What if all the hoopla surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump was just that to begin with, and all the time that we spent focusing on Trump’s dealings with the Russians could’ve been better spent taking advantage of his lack of political experience?
My friend, I say that we, in the words of Baba Malcolm X, have been hoodwinked and bamboozled once again by the Liberal establishment that wants nothing more than for us to help them reconcile their racism and that of their more extreme and overt right-wing cousins.
It’s no surprise when you consider the amount of time and energy dedicated to centering President Trump, his inconsequential policy decisions, and dealings with Vladimir Putin and friends. The events surrounding recent Senate hearing proceeding involving ousted FBI director James Comey looked more like the NBA Finals than an opportunity to right the wrongs supposedly committed by Trump and his partners during the 2016 Presidential Election. All the while, people living in this country still suffer from an eroding infrastructure, violence at the hands of police, and a poor quality of education, none of which the mainstream media has focused on extensively in the more than 100 days Trump has been in the White House.
In this AllEyesOnDC video, Adrian Robinson, a Black man well versed in all things politics, economics, and the environment, reflects on the blunder that’s President Trump’s first few months in office, reminding us that impeachment isn’t the best solution. Because Trump isn’t smart enough to fill up the federal agencies with people who can carry out his executive orders, Robinson says time is of the essence in organizing against the Trump Administration on domestic issues. Yes, this clip is re-education of all things related to the American government – especially checks and balances.
Regardless of who’s (s)elected to assume the American presidency on Nov. 8th, Black people in the United States are still a people without much to call their own. That’s why as a group, our status in this country will never be ours to determine, no matter the number of votes we give a particular candidate.
Throughout much of the Election season, I, along with others, have been vilified by Black liberals and conservatives alike for not falling in line with the rest of the sheepish electorate in choosing Secy. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Those who rallied behind the powerful lawmaker and veteran stateswoman in recent months say they see her as the only thing standing between world stability and the confusion of a Donald Trump presidency.
Trump, business magnate turned reality television star turned demagogue, has caused a ruckus since hijacking the Republican nomination process and rising to the top of the national ticket via his deep pockets and vitriolic hate speech that commanded the attention of the American media. So much so that much of the Democratic establishment and its wealthy compatriots want those of us to rally behind Clinton, who to this day hasn’t atoned for her part in the U.S.-inflicted humanitarian crises worldwide nor offered any concrete policy solutions to the issues affecting Black people i.e. police brutality, food inequality, lack of economic opportunity, and the like.
Even worse, the Black people who criticize our motives in looking beyond the Democratic/Republican dichotomy assume that we don’t have any long haul game; as if many of us didn’t come to this conclusion after living through a Bush 43 and Obama presidency chocked full of disappointments.
This post, while not necessarily for the naysayers, lays out a course of action that I believe must be taken at the grassroots level if Black people are to eventually build the political, economic, and social autonomy that will prevent us from getting repeatedly used by the Democratic Party like a side piece in the middle of the night.
Economic Withdrawal – In the aftermath of the Alton Sterling murder this summer, legions of Black people opened accounts in Black-owned banks, sparking a movement, even if the hype didn’t last long. With the Holiday Season coming up, we as a Nation have more than enough opportunity to withdraw our dollars from the very corporations and entities that support our demise.It’s time that we carry out a long-term boycott of these businesses and give those dollars to Black-owned vendors and business owners, more than likely a group of people whose success will equally benefit us. While it’s uncertain that you’ll find Black-owned businesses that fulfill your every need, now’s the time to check your local and statewide inventory of Black-owned goods so you, if not someone else in your community, can fill in those gaps immediately.
Purchase of Land & Acquisition of Resources – As many of my brothers and sisters in the D.C. metro area very well know, land is king around these parts. Gentrification has pushed many of our brothers and sisters out into the quiet suburbs of the region while the well-to-do and their partners take over what we once owned. As property values rise, those of us who still live in the city struggle to keep a roof over our heads.That’s why land ownership stands as one of the most important, if not the most important, of these tasks. There’s not much we can do in our community if we don’t even live there. A house can become a home, community center, business, and much more if the owners have an imagination and a few dollars. It’s time for us to be ingenious and adopt a mode of thinking that will allow us to produce more than we consume.
For more than a decade, predators have encroached on our land, taking advantage of our lack of knowledge by giving us pennies for property that costs hundreds of thousands. That must stop today. As must be done with everything else, take an inventory of the property you and your family own in the District, if any. If possible, take on the communal principles that made our ancient African civilizations family friendly and shack up with relatives so you can pay off that property quicker. If you’re searching for property to purchase, don’t shy away from what many may consider some of the city’s less-than-desirable areas. Trust and believe that there are corporate, parasitic elements out here on the same hunt.
For those thinking about purchasing a home for the first time, the D.C. Home Purchase Assistance Program is a great start, even if you don’t find all the answers there. Let’s do all that we can to keep our home.
Formation of Our Own Political Party – Both political parties, especially the Democratic Party, have become beholden to corporate interests, so much so that the party leaders stomp out any inkling of radical change, all to the detriment of the oh-so-loyal Black electorate.
