is a core belief among Republican strategists that a prime
time TV speech by Rev.
Al Sharpton at the Democratic national convention, in Boston,
is worth millions of white votes for George Bush in November.
Sharpton’s goal is to garner enough delegates to guarantee
that he gets to make that speech. Therein lies the perceived
of interests between Sharpton and GOP dirty trickster Roger
Black Democrats refrained from taking center stage to avoid
activating reflexive racism
among whites, they would languish in the shadows, forever. In
this narrow, perverse sense, there is a permanent convergence
of interests between Blacks seeking greater influence among Democrats,
and Republicans intent on strengthening the GOP’s identity as
The White Man’s Party. That’s part of the hand that American
racism has dealt us. How Black politicians play it is another
The furor over the New
Voice’s revelations about the connection between Sharpton
and Roger Stone – the political hit man who directed the mob
that shut down the Miami-Dade vote recount process in 2000 – revolves
around which party got "played" in the deal. Sharpton
has not challenged the central facts cited in the Voice piece:
that Stone loaned or raised hundreds of thousands of dollars
for the Sharpton campaign, some of which was commingled with
funds of Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN); and that Sharpton’s
campaign manager, Charles Halloran, and a number of aides are
Stone operatives. The Voice’s Wayne Barrett concluded: “The combination
of the unpaid or underpaid services of Stone, Halloran, [and
Stone operatives] Baynard, Archer, et al., together with the
NAN subsidies, paint a picture of a Sharpton operation that is
utterly dependent on his new ally Stone, whose own sponsors are
as unclear as ever.”
last week’s Cover
Problem With Al Sharpton,” we noted Wayne Barrett’s reputation
as a crack investigative reporter, and added, “Sharpton and Stone
seem to have made Barrett’s job easy – indeed, Stone doesn’t
appear anxious to hide the fact that he has captured a Negro.”
and former Voice colleague Joe Conason – who penned a companion
piece in Salon.com – seemed
most upset about Sharpton’s offenses against the Democratic Party
and his purported disdain for “white liberals.” The real question,
of course, is Sharpton’s future as a Black “leader.” In our
judgment, “Sharpton comes across as a hapless stooge of the worst
elements of the GOP.” And that’s worse than stealing something.
Sharpton may have thought
he was a playa, but he should have known that the odds were hopelessly
stacked against him. He gambled his reputation that he could
use Republican money and campaign savvy to get him through the
primaries so that he could step up to the microphone in Boston
as the certified Go-To Guy in Black America. In the process,
he could influence the political tone and substance of the campaign
and, possibly, help shape the future of the nation. The ends
justified the means, he rationalized.
in fact, Roger Stone held all the cards – it was a win-win-win, no-lose situation.
If Sharpton makes his televised speech in Boston, Stone wins;
whites run to Bush. Should Sharpton be treated shabbily by white
Democrats, Stone wins; Black voters are angry and disgusted,
and stay home in November. If Stone can instigate some madness
during the campaign, that’s icing on the cake. And if pesky “white
liberal” reporters sniff out the arrangement, so what? – Sharpton
self-destructs as a national leader, causing dismay and recriminations
in Black and white Democratic ranks; Stone and Bush win. For
a dirty trickster, nothing could be more exquisitely elegant.
has been spinning as if his political life depends on it. In
a highly charged Sunday
morning telephone interview with New York’s WRKS-FM radio, Sharpton
defended the loans from Stone (“When have you ever heard of a
sellout with a loan?”) and the Republican staffing of his campaign
(“I was trying to get technical information”). Peter Noel, a
Black former Village Voice writer who loudly and repeatedly denounced
the paper as viciously biased against Sharpton, nevertheless
asked: “Why would you associate yourself with people like Roger
Stone, when you know that they have hurt Black people?” Sharpton
replied that he had connected with the trickster after “Democratic
strategists said to me, You should find out how they are gonna
try to eliminate you [from the ballot] in Louisiana.”
said Sharpton, his voice stuck at the extremes of the decibel
the 20-minute Q & A, Jesse Jackson and lots of other politicians
are involved in questionable or cross-party relationships. “I’m
willing to play the game by the same rules as everybody else
one point, Al Sharpton is, we believe, unassailable: “I dare anyone to show that [Stone]
extracted something out of me,” he said.
