Sunday, July 21, 2013

What Can Work….And What Never Will, Pt 2: No More Waiting, Freedom This Time!

What Can Work….And What Never Will, Pt 2: No More Waiting, Freedom This Time!

If we do not dare everything, 
The fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: 
God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time! – James Baldwin

Since the Zimmerman verdict, there have been a number of great articles and social media posts that provide very insightful analysis of the trial specifically, and related issues of justice, racism and white supremacy more generally (see endnotes for partial list).  I have penned a number of essays on these topics over the years as well (see my blog Rise up Hip Hop Nation), including an essay I wrote in 2011 under same title.

What Can Work….And What Never Will

But for this update, my focus is not analytical but practical. While ideas and theory inform my writing always, this essay focuses on a specific list of actions to organize this moment into a sustainable movement.

The Model = A 21st Century SNCC*

*term coined by TVOne journalist Roland Martin


1. ORGANIZE around ISSUES, not leaders, personalities, political parties, or ideology

A. Keeping focus on issues over all else makes it possible to collaborate and  build with others despite other differences that often keep us from uniting.  As Dr. King best stated, we must keep our work in “a positive action framework rather than engaging in consistent negative debate.”
B. Some issues that we can all agree on and organize around include:
1) Valuing all humanity and all human rights
2) Improving education and educational outcomes
3) Equal treatment and justice for all
4) Community security, and all the ways this manifest in our communities (sustenance, peace, health and wellness, love).
5) Environmental protection
  6) Voting Rights
7) Others? Add to list in comments.

2. Nurture COALITIONS of the Willing

A. Create lists of organizations (local and national) to collaborate with on chosen issues
B. Some organizations to consider include:
1) Hip Hop Congress
2) Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
3) FTP movement
4 ) Color of Change
6) National Action Network
7) League of Young Voters
8) Dream Defenders
9) and thousands of local CBOs (community based organizations)
10) Others? Add to list in comments.

Strong people don’t need strong leaders. - Ella Baker

3. Establish TRAINING Regiments

A. Grassroots organizations must study SNCC and other freedom organizations to learn how to train its members to effectively 1) promote the issues we want to promote and 2) challenge/overtake the systems we must challenge/overtake.
B. For training, keep focus local.
C. Utilize community centers, schools, community colleges and universities, and churches for meeting , planning, organizing and training sessions.
D. Keep a consistent schedule. Meet regularly so community members can know to always expect  your presence, and learn to count on it.

“Service over Leadership” - Carter G. Woodson

4.  Community SERVICE

A. Always remember: We are all we need. We have all the resources (human capital and natural resources) to sustain our own communities. Work from this perspective at all times.
B. Collaborate with local CBOs to support and promote their services to wider community (database all available CBOs and services offered by city/county/state).
C. Study the UNIA for its cooperative economic model that promotes community self reliance. Utilize  crowd funding strategies and ready available community resources to meet community needs.
D. Some programs/services needed include:
1) Educational programs,
2) Anti-violence programs,
3) Community policing programs,
4) Resource sharing  (food, clothes etc)
5) Health/Wellness programs
6) Others? Add to list in comments.

 "I have a right, even a duty to resist, with violence or civil should pray I choose the latter." - from the film Great Debaters:

5. Mass Mobilization Actions - Think Globally, Act Locally

A. Identify specific outcomes and next steps (to sustain movement)
B. Coordinate events with coalition of the willing to maximize impact
C. Promote extensively and share information via all media and social network sites
D. Keep pressure on local media outlets and elected officials

6. Media Strategy

A. Study Social Network Analysis and Media Discourse Theory
B. Draft and Promote NARRATIVES that focus on chosen issues (proactive strategy)
C. Utilize our own media resources first and foremost to disseminate information
D. Share data and information with networks
E.  Watch dog panel: Monitor all media outlets to immediately counter any narratives that undermine our adopted narratives (reactive strategy).
F. Some social network sites and media to utilize include:
1) Facebook
2) Twitter
3) Instagram
6) Daveyd,com
8)  HipHopDX
9) Alternet
10)  Huffington Post
11) TVOne
12) Essence
13) Ebony
14) Local community radio stations
15) local news stations
16) Others? Add to list in comments.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind, that is, in terms of calming and eventually dispelling anger. This is action out of compassion. The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefitting others, one needs to be engaged, involved. - Dalai Lama

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions...."


1. Answer one question: What are YOU doing to effect change?
A. Have a specific, developed answer to be a part of the solution. If you have no answer or just a vague, undeveloped one,  you need to get a specific answer or you will be a part of the problem.