Long before the 2016 Election, Democrats haven’t done much work in our best interests. Many of the Chocolate Cities, most of which are ran by Democrats, have succumbed to gentrification. A Justice Department led by a Democratic president failed to bring killer cops to justice. We also can’t forget what happened to youngsters in Baltimore and other major cities in the aftermath of police-orchestrated killings of civilians, all under the watchful eye of Democratic politicians worried about reelection prospects. This has been the case for Democrats since the passage of Voting Rights legislation. Although our political leaders have a title, they’re still told when to sit and when to move by a power greater than themselves.
A Black-centered political party, while not likely to bring in a presidential nominee to the White House, could be so effective locally. After all, local politics is what we should be interested in controlling, for it’s the machine that directly controls many aspects of our life. This political operation could go well beyond what the Democratic Party has tried to do by uniting Black people around issues that specifically affect us and holding politicians accountable to fixing those problems. Remember, Black people have a different experience in this country that the Democrats and Republicans, mostly because of their slaveholding history, cannot address honestly and holistically. Think about it like this: why is the bill for reparations, introduced by a Black Democrat, still in the introductory stages after more than 25 years?
With our autonomous political power, funded largely by our voters and business magnates, we can make deals and hold our own independently as other constituencies have done in this country. While staying until the fall of Babylon may not be in the cards for some of us, it’s best that we can control much of our destiny while on this stolen land.
Exploring Community Policing – By now, we know that the police will kill one of ours in front of a large crowd, with a body cam, and anything else that we’ve convinced ourselves we need to see justice in such an unjust system. At this point, all that remains for us to do is to institutionalize some community control of the police.
If you study the history of the police in the United States, you’ll understand that they were never here to protect and serve Black people. Indeed, this force was created to protect property. The War on Drugs, disguised as a war on Black people, renewed that call, allowing the state to further break apart our families and destabilize our communities. Many of our young people, a byproduct of these events, run out into the streets like they don’t have any sense. Many of us, scared for our lives, acquiesce our control of our young ones to the police, who in turn take them out like yesterday’s trash.
As hard as it may be to look in the mirror, we have to admit that we as a global community dropped the ball in controlling our neighborhoods and expecting more of one another. Community policing allows us to do this. At the height of its existence, the Nation of Islam had set up some patrols in Black neighborhoods across the country. Other groups, including D.C’s own Pan-African Community Action, said community policing could help neighbors feel more at home, regardless of the conditions.
However it looks, it’s time that all members of the community work together in making our environment safe for everyone. In no way does this excuse the actions of a few killer cops. Instead, it’s a call for us to become the change that we want to see just as the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and other Pan-Africanist leaders have called on us to do.
Forging Connections across the Diaspora – As Africans in the so-called New World, we have perhaps the greatest advantages of the entire Diaspora. Many of us however fail to use the technology here to forge global relationship, mainly because we have fallen victim to American propaganda that designates us as separate from the Motherland.
As we build an infrastructure in the states, it’s equally important that we help our brethren and sistren across the world in any way possible. For Hurricane Matthew’s victims in Haiti, that means shipping supplies. For those affected by civil war in Ethiopia, that might mean giving a few dollars.
Personally, I know of a few groups going above and beyond to create a movement that will allow African Americans and continental Africans to trade resources and learn from one another. From what I’ve seen, such relationships have worked because both sides are eager to learn from one another. Additionally, both sides understand that their enemy is the enemy of Africa and Africans abroad, regardless of skin color.
Building outside of a political infrastructure works even more to our advantage in the case, particularly because that world is corrupted on a global scale. In meeting the end goal of self-determination, we must focus on building economic power. From there everything else will come.
This list, while not exhaustive, is a start to what I believe will put us in a truly better position as a unit. As Africans, we have to understand that we won’t be individually free until we are free as a people. That kind of change starts at the bottom, at the local level. Believe it or not, the work has gone on for centuries, all at the hands of those who have since transcended to the Ancestral Realm.
However, the powers that be will try to make us believe that we need them to get to the Promised Land. Don’t believe them! Believe in your own power and in the struggle of those who endured Maafa. Until next time family.
PHOTO: The intersection of Broad and Erie streets in North Philadelphia/ Sam P.K.Collins
“The elections are a distraction. I’m personally not into it because I don’t know these people. I invest my time and energy into people who love and know me,” Hakeem Hawkins, owner of Black and Nobel Bookstore in North Philadelphia told AllEyesOnDC in response to an inquiry about the Democratic National Convention (DNC) taking place a couple miles south from where he spent most of the day selling cold bottles of water to passersby.
“I don’t want to invest my time if these politicians won’t come into my community,” he added, alluding to the conspicuous divide between convention goers ripping and running throughout downtown Philly and the natives who experience the hardships of daily life at the intersection of Broad and Erie streets and other enclaves in this historic American city.
Through Black and Nobel, Hawkins has fed his fellow Philadelphians knowledge and provided a platform for Hip-Hop artists and conscious scholars, including Dr. Umar Johnson, for the last 15 years, a feat that has made him a neighborhood star of sorts. During a visit to the bookstore, located an earshot away from Temple University, one could watch Phil Valentine lectures on a big screen television, order a shipment of books for incarcerated loved ones, and glean a cornucopia of books, pamphlets, and DVDs. This historic meeting place has also served as a de-facto drug detox center and meeting place for those wanting to turn around their tumultuous lives.
