no corporations. Without engaged and active people, we will not have strong and sustainable communities. No masses, no movement.

The question is not what Obama will do, but what will we do? This is the only relevant question worth discussing. I am not arguing that leaders do not matter on some level. We know they do. But they matter only as much as we the people allow them to matter. So if Obama is not really “about change” and he disappoints progressives that would be our failure, not his. Instead of highlighting and debating bad policies and ideology, our time would be much better spent organizing our communities to 1) sustain themselves despite policies and oppressive conditions that negatively affect our material realities and 2) challenge policies we can change through protest and petition.

We must embrace the only power that can challenge the inequities of our world once and for all: people power. The Panthers understood this. While progressive ideology informed their politics, their mission was to serve and politicize their communities, not preach Marx and Mao theoretical teachings to them. Bobby Seale discussed how the Panthers wanted to capture the imagination of the people. Kathleen Cleaver also emphasized that the Panthers were not interested in focusing on what the government was not doing (and addressing valid grievances), but instead the Panthers wanted to empower the people so we can better our own communities. The ten-point platform as described by Bobby Seale in this clip embodies the Panther approach:

Sure it matters if there is a progressive minded president in the White House, but if communities (people) are not ready to sustain progressive change it will NEVER last. This is why I believe self determination (with material determinism as the focus) is the most relevant framework to build sustainable communities.

As I was just reminded when I read an article on today about the Isreal/Palestine conflict: Leaders Lie, Civilians Die, and Lessons of History are Ignored, the top down approach will never work...NEVER. People want change. People have to make change....for themselves...and sustain it for themselves.

And given the material difficulties we all now face, there is no better time to start from the bottom and finally build up a strong and sustainable people-based solution to what ails our world. People always want change, but it is when people need change that we become most invested in making things happen and can make the most difference. People need change now.

Where the ball is (people), the game is (change). The people may not always be on the right side of an intellectual or ideological debate…but they are always on the right side of solutions…for the “people”.

So where are the people right now? They are hurting but hopeful. They are supporting Obama, and according to polls, supporting him overwhelmingly (~80% approval rating). So questioning Obama is basically questioning the many that support him. Instead of debating what Obama will or will not do for us, we need to use the opprtunity to organize those that are now engaged and ready for change. As Alice Walker reminded us in her letter to Obama: We are the ones we have been waiting for.

I don’t mind intellectual debates that challenge us to think critically and question hegemony. That is one reason I am a sociologist. But I am a community advocate first and foremost. I want our communities to be peaceful and prosperous. And in my mind there is no debate on how best to make that happen: we make it happen.

So as I watched the ball fall on 2008, I smiled and thought: I’m glad we have a president that understands basketball. But even if he didn’t, it doesn’t matter because my community does, and they are who we need to get in the game, not the mascot (symbol). There is some evidence that people are getting into the game and becoming more engaged and active (internet activism, youth and the election, union warehouse sit-in strike and success, protests across the globe over Israeli offensive, etc.).

Despite the empirical evidence that things will get worse in 2009, I start this New Year hopeful that people will take care of themselves as we always do when times get roughest…and in these times of strife, in doing so, we may actually turn self-preservation into self-determination. Where the ball is, the game is…it’s time to keep our eye on the ball. In 2009…it’s game time.

Related Articles of Interest:

10 Reasons To Be Hopeful About 2009 -- and 3 Reasons To Be Terrified

By Sarah van Gelder, YES! Magazine. Posted January 2, 2009.

The Great Harlem Debate
Was the Obama Election Good for Black People?

by Davey D

Listen to this Debate on Breakdown FM by clicking the link below