Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Man Behind The Dream

Forty-eight years after the March on Washington became the crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is finally being remembered with a memorial on the National Mall. This is a major accomplishment for his legacy and a testament to his living spirit. I am very proud and honored to have live long enough to see the first man of color to receive such distinction and to have a president of color unveil the monument to this great man. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Dr. King now has reached his place of immortality and as marvelous as this is I wondered if anyone knows the man whose shoulders he stood. One person in particular would be the chief organizer of the March on Washington, who some have called the man behind the dream. I thought it would be fitting to give props to the man responsible for making the historic March on Washington a reality - . Bayard Rustin. He was one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement from the advent of its modern period in the 1950s until well into the 1980s.

Although his name is seldom mentioned or received comparatively little press or media attention, while others' were usually much more readily associated with the movement. Mr. Rustin’s role was a behind-the-scenes role that, for all its importance, never garnered him the public acclaim he deserved. Rustin's homosexuality and early communist affiliation probably meant that the importance of his contribution to the civil rights and peace movements would never be acknowledged.

Rustin was a gifted and successful student in the schools of West Chester, both academically and on his high school track and football teams. It was during this period of his life that Bayard began to demonstrate his gift for singing with a beautiful tenor voice. He attended Wilberforce University and Cheyney State Teachers College. In 1937 he moved to New York City, where he was to live the rest of his life.

It was at this time that Rustin began to organize for the Young Communist League of City College. The communists' progressive stance on the issue of racial injustice appealed to him. He broke with the Young Communist League and soon found himself seeking out A. Philip Randolph head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and at that time the leading articulator of the rights of Afro-Americans.

He soon headed the youth wing of a march on Washington that Randolph envisioned. Randolph called off the demonstration when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 8802, forbidding racial discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries. Randolph's calling off of the projected march caused a temporary breach between him and Bayard Rustin, and Rustin transferred his organizing efforts to the peace movement, first in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and later in the American Friends Service Committee, the Socialist Party, and the War Resisters League.

In 1944, Rustin was found guilty of violating the Selective Service Act and was sentenced to three years in a federal prison. In March 1944 Rustin was sent to the federal penitentiary in Ashland, Kentucky. He then set about to resist the pervasive segregation then the norm in prisons in the United States, although faced with vicious racism from some of the prison guards and white prisoners, Rustin faced frequent cruelty with courage and completely nonviolent resistance.

On release from prison, Rustin got involved again with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which staged a journey of reconciliation through four Southern and border states in 1947 to test the application of the Supreme Court's recent ruling that discrimination in seating in interstate transportation was illegal. Rustin's resistance to North Carolina's Jim Crow law against integration in transportation earned him twenty-eight days hard labor on a chain gang, where he met with the usual racist taunts and tortures on the part of his imprisoners.

Between 1947 and 1952, Rustin traveled first to India and then to Africa under the sponsorship of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, exploring the nonviolent dimensions of the Indian and Ghanaian independence movements. In 1953 Rustin was arrested for public indecency in Pasadena, California, while lecturing under the auspices of the American Association of University Women. It was the first time that Rustin's homosexuality had come into public attention, and at that time homosexual behavior in all states was a criminal offense.

In 1956 Rustin was approached by Lillian Smith, the celebrated Southern novelist who authored Strange Fruit, to provide Dr. Martin Luther King with some practical advice on how to apply Gandhian principles of nonviolence to the boycott of public transportation then taking shape in Montgomery, Alabama. Rustin spent time in Montgomery and Birmingham advising King, who had not yet completely embraced principles of nonviolence in his struggle. By 1957, Rustin was busy playing a large role in the birth of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and in the Prayer Pilgrimage to Washington that took place on May 17, 1957 to urge President Eisenhower to enforce the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling that the nation's schools be desegregated.

Arguably the high point of Bayard Rustin's political career was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which took place on August 28, 1963, the place of Dr. Martin Luther King's stirring "I Have a Dream" speech. Rustin was by all accounts the March's chief architect. To devise a march of at least one-quarter of a million participants and to coordinate the various sometimes fractious civil rights organizations that played a part in it was a herculean feat of mobilization.

By 1965 Rustin had come to believe that the period for militant street action had come to an end; the legal foundation for segregation had been irrevocably shattered. Rustin's steadfast opposition to identity politics also came under criticism by exponents of the developing Black Power movement. His critical stance toward affirmative action programs and black studies departments in American universities was not a popular viewpoint among many of his fellow Afro-Americans, and as at various other times of his life Rustin found himself to a certain extent isolated.