2. Educate yourself on issues*
3. Join at least one organization. You can join a local organization for community actions and the mailing list of a number of nationally based organizations for petitions and information.
4. Sign relevant petitions and share them with your networks.
5. Be a conscious consumer.
6. Vote, especially in local elections.
7. Share information with your networks purposely.
8. Never Scapegoat other communities.
9. Never fall for the politics of distraction and divide and conquer.
10. Check your idealism at the door. Change takes action not hope. #HOPEisNOTaSTRATEGY
11. Be against nothing; just be clear what you are for (Iyanla Vanzant). Keep your framing positive and your eyes on the prize.
12. SEIZE, never cede your power.
13. MENTOR anyone in your network that needs direction, guidance, help, and love.
14. SERVE your community in some concrete way.
15. Be Media LITERATE. Study media literacy, understand media framing, and get information from a variety of sources.
16. Others? Add to list in comments.

But it is not permissible that the authors
of devastation should also be innocent.
It is the innocence which constitutes the crime. – James Baldwin

* Education is an ongoing process throughout our lives. As an educator of almost 20 years, I still gain new knowledge everyday. For the many growing up in the United States that only learned a western civilization version of history in school, education must begin with a correction of the record. I recommend taking some non-western civilization history classes and/or ethnic studies classes if possible (African & African-American Studies, Asian & Asian-American Studies, Chicano and Latin American Studies, Native American Studies, Middle East Studies, etc). If you are unable to take a class, contact a professor of said classes for a suggested reading list.  As a starting point, I recommend reading historian Ronald Takaki’s A Larger Memory: A History of our Diversity with Voices and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.

We can’t use ignorance or innocence as an excuse to not act or to just accept the status quo. We either accept our responsibility to educate ourselves and then act accordingly, or we accept responsibility for the world we sow and the results that we reap.

Some of the last public words of the most influential cultural icon the world has ever known make my final point best: "The time has come. This is it. People are always saying.. 'Oh they, they'll take care of it.' 'The government will do it. They'll' ...They who? It starts with us.'s US. Or else it'll never be done (Michael Jackson).”


We can change our world. We have the resources to do it. We know what we need to do. We obviously have had the endurance to survive oppression. The only question left is do we have the endurance to end it?

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. - Frederick Douglass

Energize, Organize, Revolutionize! - Hip Hop Congress


Fruitvale Station, Trayvon Martin and the Value of Human Life in America by Shamako Noble

The U.S. v. Trayvon Martin: How the System Worked by Robin D. G. Kelley

White America, the George Zimmerman trial, and the power of denial by Tim Wise

The Cancer of Racism Thrives in America by Chris Williams

Dear White Folks: Black People are Sensitive to Race by Joyce Clark


Trayvon Martin’s Unpunished Shooting Death Among 100+ Extrajudicial Killings of Unarmed Blacks

Questlove: Trayvon Martin and I Ain’t Shit by Questlove

100 Black Youth Leaders Statement

Facebook user’s ‘Letter to Zimmerman’ goes viral by Alex Fraser

The Fire This Time: James Baldwin on George Zimmerman by Joshua Adams

The Great Debaters

Death…and Life Matters

Death…and Life Matters

I'm not surprised that there is a deep divide in perspective on issues of racism...and that this divide has played out on social media sites, particularly in debates about Trayvon Martin’s murder v. what many wrongly term “black on black” crime. I’ve seen many try to articulate that all life matters and that black communities do protest  street violence also, and that this case specifically symbolizes the value of black life in a white supremacist society, but no explanation to date has seemed to quell the debate.  In order to move from debate to understanding, we need to try to reconcile personal experiences we all share in life (and death) with our social reality.


We all have experienced some type of tragedy, and some time in our lives, we all will have had to deal with the death of a loved one. This is the reality that affects us all, and the humanity that defines us all. No one reading this is exempt.

It took me 10 years after my mother’s death before I was able to communicate in writing how her death affected me, and how it taught me how to live.


I’ve actually had many personal experiences with death. When I was a preteen, I lost my first close family members: my grandfather in Jamaica that I spent some summers with, and my uncle, who died of cancer while still very young in his thirties. My uncle actually lived with us for many of his last days so I saw what sickness and death looked like at a young age. And there would be others like Uncle Eric, Uncle Fitzie and Big Momma. So I learned at a pretty young age that death was a part of life. But it would be what I learned later that is important and what I want to write about now…how death taught me about life…

The most difficult time in my life was a two year period that started a year before I started graduate school (pursuing my Ph.D. in Sociology). In the summer of 1997, we lost my grandmother to cancer. She was the matriarch of our family and it wasn’t clear then how many in the family would be able to go on without her. She was even raising an uncle’s two young children so their future was really insecure. We had her memorial service in Jamaica. As soon as we returned, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. This seemed impossible in timing and irony. How were we supposed to handle this blow? We were still reeling from the loss of Grandma. But life went on and six months later, my other grandfather died. Now as I said, my family wasn’t new to death but this seemed like “too much” for one family at one time. We memorialized my grandfather in January of 1998 and had to move my mother and 17 year old brother out from Virginia to be with the bulk of the family in California later that summer because she was not going to survive her battle with cancer too much longer. My mother died in October 1998 with many of us by her bedside. She was only 54 and it had only been a little over a year since we had buried her mother and less than a year since we had buried her father. And for me, she was the one person before I got married and had kids that I knew I wouldn’t be able to live without…but I do…and almost ten years later…it’s never easy, but it is.