For Hawkins, directly tending to the community in this manner proves sufficient enough in making a change.
So much so, he said he had no plans to participate in convention activities beyond moving his water operation near the Pennsylvania Convention and Wells Fargo centers and catching a DJ Khaled performance. Anything else would be feeding into political theatrics he says does nothing but boost the egos of its actors.
“I don’t spend time following a person. I’m an entrepreneur,” Hawkins, sporting a white cap peppered with green marijuana leaf imprints and a neon yellow tank top, said while sitting under a tent strategically placed next to the entranceway to SEPTA, Philadelphia’s metro rail system. “Once you do that, it’s fuck the system and I’m pretty sure the politicians who are entrepreneurs do their business stuff first. They’re all full of shit. With the little they do, they want to be rewarded,” he added.
Hawkins’ viewpoint, though divergent and somewhat controversial to those who belong to the Democratic Party, are based in fact, particularly when it comes to police-community relationships.
Under the leadership of the Democratic Party, Black people in Philadelphia haven’t fared well. After all, this is the city where the MOVE bombing, the 1985 incident that killed nearly a dozen Black people and set ablaze blocks of a middle-class community, happened at the urging of then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode, a Democrat, and the city’s police chief. More recently, the Philadelphia Police Department, with the support of a powerful union, has been cited for using controversial “Stop and Frisk” tactics against Black residents.
Other signs of systemic inequality, including disparities in healthcare access, quality education, and income, count as parts of a legacy of racial tension that goes back to American Independence, characterized by Black Philadelphians’ struggle to create their communities peacefully. Majority-Black cities and communities across the country have encountered eerily similar situations, brought on by a combination of white flight, the shuttering of factory jobs, the flow of drugs, and overzealous drug laws that punish those do what they feel they have to do to overcome these conditions.
“We don’t have friends in politics. They give us nothing for our votes and support,” Brother June, an employee at Black & Nobel and journalism student at Temple, told AllEyesOnDC. June, a returning citizen who found a love for reading while incarcerated, said his experiences in the criminal justice system showed him how attorneys, judges, and politicians prey on the ignorant.
“Anytime we start to think critically, they call us conspiracy theorists. Hillary Clinton’s husband signed the unjust laws that incarcerated Black men for a long time. She used the word ‘super predators’ and supported the law to further perpetuate slavery,” June added. These days, he wants to get North Philly residents engaged in local politics, mainly through his upstart City Talk Newspaper. Plans also include the launch of his own political party, a testament to the anti-establishment views that perpetuate underserved U.S. communities.
Political Favors at the Expense of the People
After the overtly hate-filled Klan meeting that was last week’s Republican National Convention, many politically active melanated people converged on the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia earlier this week eager to boost the morale of voters weary from months of Democratic Party infighting and frightened by the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency.
So far, party elites haven’t disappointed in putting together a show, rallying around Secy. Hillary Clinton and rehashing old political talking points about freedom, America’s promising future, and this country’s position as the “best in the world.” Hearing those messages from my living room on Monday and Tuesday didn’t make me feel too good, especially after considering the people who delivered them.
Just as I had suspected, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) turned out to be a pseudo-revolutionary, throwing his support behind the woman he constantly painted as a Wall Street darling, even after WikiLeaks uncovered the DNC’s attempts to sabotage his campaign. In what many touted as an historic address, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) kept referring to the “forefathers” who drew up the U.S. Constitution, totally neglecting the fact that the white, male group of Founding Fathers more than likely had his ancestors in shackles in 1776.
First Lady Michelle Obama, with as much Black Girl Magic as she could muster, sang Secy. Clinton’s praises, but not before describing an American utopia that in no way, shape, or form matches the conditions blocks away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or much of the U.S. for that matter.
Once again, our elected officials played politics with us, delivering more style than substance and duping their followers, as well as members of the public who believe they have no other choice than Clinton, into thinking that a special group of people will save them from the Hell they said is guaranteed to ensue if Trump wins in November.
By the time I touched down in the city of brotherly love on Wednesday, daytime convention activities had been well under way and Democratic delegates, along with other party members and media folk, gathered in the halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center to discuss various issues and address the constituencies that make up the Democratic Party.
That morning, the Black Caucus kicked off on the terrace of the Convention Center, providing me an opportunity to hear commentary on Black America’s current state of affairs, particularly that from former Attorney General Eric Holder who would be delivering the keynote address that morning.
Nearly an hour before DNC Black Caucus Chair Virgie Rollins started the program, much of Black America learned that charges for the three remaining Baltimore City police officers on trial for Freddie Gray’s death had been dropped. While this didn’t come as a surprise to me, I must admit that I felt sorrowful for State Attorney Marilyn Mosby and other key players, in the government and outside of the establishment, who put in the work necessary to ensure the case would make it this far. Once again, police officers wouldn’t be held accountable for the death of a Black person.
Surely, the speakers in the Black Caucus that morning, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, would at least mention this news and devise methods of reforming a system that allows killer cops to walk the streets freely.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Instead, much of the conversation from Rawlings-Blake, and later Holder, centered on the drawbacks of sitting out this election or voting for a third-party candidate. In what I considered the most ironic moment of the morning, Rawlings-Blake told audience members to “think about the youth [who] don’t want [live in] a country ruled in fear.” Obviously, she forgot the quasi-Martial Law imposed on the young Baltimoreans who took the streets in the aftermath of Gray’s murder last year.
