October 05, 2017
By Julianne Malveaux
NNPA Newswire Columnist
I am not sure why the national anthem and the so-called American flag are part of our nation’s sports pageantry. Before 2009, while the national anthem was played, sports gladiators were not required to suit up, stand up, and put their hands to their hearts; and why should they? The song that is sung is an insult to people of color. When I hear “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” I think, “the land of the thief and the home of the slave.” The Department of Defense paid the National Football League (seriously?) to promote a fake sense of cultural hegemony, and to spread the false notion that we are all on the same page when it comes to patriotism.
How could we be on the same page? How could the men who have been hauled out of their cars, pushed down to their knees, forced to justify the reasons they are driving high-end cars be on the same page with the men who “own” them, who may or may not support them, or may or may not kneel with them?
Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, not because he wanted to disparage the flag, but because he disparaged the many ways that African American people were being diminished by police brutality. Call the names, call the names, the men and the women who have been unjustifiably killed, call the names, and call the names of the many ways Back Lives Must Matter. Call the names, call the names, of the structural racism that cuts like a knife, or kills like a bullet. Call the names.
There are those who have a story to tell about so-called disrespect to the “American flag,” the same American flag that is drenched in blood. Black men went to fight in World War I and came back to this country and were lynched, because they refused to yield the sidewalk to White people. What flag did they serve under, and why should we celebrate it? Why do disingenuous fools, including “Mr. 45,” chide NFL owners with strangely coded language, suggesting a lack of loyalty? Where is the loyalty to the Black men and women who supported a country that would not support them? The paradox of loyalty is that African Americans love a country that does not love us. We pledge the flag, drenched in blood, because we want something better.
Colin Kaepernick took a stand, and many of his colleagues support him because they cannot embrace a flag that supports the unjustified killing of African American men. Colin Kaepernick sacrificed his career to make a point, and he has been focused and fierce about his principles. Colin Kaepernick, by kneeling, encouraged all of us to stand up for our rights. Colin Kaepernick is a hero!
This protest is more, though, than Colin Kaepernick. This protest is about police brutality. This is a protest about the fake-Jake way some would bond us together, linking arms and elbows, trying to make a point. There is no point beyond the fact that young, Black men, who play football, baseball, and basketball see their brothers and cousins on their knees, legs and arms splayed, forced to the ground by oppressive police forces. The professional athletes freely kneel, because others knelt when they were forced to, because they were not free.
We can fly this flag all we want to, we can sing melodious songs about “the star spangled banner,” but the flag we fly in the name of sports is a flag that is drenched in blood. Players weren’t “encouraged” to stand at attention during the national anthem until 2009, when the Department of Defense paid money to make it happen. I’d prefer for my tax dollars to be spent more wisely. I’d prefer that some of that money went to washing the blood out of the flag.
Julianne Malveaux is an author, economist and founder of Economic Education. Her latest book “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy” is available to order at Amazon.com and at www.juliannemalveaux.com. Follow Dr. Malveaux on Twitter @drjlastword.
October 05, 2017
Pastor Kelvin Sauls
Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’reverberated around the world – as our planet’s most well-known religious leader weighed in on perhaps the most pressing problem facing humanity today. Francis’s call for the global community to exercise its moral obligation to care for the Earth and our neighbors has inspired people of all faiths everywhere. Such inspiration and obligation are particularly relevant to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which owns two properties housing toxic oil drilling operations in South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Archdiocese is in a unique position to stand for environmental justice for thousands of Angelenos on the front lines of the fight over neighborhood oil drilling –- by ensuring that one of those operations, the notorious AllenCo drill site, remains permanently closed.
As the Senior Pastor at Holman United Methodist Church, my members and our neighbors - whether in their homes or convalescing at a nearby facility – are confronted with the impacts of urban oil drilling literally every day. The Murphy oil drill site is less than half a mile from our church and a stone’s throw from hundreds of homes. On a regular basis, the site uses dangerous chemicals known to cause asthma, headaches, nose bleeds, even cancer. It also sits on land owned by the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
The Murphy site contains a handful of the nearly 1,000 active oil wells in our City, which expose over 600,000 Angelenos to these chemicals. Most of these toxic wells, some 75 percent, are in Black and Brown communities in South LA. As a founding member of the coalition Standing Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND-LA), our church is proud to join with community residents and environmental justice champions to work to end the dangerous and destructive practice of urban oil drilling.
The AllenCo drill site sits on land owned by the Archdiocese in the University Park area of South LA. Neighbors of the site complained for years of symptoms like chronic headaches, nosebleeds, and asthma attacks – and they got organized. After EPA investigators were overcome with fumes during a 2013 visit to the site, the EPA and Senator Barbara Boxer called for a shutdown and the company ceased operations. Since then, state air and environmental regulators and the Los Angeles City Attorney have gotten involved, with latter issuing an injunction and ordering AllenCo pay a $1.25 million penalty.