But our family tragedy doesn’t end there. Three months after we memorialized my mother, I got a call from a close family friend. It was a weekday morning in January 1999, and her voice was one I had become familiar with – tragedy had yet again struck. While walking to school, my two cousins (the ones my grandmother helped raise) had been hit by a car. Adam suffered leg injuries but Zondie was fatally wounded. My husband and I rushed from Irvine to San Diego to see her and hope and pray that when we got there, we would find Zondie okay. It seemed unreal and too cruel for anything else. Because we had already lost so much…and she was only twelve…and it was her birthday.

FULL TEXT = Death…and Life


My first essay was a uniquely personal one. But I continued exploring the issue and in Part II, focused on what we as a society can learn from death.


As a social activist and analyst, death has taught me other lessons that I truly believe are the answers to many of the ills that plague our societies. Death has shown me what we all have in common: reality and humanity. Too often we let ideology inform our understanding of the world instead of looking beyond ideology to see the reality that affects us all and the humanity that defines us all.

The real problem is lived experiences are too different to effectively address social problems intellectually or ideologically. People must understand on a personal level. It must be made personal. 

FULL TEXT = Part Two: Death...and Life

More than probably anything else, death is a personal experience. No one comes into the world alone, but most of us will leave here that way. I have had a number of students who have lost sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, aunts and other family members from violence, and they grieve their loved ones every single day.  For people that believe they don’t care, they just don’t know. I ask my students every semester what they want to see change in society (locally, nationally and globally). The majority of my students from a predominantly low income, black/brown community lists gang violence as their local issue. Most have to navigate it daily just to get to school to try to improve their life opportunities. For them, it is very real. For my former students at more affluent universities in Irvine and Long Beach, or even at a community college in mostly white Orange County, the issue was barely ever raised. Experience is everything.

As a Black woman, I empathize with my students, although never completely relate since my experience living in a safer neighborhood shields me from many of these experiences. In the same vein, the sorrow I feel for their loss can’t compare to the grief I felt when my mother died.  I will feel sorry for anyone that loses a family member, but I felt a black hole of grief, like a part of myself  had died, when I lost my mom. This is natural, I’m sure.


There are peace rallies and protests and community organizations that deal with street violence every day for those that do lose loved ones to this type of violence, but if you are not of the community affected by it, you probably wouldn’t know.  To learn about such efforts, please read:

No one should  assume that because s/he does not have any personal knowledge of it, or has never seen it covered on TV, it does not exist. If anything, it is more evidence to the assertion that the broader society does not give same value to these lives, because when the community is grieving and organizing to spread peace, no news cameras seem to ever be around. The same bias can also be seen in the way media covers missing women/children cases.

Missing white woman syndrome


Death is a personal experience.  If this is true and I truly believe it is, why do many grieve for people they have never met? Is it because as a society we value the life of celebrities more? That may be part of it but it is not all of it. We actually do have very personal experiences with many artists. Their art (music, acting etc) has in some way touched our lives personally. Maybe we grew up listening to their music…maybe their music helped us get through some dark days. We related personally to them in some way. Maybe seeing them in our living room weekly or daily gave us an opportunity to develop some kind of connection to their characters. However the connection develops, it is real…and it is personal.

Did you ever grieve for someone you never met in person? Maybe….
Michael Jackson?
Bob Marley?
Whitney Houston?
Malcolm X?
Martin Luther King Jr.?
Princess Diana?
Pope John Paul II?
John F. Kennedy?
Elvis Presley? (personal note: I’m with Public Enemy on this
Most probably have…that is the reality that affects us all, and the humanity that defines us all.

Personally, I still miss Luther Vandross dearly.


For many in Black America, Trayvon’s death represents the reality of living Black in a society where white supremacy has been the organizing principle since the dawn of  slavery. He is Emmitt Till 2013. Many can relate to Trayvon and his parents. I have a 17 year old, and because of  his gender and the color of his skin, stereotypes will be placed on him…and he will have to live with them every day…and in Trayvon’s case, die because of them…any black parent’s greatest fear. It does not get any more personal than that. And all will not relate, because that has not been everyone’s experience in this society…but all whom respect the EXPERIENCES OF ALL and the HUMANITY IN ALL…will understand.


All death matters, but what matters most is ALL LIFE. And nothing reveals the value of life more than death; and if that death  is tragic, untimely, unnecessary, and unjust, the revelation becomes more urgent. In this revelation, we are reminded of the principles penned in the Declaration of Independence and adopted in the Black Panther Party for Self Defense’s platform:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” 

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to supper, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Life is our most fundamental right. Our lives must be respected, protected, honored, and defended…at all times, and by any life-affirming means necessary.  Ashe.

Get Up Stand Up
Stand up for your rights
Don’t give up the fight!

If you knew what life is worth,
You would look for yours on Earth
Now you see the light
Stand up for your rights

Life is your right…
So we can't give up the fight.
- Bob Marley