Holder, in my opinion, performed a little better in the delivery of his keynote address. Unlike Rawlings-Blake, he addressed police brutality and weighed in on the Black Lives Matter movement as it exists, calling on its grassroots players to continue building their revolution in non-election years.
“People didn’t want to hear us when we talked about these police departments. The things we’ve been saying can be documented,” Holder said as audience members clapped. “For too long, people showed that Black lives didn’t matter and now we say that Black lives do matter. So don’t you let those brave young activists be marginalized. The Black Lives Matter folk have to not just make this a moment, but a movement. I need to not only see you during the presidential campaign. I need you to do the hard, boring work.”
I don’t know where Holder has been but the young people have been doing the work, even those not rallying under the Black Lives Matter banner. Shortly after leaving the cold, stale Pennsylvania Convention Center, I saw just that at different rallies within a three block radius. By Wednesday, Black Lives Matter and other Black grassroots organizations had already made their mark in that vicinity so it proved difficult finding groups of brothers and sisters.
After circling the block a couple times however, I found someone who had quite a bit to say about organizing as it pertains to awakening Black people and helping us achieve results. “Power is in the people and we can stand up,”Kashif Cole, a 21-year-old Brooklynite and representative of WorldCantWait.net, told AllEyesOnDC as he sat in front of a church.
“Beyond protesting, we can network and reach out to the people. Speak and be with them,” he continued.
Under the hot afternoon sun, we did just that, exchanging information and reasoning about Black unity, anti-capitalism, and grassroots organizing. Since taking my community work to new levels, I’ve reveled in such conversations, as they are the building blocks to movements that can catch fire.
“We have to do our own research and not take what anyone says at face value. We have to get educated and get powerful,” Kashif added. “We need more Black bodies on the ground protesting, not just when someone gets shot. It’s also very necessary to support Black business and take our money out of these corporations. The ultimate goal is revolution. We have to take down the system: no if, ands, or buts.”
That mantra became even clearer that evening after I heard President Barack Obama speak highly of Clinton and later hug her for what made a great photo op. Though I wasn’t in the Wells Fargo Center to capture that moment, a sense of calm overcame me listening to him talk about his political journey and encouraging those who booed to just go out and vote. After a couple seconds, I realized that it was a mix of adolescent nostalgia and the “Obama Effect,” what I like to describe as the president’s hypnotic presence, cadence, wordplay, and story telling that puts people at ease, even as he’s trying to sell us something that won’t do much good.
As a young voter in 2008 and 2012, I fell for this presidential marketing scheme. This time around however, I couldn’t let go of the fact that Obama, even as he praised her credentials, questioned Clinton’s judgment at one point. From the outside looking in, one could assume that their work together in the years since the 2008 Democratic Primary could’ve compelled this change of heart. I have reason to believe differently, understanding that when it comes to party politics, you have to move with the collective, even when that move is in support of someone who pretty much guaranteed her placement as the 2016 party nominee when she agreed to concede to Obama just eight years earlier.
Admittedly, I don’t have concrete proof of this assertion, but when you think outside of the box, you see the system for what it truly represents. Everything after that becomes commonsensical, even if the outside world doesn’t think so. Giving a group of people who have no agency a limited number of choices in who will run this country proves to be nothing more than a tool of control. Albeit, Clinton has decades of experience, but her mastery of party politics saved her more than anything else. The e-mail leak controversy that almost derailed the DNC and the subsequent cover up speaks to that.
Change Outside of the Political Arena
The global Black struggle for self-determination is more spiritual than anything else.
As a people without a common consciousness, we’re susceptible to the influence of outside forces that want our resources in return for nothing. Malcolm X told us this in his “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, demanding that we as Black people build up our own institutions and take control of our communities. Without the common unadulterated heritage and backing of sovereign nations that other ethnic groups in this country have, doing that has proven virtually impossible for Black America.
That doesn’t mean that achieving this goal is impossible.
As I learned in my excursion throughout downtown and North Philly, there are people who understand that change initially comes from within. After that happens, they can change their communities, and ultimately the world. I stand with Brother June in saying that Black people, and maybe other oppressed melanated groups for that matter, need a political party that resonates with their values and needs. Obviously, that cannot happen overnight. Hillary Clinton supporters who point out that reality in their cajoling of those who don’t want to vote for her are terribly facetious for believing that we’re ignorant of these facts.
If one needs concrete proof that change is happening locally and outside of the political arena, they need look no further than Dominque White, a young mother of two who underwent a metamorphosis of her own less than a year ago. Even as she dwells on her bad decisions and stints on the streets, she remains persistent in changing her life and helping others, saying that forgiveness and unity are the keys to our salvation as a Black nation.
“Unity is the key but people are very prideful. I had to let my pride go but it took me seven years running in circles to understand that,” White,24, told AllEyesOnDC steps away from Black and Nobel where she and her friends gathered on Wednesday afternoon. “These young people don’t want anything other than what they’ve been shown. It’s the same bullshit like who got shot and who’s late on their rent. If more people could show others how to be successful, we could all be successful. I want to see someone helping the next man, sharing their health and resources. That’s the only way to make a change.”