Although Bayard Rustin lived in the shadow of more charismatic civil rights leaders, he can lay real claim to have been an indispensable unsung force behind the movement toward equality for America's black citizens, and more largely for the rights of humans around the globe, in the twentieth century. Throughout his life his personal philosophy, incorporating beliefs that were of central importance to him: that there is that of God in every person, that all are entitled to a decent life, and that a life of service to others is the way to happiness and true fulfillment.

So you see all of us stand upon the shoulders of someone be it great or not; So Sing – Sing Celebrate!!! The Dream will never die.
And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Monday, August 22, 2011


There was a time at the end of Reconstruction and at the turn of the 20th century when a few men controlled all the wealth of America. Sounds like today right.

These guys robbed everyone because slavery had ended but it didn’t mean greed was removed from their hearts. You see, in a capitalistic society greed is a necessary component of the system. What most fail to realize is that “the system is designed to protect the system”, which means there MUST be a permanent underclass for it to work.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Little attention is being paid to the unraveling of a public policy in the United States for more than a century, which emerged in stages between the 1890s and 1930s. During this period they called it an institutional framework to balance the needs of the American people with the vast inequalities of wealth and power fashioned by the triumph of industrial capitalism. What I am talking about is the efforts to design policy for the benefit of the wealthy.

Their scheme then was originated in the widespread apprehension that the rapidly growing power of the railroads robber barons, national corporations (the Rockefellers) and banks (like J.P. Morgan’s) was undermining fundamental American values that threatened democracy. What the MIGHTY did was strangling the MEEK or crucified mankind upon a cross of gold much like Wall Street is doing today. A hundred years ago a commented a programmatic and radical group took a stance for labor. They were the American Federation of Labor and their convention delegates who in 1894 advocated nationalizing all major industries and financial corporations. If you missed that “they were called Unions”.

I am one who would argue that, like a century ago many, this form of capitalism needs to be replaced with some form of “cooperative commonwealth”, meaning that large corporate enterprises should be broken up or strictly regulated to ensure fair competition, limit the concentration of power and prevent these interests from overwhelming the public good. Now, before you go all Tea Party on me this is simply a “progressive” view of the system today.

I am well aware that such views, in most instances, will be vehemently and sometimes violently opposed by the more conservative political forces. And you know who they are! Therefore, we need to remember that it was political pressure from anti-capitalists, anti-monopolists, populists, progressives, working-class activists and socialists led, over time, who accomplished a lot for the working class people. Moreover, the state, meaning a government for the people should service and promote private enterprise. Thereby, fostering growth and this illusive ideal called the American Dream.

In exchange, the federal government should adopt a series of far-reaching reforms to shield and empower citizens from these powerful entities safeguarding society’s democratic character. Such as real regulations for business and banking to protect consumers, limit the power of individual corporations and prevent anti-competitive practices.

It was my understanding that these principles were the underlying measures and the reasons for the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) and the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) — which insured bank deposits and separated investment from commercial banking — was that government was responsible for protecting society against the shortcomings of a market economy. As we can clearly see the profit motive cannot always be counted on to serve the public’s welfare.

I believe the government should guarantee workers’ the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. The core premise of the 1914 Clayton Act and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 was that individual workers lacked the power to protect their interests when dealing with large employers. For the most poorly paid, the federal government mandated a minimum wage and maximum hours.

With these guarantee’s every American citizen should be entitled to social insurance: Unemployment insurance (1935), Social Security (1935), and, later, Medicaid and Medicare (1965) were grounded in the recognition that citizens could not always be self-sufficient and that it was the role of government to aid those unable to fend for themselves. The unemployment-insurance program left unrestrained employers’ ability to lay off workers but recognized that those who were jobless through no fault of their own ought to receive public support.

These measures shaped the contours of U.S. political and economic life between 1940 and 2000: They amounted to a social contract that, however imperfect, it does preserve the dynamism of capitalism while guarding citizens against the power imbalances and uncertainties that a competitive economy produces. These gains in the area of humanity have been and are under attack by conservatives and the attacks have been escalating today. We need to take a stand because the rich and wealthy are not going to give you anything. All of these gains like Civil Rights were fought for and many died so we can have a reasonable work day or a vacation.