Now AllenCo is poised to resume operations. Since the sites closure, residents have been able to breathe easily, knowing they could open their windows and take a walk outside without feeling sick. If the site reopens, the health and livelihoods of residents, students and workers at nine schools, early education centers and two college campuses close by will be put at risk.
With the stroke of a pen, Archbishop Jose Gomez and the Archdiocese could terminate its lease with AllenCo Energy Inc, ensuring that the drilling site stays permanently closed. Such a courageous move would translate Pope Francis’s bold global declaration into bold local practice. While past appeals for action from local residents and community leaders have seemingly fallen on deaf ears at the Archdiocese, now is their chance to address climate change and protect children and families —at a time when residents in this heavily immigrant and Latino low income neighborhood need it most. This matter of environmental justice must be moved from dormancy to urgency.
Our congregation – along with STAND-LA – have also called on LA Archbishop Jose Gomez to terminate the Archdiocese’s lease with the owner of the Murphy site. We want the Archdiocese to meet its moral obligation to end human and environmental suffering at its own doorstep.
In June, the Los Angeles City Council passed a motion to study the health impacts of oil drilling in neighborhoods and explore prohibiting oil drilling in residential neighborhoods altogether. While long overdue, this step forward recognizes the realities many Angelenos face. We eagerly await the results of the study (due in November) and urge our elected leaders to take the next steps to end urban oil drilling. Our communities and environment cannot afford another day of inaction.
As an ordained Minister in the United Methodist Church for over 20 years, in my sixth year as the Senior Pastor at Holman Chruch, and my eighth year as an active member of the ecumenical, interfaith, and social justice movements in Los Angeles, I am persuaded that there can't be social justice without environmental justice. This intersection demands a new level of integrity. Hence, I am calling on Archbishop Jose Gomez to honor the Pope’s moral call to prophetic action – Join us on the right side of history.
Kelvin Sauls is the senior pastor of the Holman United Methodist Church and a founding member of STAND-LA (Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling).
September 14, 2017
BY JESSE JACKSON
We have suffered brutal direct hits. Over half of the state of Florida is without power, in the dark. It is too soon to know what the losses are. Houston, America’s fourth largest city, suffered the most extreme rain event in U.S. history. Casualties are mounting; damages are estimated at a staggering $125 billion.
Ash from wildfires in the West is blanketing Seattle; every county in Washington is under state of an emergency. The smoke is felt in the air all the way to the East Coast. Last year was the hottest on record, exceeding the record set the year before that which exceeded the record set the year before that.
Extreme weather is becoming more frequent and more extreme. For climate scientists, this is predictable and predicted. As the Earth warms, the ice caps melt, the oceans grow warmer; more moisture is absorbed in the clouds, the rains become worse and the severe storms more severe.
The Trump administration denies climate science, even seeks to suppress it. Trump’s political appointees are doing their best to ban the very term “climate change” from government reports. They are dismantling agencies that study and report on the changing climate. Ironically, among their biggest allies were Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who banned the phrase “climate change” from state reports, and the Texas Republican Party devoted to pumping every drop of oil that can be found.
Bad storms, record heat and record wildfires won’t alter their denials. But the catastrophes are real. When they occur, even rock-headed reactionaries turn to government for help. The same Texan legislators who voted against aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Mid-Atlantic coast in 2012, lined up to demand aid for their constituents after Harvey. Those who say the government is broke appropriate billions. They look for government to organize the evacuations and warnings, to shelter the vulnerable, to mobilize the cleanup, to invest in the reconstruction.
Whether we agree that humans are a prime cause of climate change or not, surely we can agree to take the actions needed to protect ourselves as much as possible from the coming disasters and to ensure that we are prepared to react to them. We don’t have to agree about the cause of this new extreme weather. We simply have to agree to prepare for it and respond to it.
This isn’t rocket science. We need preventive action to gird against the destructive forces. On our coasts, buildings and infrastructure have to be constructed to be able to withstand extreme storms. In areas that are the most vulnerable and that have suffered repeated calamities, homes and factories should not be rebuilt. We need to strengthen dams and levees, and to protect wetlands that can help diffuse the power of storms. Chemical and nuclear power plants should be built to protect against the risks of natural disasters. The poorest and most vulnerable should not be shunted off to the lowlands most vulnerable to destruction. Response plans at the local, state and national level should be comprehensive and practiced.
Here’s the rub. That can only happen if we empower public officials to take responsible action. It requires good government and adequate resources. The conservative drive to discredit government, to starve it of funds and to dismantle its functions has to make way for a real investment in vital, necessary public action.
This shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should be a priority. Harvey and Irma have demonstrated what the Pentagon already has concluded: Extreme and catastrophic climate events are right now a clear and present danger to our nation’s security. Parts of Florida look like they were carpet-bombed. Surely, we should devote more attention to defending our own shores than we do to policing the world.
Prevention, mitigation, a stronger infrastructure and more sensible zoning are first steps. Eventually — and clearly the time is growing short — we will need a true mobilization on the scale of the effort at the beginning of World War II to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and to stop global warming. Oil company executives warn that this will cripple our economy. In fact, a real green mobilization will, like World War II, create jobs, innovation and new markets. It will revitalize our economy. And if it is done well, it can help rebuild a broad and vibrant middle class.
To get there will take a profound political movement and a sea change in our politics. Yet even as we build for that, surely we can agree to take the steps needed to provide greater protection to our people. That should not be a partisan or an ideological issue. It should be a common cause.
September 14, 2017
By Bishop William J. Barber, II
Channeling the incisive analysis of our best historians, TaNehisi Coates cut through the talking points of political pundits last week to name Donald Trump America’s “First White president.” Writing for The Atlantic, the National Book Award recipient made clear how there could be no Donald Trump without President Obama. The chaos from which the whole world now suffers is a direct result of the backlash against racial progress in America.
To see this is to know that Trump is not our problem. He is only a symptom. During this time of intensifying political, economic, and moral crisis, with the lives of the most vulnerable and the spirits of all under vicious attack, people in growing numbers around the country are fighting back for their lives, communities and deepest values. As we respond to invitations from communities across America, we hear a resounding call for a Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Revival in America today.
Fifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others called for a “revolution of values” in America, inviting people who had been divided to stand together against the “triplets of evil”—militarism, racism, and economic injustice—to insist that people need not die from poverty in the richest nation to ever exist. He joined with people across the country like Myles Horton of the Highlander Center, Loretta Two Crow of National Welfare Rights, Cesar Chavez of United Farm Workers, Al McSurely of the Appalachian Volunteers, Phillip Bernstein of the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare, Tillie Walker of the United Indian Scholarship Fund, and John Lewis of the Southern Regional Council. Theirs was a coalition as diverse as America.
We draw on the history, vision and unfinished work of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign as we embrace the task of reigniting that campaign to unite the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized across difference to take action together. In the aftermath of 2016’s rejection election, we are building a Movement from the states up, to unleash what Dr. King called “a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”
This Campaign has emerged from more than a decade of work by grassroots community and religious leaders, organizations and movements fighting to end systemic racism, poverty, militarism, environmental destruction & related injustices and to build a just, sustainable and participatory society. We would need to do this work even if Trump had not been elected. But the blatant extremism of this administration only serves to amplify the need.
The twin forces of White supremacy and unchecked corporate greed continue to gain more power and influence, both in statehouses across this nation and at the highest levels of our federal government. Today, one in every two Americans are poor or low-income, while millions of children and adults continue to live without access to healthcare, housing, clean water, or good jobs.
At the same time, the issues of poverty and racism have been forced to the margins of our moral narrative and claims that a limited focus on personal morality should overshadow and supplant a commitment to public morality rooted in a critique of greed, racism, and injustice.
Our campaign aims to build a broad and deep national moral movement—rooted in the leadership of poor people and reflecting the great moral teachings—to unite our country from the bottom up.
For years, we have seen a kind of attention violence towards issues of systemic racism, poverty, and militarism. There was a time when our nation was fighting a war against poverty; now, it seems, we are waging a war on the poor. Our social fabric is stretched thin by widening income inequality, while politicians criminalize the poor, fan the flames of racism and xenophobia to divide the poor, and steal from the poor to give tax breaks to our richest neighbors and budget increases to a bloated military.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will strategically connect and grow different struggles and lift up and deepen the leadership of those most affected to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society. The Campaign will push forward concrete demands, build unity across lines of division, and draw on art, music, and religious traditions to challenge the dominant narrative that blames poor people for poverty.
This will necessarily be a multi-year undertaking. This fall and winter we are touring the country to publicly launch the campaign with partners who have been working across race and class lines in their own communities. Next spring, we plan to begin engaging in highly publicized civil disobedience and direct action over a six-week period in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia. Our goal is to force a serious, national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and environmental devastation during a key election year, while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state. We are building power to continue this fight long after June 2018.
A precise diagnosis is key, but naming the problem is never enough. We need a Movement rooted in the moral forces that have demonstrated a capacity to change America. At such a time as this, we need a Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been.
Bishop William J. Barber, II, is President of Repairers of the Breach, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and author of The Third Reconstruction. Follow Bishop Barber on Twitter @RevDrBarber. Follow Repairers of the Breach on Twitter @BRepairers.