If only the DNC visitors, especially those of African descent, could take some time out of their trip to visit North Philly and other marginalized parts of this city to learn this lesson.
PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in Kenya with President Uhuru Kenyetta this week.
This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first visit to the Motherland as part of an effort to strengthen ties with African leaders and discuss investment opportunities throughout the continent.
During his first stop in Uganda on Monday, he commemorated the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue mission in which his brother died. Netanyahu also explored the possibility of Israel imparting its knowledge about security and technology on the African state. Other stops on what has been called an historic excursion include Kenya and Ethiopia. In Kenya, Netanyahu confidently exclaimed that “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” perhaps alluding to the relationship his state had with a number of African nations in the aftermath of their liberation from colonial rule.
On the surface, such a trip could provide an opportunity for Africa to further develop and participate in the global economy, especially when the Israeli government’s $12.9 billion plan to strengthen economic ties with Africa is taken into consideration. In examining this event through a Pan-African lens however, it become apparent that Netanyahu’s outreach to African leaders is a desperate attempt to muster international support for Israel’s violent actions against Palestinians.
This move comes amid an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over the former’s occupation of the latter’s land and the subsequent torture of Palestinian people. In peace-keeping discussions, Netanyahu has made it clear that he doesn’t support the idea of a two-nation state, demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a state and cut down its military forces. With the United States’ financial support, Israeli military forces have trekked throughout Palestinian settlements in the West Bank. The United Nations recently condemned these actions, urging Israeli leaders to halt this assault and wait until a peace deal is in place.
These developments show signs of growing impatience among world leaders for what amounts to war crimes on Israel’s part.
In forging ties with African nations, Israel wants to ensure that their newfound allies won’t side with Arab nations in their resolutions against the Jewish state.
Netanyahu, a student of history, has valid reasons for those fears. In the late 1970s, the then- Organization of African Unity, facing pressure from Arab states, passed a resolution recommending that member states sever ties with Israel in the midst of the Yon Kippur War. Decades later under the leadership of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Israel lost its observer status in the African Union, completely removing it from the table. During his stop in Kenya, Netanyahu made public his wish to get Israel reinstated. These power moves allow him to build a coalition that will ease his nation’s ability to take over the entire West Bank.
As always is the case, African leaders dealing with other heads of state and power brokers must stay true to their predecessors’ commitment to remain socially and economically independent. In an increasingly globalized society, making that vision come to fruition has been very difficult, in part because many of the African countries rely on their so-called allies for aid and assistance. As seen with the Europeans during Colonization and with the Chinese today, that comes with a heavy price.
In short, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, and Ethiopia’s Mulatu Tashome, along with their other African presidential colleagues must look at Israel’s outreach soberly. In addition, they must adopt a Pan-African, anti-imperialistic mindset that will embolden them to stand up against Israel’s assault on Palestinians. In doing so, they make it known that Africa won’t be used as a pawn in Netanyahu’s games.
By the end of his life, Kwame Ture cemented a legacy as a master organizer and staunch Pan-Africanist. As a leader of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP), he helped internationalize the Black freedom struggle and inspired countless young people in the process.
On what would’ve been his 75th birthday, a cadre of former colleagues and mentees gathered at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on Georgia Avenue in Northwest to remember Ture and ensure that today’s grassroots activists keep his memory alive in the ongoing fight for African liberation.
“Kwame had been a catalyst and game changer in my life. It was great being involved in political work and organizing African people for a common movement and action,” said Jendayi Exum, an educator and lifelong D.C. resident who attended the Wednesday, June 29th event.
In 1976, Exum, then a student at American University in Northwest, met Ture during his visit to the campus. Within a year, she joined A-APRP and accompanied Ture on trips around the country.
“He wanted us to have a united Black front so he pushed for organizations to come together. He gave us an international perspective and helped us understand that all oppressed people must come into the struggle,” said Exum, also an organizer of African Liberation Day, an annual event A-APRP hosted in Malcolm X Park throughout the 1970s.
“Around that time, that’s when I first read ‘Destruction of Black Civilization’ and ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ and saw how much I didn’t know,” she added.
Ture, born Stokely Carmichael, made his start as an organizer in the Civil Rights movement as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where he brought the mantra “Black Power” to the national spotlight. After stepping down from the helm of SNCC in 1967, he traveled the world as the Black Panther Party’s Honorary Prime Minister, outlining his vision for Black Power before audiences in Guinea, North Vietnam, China, Cuba and other countries.
During the last 30 years of his life, a period largely overlooked by the mainstream media, Ture organized globally and spread his message of Pan-African unification and anti-imperialism. Inspired by his mentors Sekou Toure, Guinean political leader, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, whose names he took on in his new moniker, Ture helped strengthened ties between Black and African liberation groups as a central committee member of A-APRP.
As with other leaders of his caliber, Ture became an enemy of the state, unable to return to the U.S. or his native home of Trinidad. In 1998, he died in Guinea of prostate cancer, an ailment he said was brought on by the U.S. government.
“Kwame Ture was the epitome of the new thinking and it had been a departure from what had been the call. The boldness attracted me,” said Hasinatu Camara, a key organizer of the event and someone who knew Ture closely.