The conservatives decried regulation for business now, just as they did in 1880, as unwarranted interference in the workings of the market: Regulatory laws (including antitrust laws) are weakly enforced or vitiated through administrative rule-making; regulatory agencies are starved through budget cuts; Glass-Steagall was repealed, with consequences that are all too well known; and the financial institutions that spawned today’s economic crisis. This thinking creates the reckless behavior predicted by early-20th-century reformers and fight against further regulation tooth and nail.

Private-sector employers’ fierce attacks on unions since the 1970s contributed significantly to the sharp decline in the number of unionized workers, and many state governments are seeking to delegitimize and weaken public-sector unions. Meanwhile, the social safety net has frayed: Unemployment benefits are meager in many states and are not being extended to match the length of the downturn. When in fact the real value of the minimum wage is lower than it was in the 1970s.Today the Republicans are taking aim at Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and Obamacare.

To a person who knows history, the agenda of today’s conservative’s looks like a bizarre effort to return to the Gilded Age, an era with little regulation of business, no social insurance and no legal protections for workers. This draconian agenda calls for the destruction or weakening of institutions without acknowledging why they came into being.

In a democracy, of course, the ultimate check on such campaigns is the electoral system. Therefore, I say all we have is the vote – we must use it because the Titans of industry may wield far more power in the economic arena than average citizens, but if all votes count equally, the citizenry can protect themselves through the political arena. Just look at what Republicans across the nation are doing. They have sponsored ID requirements for voting that are far more likely to disenfranchise legitimate and unprivileged voters than they are to prevent fraud.

Last year, the Supreme Court, reversed a century of precedent, ruled that corporate funds can be used in support of political campaigns. Some Tea Partyers even want to do away with the direct election of senators, adopted in 1913. These ideas are rooted in the Gilded Age when Jim Crow was the law and society was unjust. It is time to stand up! Take a stand and fight for our rights! VOTE…

Parts of this blog were captured as a result of reading Alexander Keyssar the Stirling professor of history and social policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. And this is my THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVE thanks to the professor.

Monday, August 15, 2011



"Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant South, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh, And the sudden smell of burning flesh! Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, for the sun to rot, for a tree to drop, here is a strange and bitter crop."
The video attached to one of my shortest posts is straightforward yet nuanced. The song “Strange Fruit” tells a story that must be told to our youth and we must never forget. Because when you forget history it is destined to repeat itself. We know the importance of Billie Holiday's recording. But this indispensable video vivid imagery the history of the struggle against lynching, something that was very real, and for Black rights with a wealth of common history of African Americans, Jewish Americans, and the American Left. It is part of our history, part of our heritage. Teach your children and learn this chapter in our past.

The song “Strange Fruit” creates immediate controversy. Call it a grim reminder of an unnecessarily painful and ugly chapter in American history. The song retains its force, because the issues it raises about the legacy of racial terrorism in American society still resonate. The story tells a song that compelled its listeners to confront the past, which was genuinely disturbing then and it is no less disturbing today.

While many people assume Strange Fruit was written by Billie Holiday herself, it actually began as a poem by a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx who later set it to music. Disturbed by a photograph of a lynching, the teacher wrote the stark verse and brooding melody about the horror of lynching under the pseudonym Lewis Allan in 1938. It was first performed at a New York teachers union rally and was brought to the attention of the manager of Cafe Society, a popular Greenwich Village nightclub, who introduced Billy Holiday to the writer.

The version of the song you hear is done by the great Nina Simone. And that’s my THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVE…

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Simple Message

If read and/or follow my THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVES, you’d know that I have written many critiques concerning the “Ol’ Divide and Conquer” strategy that has been used so effectively to keep us fighting each other.

This week another prominent Brotha has weighed in with his commentary on the Chief and West/Tavis tiff. Right or wrong, he like all of us have the right to say what we wants and I don’t begrudge anyone of that. However, just maybe we should keep our divisiveness between us and not so public with some commentary concerning our issues.

These kind of thing always take me back to what my Granddaddy taught me a long time ago. He was a firm believer in the concept that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and he would always remind me to never forget who you are. With that said, Granddaddy was and had a profound positive character influence upon my life through the many things he taught me. His approach was to always put his lessons in the form of a story and he used characters that I could identify with to make his point.

There was one story in particular that stood out more than any other. This tale had the most lasting impact of all of his life lessons. It was about his friend Bob. Mr. Bob was a man who I thought was a little strange or maybe crazy. Well, crazy is a bit strong. I’ll just stop short of calling him a fool. After all I was a kid and knew better than to refer to grown folks in this way, but it didn’t stop me from thinking it. I just could not say it out load. Regardless, the old guy sure was a funny man. I always enjoyed being around him because there was constant foolishness and laughter.