On that Wednesday evening, Camara passed around a microphone and allowed guests to reflect on his legacy. Later, she told personal stories, including one in which Ture got her a custom-made birthday cake during their group’s stay in Guinea.
“He had philosophy we could use. We grew as comrades in our commitment to African people,” Camara, a former educator at the shuttered Booker T. Washington Institute said. “We would organize for African Liberation Day. We would propagandize. We led anti-Zionist campaigns. I want the young people to be vigilant and uphold their principles using the principles the ancestors left us as a guide.”
Camara’s words didn’t fall on deaf ears.
Rasheed Van Putten, a local organizer and self-proclaimed student of Kwame Ture, said the birthday celebration reaffirmed the importance of educating young people about a man who was able to bridge divides and unite people under a common goal.
“It’s the job of the conscious to make the unconscious conscious,” Van Putten, producer of Real Black & Gifted Live, a weekly radio show on Howard University’s Glasshouse Radio, said. “Kwame Ture often talked about serving the people and how he didn’t like the first person singular. Very seldom did he say ‘I.’ He always said ‘we.’ When people introduce him, he said ‘we thank you.’ His perspective was very forward thinking.”
PHOTO: Markus Batchelor, lifelong Ward 8 resident, community staple, and candidate for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education./ Photo courtesy of Jamal Holtz
At the age of 23, Markus Batchelor is far from a political novice. Since taking on the mantle of leadership in his adolescence, he has risen in prominence as president of the Ward 8 Democrats, ANC Commissioner for Single Member District 8C04, and most recently Ward 8 liaison in the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs (MOCA).
As he gears up to challenge Tierra Jolly for the Ward 8 representative seat on the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE), Batchelor reflects heavily on the experiences, elders and community programs that have enriched his short but fruitful life, pledging to do his part in creating a similar environment for thousands of youth if elected in November.
“Making sure children are successful is a community effort,” Batchelor, now the family and community liaison at the Far Southeast Collaborative, told AllEyesOnDC.
“My mother read to me at night and made sure to be involved at school. But she didn’t do it on her own. I had a neighbor who gave me chapter books to read. I had a deacon who took kids to vacation bible school for four weeks and that’s how he enriched the community. There was always someone on every block who looked out for me,” added Batchelor, a lifelong resident of Congress Heights in Southeast and an alumnus of the Marion Barry Youth Leadership Institute (MBYLI).
Earlier this year, Batchelor declared his candidacy for the Ward 8 State Board of Education seat, resigning from MOCA nearly 13 months into D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s term. Since then, it has been business as usual for the young politico who’s often found out and about at community gatherings, including ANC meetings and graduations.
During the D.C. Democratic primaries, he, along with members of his small campaign team, combed the main corridors, side streets, meeting spaces, and polling stations of Ward 8 with large blue, yellow and white signs in hand. Along the way, Batchelor cleared up any confusion about him running against D.C. Council member LaRuby May (D) and Trayon White for the Ward 8 Council seat. He also listened as parents and students vented about unresponsive administrators, culturally incompetent teachers, and unengaging school curricula.
For Batchelor, all aforementioned problems speak to what he described as the sitting Ward 8 representative’s lack of visibility and engagement with constituents.
This week, Batchelor started collecting signatures needed to place his name on the November general election ballot, affirming his commitment to challenging the status quo and getting parents more involved in shaping school policy. Plans if elected include restoring confidence in Ward 8 D.C. public schools, spurring parental grassroots organizing, pushing for allocation of additional resources, and the transformation of schools to centers that provide wrap-around services for families.
“I want to push for more PTAs and parent involvement. We need to empower both students and parents to advocate for themselves,” Batchelor said. “The State Board of Education members have to play that role as advocates for students and parents and galvanize them. No one is engaging our community. Our school board members have to get back to the basics and be community organizers, showing people that they have power. The schools don’t belong to the system or government. They belong to the community,” he added.
With the highest concentration of people under the age of 18, improving the quality of education in Ward 8 could cause a ripple effect for other facets of life for thousands of residents. The effects of high unemployment, a dearth of full-service grocery stores and amenities, drug abuse, mental illness, spikes in violent crime often follow youth into school, impeding learning and making parents feel powerless. Even worse, punitive measures taken against students maintain the school-to-prison pipeline.
Overall, D.C. Public Schools have a graduation rate of 58 percent, with the rates of Anacostia and Ballou High Schools, the only two of their kind in Ward 8, falling below 50 percent. Such conditions have compelled Ward 8 parents to look outside of the D.C. public school system, a trend that keeps Anacostia and Ballou underenrolled. Additionally, charter schools and private institutions outnumber public schools in Ward 8, a tell-tale sign of a national school privatization movement that has gained traction in recent years.
While some education experts have extolled these changes, some Ward 8 parents said they’re getting locked out of important conversations about their children’s education. For instance, Latiya Loring, a mother of two, said administrators at the D.C. Prep Benning Elementary Campus, formerly D.C. public school, don’t take her concerns about the Common Core standards and draconian disciplinary rules seriously.
“There are folks [in these schools] who are teaching just to pay their student loans. They go into poverty-stricken neighborhoods not knowing what these kids go through,” Loring told AllEyesOnDC, citing examples of when teachers punished her daughters for absences related to her bodily changes. “The kids get suspended for small things that could’ve gotten handled differently. It’s hard enough getting them through the door and we can’t keep discouraging them.”
Loring, an MBYLI alumna, said while she has never spoken to Batchelor extensively, she feels confident that he could bring a fresh perspective in the SBOE and ensure that administrators understand the complexities of life in Ward 8. “I’ve had a chance to see [Markus] in action and be that voice that gives us insight on the conversations young people are having. He sees what’s going on out there and he has access to certain areas because of his age.”
Jamal Holtz, a student who considers Batchelor his mentor, said he can attest to the young community leader’s ability to connect with residents and put his life on the line for D.C. youngsters. Since meeting Batchelor in MBYLI, Holtz has followed him around the city, learning the tricks of the trade and growing in his love for public service.
“I think Markus would make a great representative. He has been in the community his entire life,” said Holtz, a Bellevue resident and recent graduate of Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter School in Northeast.
“Long before he launched this campaign, he had visibility, going to graduations and talking to parents. He goes out in front of schools after hours. I know he’ll be very connected to parents and getting them involved. My entire family knows Markus. They look at him as a son and my mother [considers him] her son,” said Holtz, who’ll attend the University of Rochester on the POSSE Scholarship.
In late April, Batchelor took his outreach a step further when he accompanied a group of D.C. students to Flint, Michigan on their mission to supply those affected by the lead crisis with fresh bottles of water and connect with community leaders. The trip, organized by Black Millennials 4 Flint, a grassroots environmental justice movement, allowed the youngsters to better understand the effects of lead poisoning – and see Batchelor’s leadership firsthand.
“We didn’t have a lot of men present and the work we did was pretty tedious, requiring a lot of brawn to get things accomplished so we were grateful to have him,” Tricey Adams, founder of Black Millennials 4 Flint, told AllEyesOnDC. “He really encouraged some of the students on trip to be an intern for his campaign. It was powerful that all of the kids on the trip were from Ward 8. He inspired one of the young ladies on the trip to apply. That’s a testament to his commitment to the community and youth.”
Batchelor, who said he’s eager to revive elements of the Ward 8 community-oriented culture he knew as a child, admits that demographic changes and adult adverseness to interacting with rowdy youth impede that goal. However, he remains confident that he can do his part in helping parents and students to take charge of their school and communities.
For him, that’s the first of many steps in turning around a community that receives a bad rap for circumstances out of the control of those affected.
“We need someone on the school board who’s focused on quality of education and quality of life,” Batchelor said. “If they aren’t willing to talk about how poverty affects community and trauma and how home environment affects youth’s academic success, we’re doing them a disservice. Once young people get a better education, it’ll be easier for them to stand up for themselves. They can believe they can change things in their society,” he added.
In this photo, a voter steps into a Northwest-based polling station. Less than one-fifth of D.C. voters registered as non-party affiliates, meaning they couldn’t participate in the June 14th Democratic primary. As history has shown, candidates who win the primaries go on to win the general election by default./ Courtesy photo
Months of campaigning, canvassing, and debating came to an end on Tuesday when District voters took to the ballot box during closed Democratic primaries. Seats up for grabs during this election included those belonging to Wards 4,7, and 8 council members as well as D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, one of four at-large representatives.
Seeing as D.C. is a major Democratic city, candidates who garnered the most votes in the primary contest will more than likely breeze through November’s general election and into their coveted position of power. That means nearly one-fifth of non-party affiliated D.C. party voters are left out of the electoral process, a reality that doesn’t sit well with a growing contingent of this constituency.
“We want to go before Congress for D.C. statehood but we disenfranchise our own citizens when we don’t have an open primary system,” Southeast resident and non-party affiliated voter Akili West told AllEyesOnDC. “How are you going to be a state when you only got one party? The Republican Party is weak and people stopped believing in the ideals of the Green Statehood Party.”
West counts among the more than 72,000 registered D.C. voters who don’t identify with the Democratic, Republican, or Statehood Green parties. Last summer, he and five colleagues formed Emancip8, a political action committee that advocates for open primaries and educates voters about what West describes as the perils of the majority party’s stranglehold on local politics.
Emancip8’s inception came, in part, out of frustration with the litany of scandals plaguing the D.C. Council in recent years, including those involving former D.C. Council members Harry Thomas, Jr. and Michael Brown, along with what residents have described as the coalescing of sitting Council members and city officials around D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) as she attempts to secure deals for developers.
For West, this kind of political maneuvering confirmed the Democratic political machine’s exploitation of residents who suffer from few quality education choices, skyrocketing utility bills, and dearth the wrap-around community resources. He went on to cite Ward 8 Council member May’s absence from a Ward 8 Democrats campaign event, saying that D.C. Democratic politicians, feeling secure in their position within the majority party infrastructure, often take their voters for granted.
“I think it would be refreshing to have this type of engagement and shake the game up a little bit, all for the sake of a healthier Ward 8,” West said. “People have become timid, complacent, and with the attitude of resignation. [To them, it’s the thing of] If you can’t beat the politicians, join them. Everyone wants to be on the side of the winner.”