The way the story was told to me, Mr. Bob’s job was to offer a prayer every Sunday morning at church during the service prior to the preacher’s sermon, a job he had held for years. Sunday was a special day for the community, and for him to have a position where he would have the attention of everyone was a big deal. More accurately stated it was a platform for him to perform. He would have been a great entertainer. I had been a witness to this many times.

Mr. Bob would walk to church every Sunday morning, rain or shine, from his home. The trip was several miles up and down hills and around curves, and he would be dressed in his best suit for the morning service. During the walk he would practice his part for the service, the prayer, with the intention of making it a show complete with screams and tears. This show would sometimes last thirty minutes. There were many Sundays that I would wonder how one man could have so much to ask of the Lord. I would think, please, let somebody else get a blessing.

On his way to church this particular Sunday, Mr. Bob came across an injured snake. In what he perceived as divine intervention, God said to him, help this poor creature. He realized he did not have a prayer for that day’s service, so he thought, wow, if I help the snake I can pray for us to have the strength to help all of God’s creatures. Since the snake is the lowliest of all creatures, this would really inspire the congregation and hopefully give them the encouragement to do the same, at least until next Sunday’s message. So he picked up the badly injured snake and placed him in a safe place until he could return from church.

With great energy, and now inspired, Mr. Bob went on his way. He planned and practiced his prayer as he marched on to church. After he arrived and exchanged a few greetings, the service began with a joyful noise, as they say, meaning full of song. Then it was his turn to pray. He began to pray with a powerful tone, full of emotion. He asked God to give each person within the sound of his voice the strength to reach out and help all God’s creatures, from the loving dove to the lowly snake. His message had many in the tiny church standing with shouts of Amen. He felt he had done his job as he closed, asking God to bless the church and said Amen. In his usual style this took about a half hour.

To his surprise, the pastor also chose a sermon nearly identical to his message which took about another hour and a half, talking about helping all of God’s creatures. What a great day it was, Mr. Bob thought. Normally after the service ended everyone hung around and fellowshipped as it was one of the few chances they had to socialize. Mr. Bob would not hang around on this day. He was on a mission and left church in a hurry. He rushed back to the spot where his injured snake was placed hoping it would still be there. He was very excited when he arrived to find it was where he left it. He put his snake in a burlap bag he had gotten from the church and took the snake home.

Over the next several weeks Mr. Bob cared for this creature, desperately trying to save the snake and nursing it back to health. About three weeks later he thought it was time to take his snake back to where he found it, thinking it was well enough to be set free. The following Sunday, he put on his best suit and started his journey to church with snake in hand. As he arrived at the spot where he had found it, he thought, what a wonderful thing he had done. He was sure to receive God’s blessing for this act of kindness.

He rubbed the snake gently and said goodbye. However, as he reached into the bag to grab it, suddenly the snake raised his head and bit him. Then bit him again and again. Mr. Bob cried out, why would you bite me after all I’ve done for you? My God why? I guess he was expecting an answer from God, but none came. He repeated his cry once more. Then the snake stuck his head out of the bag and said, “I am a snake and that’s what we do.”

I would later learn that my Granddaddy would tell me these stories to which I would have to figure out their meaning or find the moral of the story. After hearing this story over and over again, I finally figured out what it meant. It was a lesson that would prove to be invaluable. Be careful in your dealings with people because people, just like the snake, will hurt you - that’s what they do.

I think advocating for the African American community and its despair should be more important than shooting missiles of hate toward those with whom you disagree, which just further divides. This is a critical period in black political history. We have a right to our own version of blackness but I say we have a responsibility to that blackness because so many died for us to not be in chains or hanging at the end of a rope. Therefore, let’s face the real problem, deal with it, and make a better America for our children, as was done for us.


Steve Harvey talks about Tavis Smiley & Cornel West

Dr. Boyce and Wilmer Leon: Tom Joyner's Tirade on Tavis Smiley and Cornel West

Monday, August 8, 2011

The New Talk Show – “LET'S TALK ABOUT IT”

I don’t have to tell you that we are living in very difficult times. The political world is in disarray, the nation is in distress, and there are mighty forces using what amounts to brainwashing tactics upon us the citizens. We have witness history so significant that our forefathers could never have imagined in their day.