However, West and members of Emancip8 want to ensure that voters understand their power. With the D.C. Democratic primaries over, plans in the works include rallying independent Council members around the idea of open primaries and hosting community events where residents could learn about the benefits of a political contest in which all voters, regardless of the party affiliation, can participate.
Making this goal come to fruition may prove to be an uphill battle.
The prevailing argument for closed primaries centers on the threat of outside forces influencing the affairs of political parties. In 2000, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 against open primaries, saying that they violated political parties’ First Amendment right of free association. In the majority opinion, then-Justice Antonin Scalia argued that allowing non-party affiliated voters to participate in party contests “could be enough to destroy the party.”
Since before Home Rule, much of D.C.’s majority African-American population joined the Democratic Party, due mainly to its support of Civil Rights legislation in prior decades. Since Walter E. Washington (D) became the District’s first mayor, winners of subsequent Democratic primaries for that office have automatically snatched victory in the general election.
With more than 75 percent of the electorate registered under the Democratic Party, this continues to be the case for many Democratic politicians. In the D.C. Council, all but two seats belong to members of the majority party, as mandated in the Home Rule Act of 1975. Those two representatives, Elissa Silverman and David Grosso identify as members of the Independent Party. In years past, Democratic politicians desperate to win office in unfavorable conditions circumvented these electoral rules, switching to the Independent Party rather than face defeat in the party primary.
In recent years, voters nationwide have increasingly shied away from the major parties for more substantive reasons, a phenomenon that has caused a ripple effect throughout several electoral contests. In April, 3 million independent voters couldn’t vote in the closed Democratic primaries to the dismay of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I- VT) who has gained support among young people disillusioned with income inequality, corporate greed, and other issues. Nearly 20 percent of Maryland voters who registered as independent faced the same dilemma that month when they couldn’t participate in closed primaries. In his Baltimore Sun op-ed, David Bittle railed against the Democratic establishment, arguing that closed primaries benefit party elites, and not common folk frustrated with their political leaders’ acquiescence to lobbyists and special interest dollars.
Kentry Kinard, public charter school educator and non-party affiliated voter, shares these sentiments, telling AllEyesOnDC that closed primaries hinder free-thinking people’s ability to hold elected officials accountable during elections.
“The election process is the biggest thing stopping a sincere political reform movement or revolution. As long as there’s dark money in politics and we have the electoral college and superdelegates, I don’t see any way that the people can get a hold on their elected officials, the people who are supposed to represent them,” Kinard, 33, said.
During his interview, the Ward 5 voter spoke candidly about city politics, saying it seems that leaders, including D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D), his representative on the D.C. Council, see their position as a stepping stone to something greater rather than as a means of helping constituents. For Kinard, the leadership style of today’s politicians differ greatly from that of the late Harry Thomas, Sr. and Marion S. Barry, Jr., both of whom he said easily related to the people.
As a non-party affiliated voter, there’s little Kindard could do to influence policy at the ballot box. However, he has found alternatives in making his voice heard, one of which include joining advocacy organizations. He said this method has been of great use, helping him voice his concerns about affordable housing, school choice, the minimum wage, and public transportation.
“The cost [of living is] getting higher and it’s not getting any easier on the residents who’ve been living here for a long time. We’ve seen rapid gentrification in all of the wards,” Kindard said. “That’s why you got to make your own decision. Electoral politics is one part of a holistic process. Get involved through organizations. You can see what’s holding us back and keeping us from having the power that we’re taught we’re supposed to have in our democratic system. We have to get the money out of politics. Right now, the dollars have more of a voice.”
Lifelong D.C. resident and non-party affiliated voter Zaccai Free said he found similar success in acting outside of electoral politics, often attending rallies and testifying at D.C. Council hearings.
Like most independent voters, Free has little faith in the two-party system, a world he said has become inundated with cronyism and pay-to-play politics that don’t benefit voters committed to the major parties. That belief, however, hasn’t stopped him from holding elected officials accountable when it comes to marijuana legalization, arts education, and criminal justice reform.
“Once the politicians get into office, it’s their job to respond to the will of the people,” Free, a Ward 7 resident, told AllEyesOnDC. “The more you push them to represent your interests, the better. People just vote and walk away, forgetting that aspect which I feel is the most important part. If you’re not in your representative’s ear, your vote is a wasted one.”
While the primary contest between D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander and former D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has sparked interest among politicos, the race has infuriated Free who said he’s frustrated with what he described as the lack of action against high illiteracy and spikes in youth violence in the area.
“It’s sad that we have to choose between an absentee incumbent and a former mayor who survived a scandal by the skin of his teeth,” said Free, who lives in Benning Heights. “There’s a lack of vision in Ward 7. We don’t have anyone who’s connected to the people. The Democrats are doing what the establishment machine often does: keep its power. It’s not about helping the people.”
As the dust settles from the grueling months of Democratic Party infighting and party members unify once again, West said he has his sights set on helping independent voters have their voices heard by the next election. In doing so, he wants to challenge the narrative of Black people giving one group all of their voting power.
“There’s an unfair assumption by African Americans that they have to be Democrats. I’ve always missed out on the primaries and for years, it didn’t matter that much. I felt that there weren’t many political choices. Now things are changing as far as people running outside of the ticket. There are some real independents in this city but you still have to vote for a Democrat, or a Democrat disguised as an Independent.”