With that said, the activism within us wants to lend a voice to what some may view as the voiceless. The answer, we feel, is a dynamic new talk show that will focus on the political news and topics of the day. But, the best part is it features you as our very special guest.

From the "Thought Provoking", John T. Wills and the amazing songstress, the world renowned "Wild & Wonderful" Brenda White comes this exciting, unusual and (if you know Brenda) FUNNY, political talk show. This show is designed for real everyday people to call in and express their views on the issues of the day or to just speak their piece. We are providing a platform for us to come together or more simply put “Keep it Real”.

In addition to John and Brenda’s weekly discussions with our listeners; the show will also feature Mrs. Jacqueline Lambert who will provide hard-hitting political commentary that you don’t want to miss, as well as other invited guests to speak truth to reality. The wonderful "BRENDA LEE EAGER" of “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” fame with the great Jerry Butler has allowed us to use her new recording as the show’s theme - "WE ARE ONE!" Jim Black & Friends, John T. Wills and Brenda White wish to express our sincere gratitude to Ms. Eager for her support. We offer thanks and blessings for the use of this "EMPOWERING" song.

So, if you have an opinion, and who doesn’t, concerning our nation’s direction and political “goings on”. Just join Brenda and John each Monday evening from 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm (EST) on BlogTalkRadio. Do us a big favor; tell your friends and bring the kids because there are forces among us who are trying to turn back the hands of time, and you know who they are!

I say “free your mind and you’re A$$ will follow”.


Call in @ 646-478-5288 and Let’s Talk About It!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

From the mind of West

I live by a very simple principle: “You have only just a minute, didn’t chose it, can’t refuse it, it’s up to you to use it. It’s just a tiny little minute but an eternity in it.” Therefore, every sixty seconds you spend angry, upset or mad, is a full minute of happiness you'll never get back. So you have wasted one of the 1440 minutes given. With that said, let me express my concern for another of the new Negroes who have lost their way. You know who these characters are. The ones who are a lot like my Uncle whose name is Thomas or Tom for short.

This brings to mind a guy who hails by the name West, a Black Republican from Florida, who became a tea party sensation with his speech urging supporters to take up arms against “a tyrannical government.” He has also said, “If you’re here to stand up, to get your musket, to fetch your bayonet and to charge into the ranks, you are my brother and sister in this fight.” The retired Army officer shouted during the closing of one speech - “You need to leave here understanding one simple word. That word is: bayonet.” My first thought upon reading this was I have never seen a “musket”. This guy is really out of touch.

To this kind of insane thinking I say: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit.” This is what the Tea Party has done to this brotha.

He bashes the president with his talk of what amounts to tyranny as the world witnesses something no one living or dead ever thought would happen –a Black Man as President of America. I would like to share this with brotha West; “History shows that it does not matter who is in power... those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.” I would further say to Mr. West to remember that you are seen as a black man regardless of your posture. Trust and believe when you are no longer of use – well you know what the do!

On Wednesday, brotha West told an audience of college conservatives - “You could do the front assault, like at Gallipoli or the Charge of the Light Brigade, … you end up losing a whole lot of people,” all you can do is “pat yourself on the back and say how valiantly we charged that hill, like Pickett’s Charge.” The smarter approach, he explained, would be for Republicans to outmaneuver Democrats, like they did in the debt-limit battle: “We checked and checkmated them.”

Interesting how he came from a bayonet charge to a Washington chess match. Talk about going native. This African American conservative with the flattop can still talk like a militant, calling Democrats “socialists” and “the enemy.” But on his first big test of his so-called principles, he joined the socialist enemy in the soft middle.

At this point I want to use Mr. West’s own words from a speech to the YAF where he recalled his father saying that “an empty wagon makes a lot of noise,” which he said means that “people who don’t have a lot between their heads run their mouths a lot.” He would go on to proclaim that President Obama appears “incompetent.” He stood by his criticism of Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as “vile,” “despicable” and “not a lady.” Worst yet, he said Democrats are seeking to “enslave your conscience.”

I am reminded of what his daddy say about the rattle of an empty wagon. Did he really hear his daddy? I will agree with the Congressman in that living in America one has the right to say what they will but it is wise for one to make sense when they speak. I will not go on with this rant because I will respect brotha West because he looks like me.

I will end this THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVE by asking you to share this message with everyone you know with the hope that brotha West receives it and PLEASE brotha WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW and support America’s president because what you espouse turns back the hands of time.



A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.