Barrett and Conason led their readers to believe that Roger
Stone was behind
Sharpton’s attacks on Howard Dean. Stone is quoted as taking
credit for the “research” that caused former Vermont Governor
Dean to admit that no minorities served in his cabinet, for example – as
if any Black man needs a racist white man to think up such an
issue! Sharpton had his own reasons for going after Dean – what
we described in our November
13 issue as “Jacksonophobia.” Sharpton shot straight through Dean
to strike at Jesse Jackson Jr. after the Chicago Congressman
endorsed Dean in late October – an intra-Black act of betrayal,
from Sharpton’s standpoint.
Sharpton never veered from his progressive platform; that’s something Roger
Stone could not “extract” from him.
think we were quite circumspect and fair in our treatment of
Sharpton. We praised
him and Dennis Kucinich as the “Two
Civilized Men Among the Barbarians” of the campaign, back
in October, and last week credited Sharpton with administering “nine
months of behavior modification therapy” on the white contenders.
We believe that Al Sharpton did help shape history during
the past year. “It is a great irony that the electoral process
that Sharpton did so much to enrich, in which his formidable
presence deterred white Democrats from reverting to racist type,
has resulted in more palatable choices for Black voters, but
negligible delegate clout for himself,” we wrote.
when one happens upon a man lying in the street in his own
vomit, another passerby might suspect that you were the cause
of the poor fellow’s problem. Thus, Anthony Kennerson writes,
from Lafayette, Louisiana:
you sure know how to knock them down when they need it, do
I first saw the Village Voice piece on Rev. Al's alliance
with that nasty
Willie-Horton-ad-making, right-wing racist hack Roger Stone,
I nearly lost my lunch. But hearing that Sharpton is
making alliances with some of the most meanest, most disgustingly
racist, rightest Repubs known to mankind – all out of simple
pique at "white liberals" for not jumping into
his campaign – just makes this radical Leftist Black man
want to throw my computer monitor across the room.
a brief memo to you, Reverend Sharpton: (and excuse
my French...OOPS, Freedom):
is the freakin' matter with you? For someone who claims
to represent the
most progressive, most humanistic, most humane section of
the Black electorate; for someone who steadily, or so I assumed,
bashes the DLC quite rightfully as the "Republican" wing
of the party – for you to then, just out of personal pique
for being overshadowed for Howard Dean, ally yourself
with people who represent the very ideology and attitude
you claim to oppose, that is not only mass unconsciousness
and gross betrayal of your supporters and your progressive
base; that's just plain ignorant and stupid. I guess
that since you can't mine Michael Jackson, Russell Simmons,
and those other hip-hop kingpins for their cash any
more to maintain your failing campaign (and BTW, how in the
hell can you not know the rules for filing for the Louisiana
primary; are you that stupid or ignorant not to know the
difference between a two party check and a cashier's check – or were
you too busy plotting with your new racist buddies your "independent
campaign?"), the next step is to become a front
for the GOP hitmen?
someone who supposedly wants to see Dubya out of office,
you have a mightily
strange way of showing it! But, I guess I should have
known better, since you came out for censorship of rap and
rock lyrics, and pandered to the worst of the Un-Religious
Right in your nearly Clintonic views of poor women's personal
well (sigh) I guess I'll hold my nose real tight and vote
for Kerry now – but
as far as I am concerned, Al Sharpton is just another Greedygut.
for giving me the vine and the truth, ,
and keep keeping it real and progressive.
Rev. Jeanette Pollard
was taken aback by the Sharpton revelations.
you Black Commentator, for your enlightening piece on the
Rev. Al Sharpton. Just
yesterday someone asked me who I was voting for. In
all honesty, none of the white candidates appealed to me.
I was considering writing in Sharpton's name on my ballot.
story has shed some revealing and disappointing light on
Friends who used to attend the National Action Network's
meetings were unable to find out why meetings were no longer
held. Your article revealed why those meetings are
no longer held.
back on Rev. Sharpton's remarks during last Friday's presidential
forum with Tom Joyner, he made a statement that received
loud applause from the audience. He said he'd got
here (America) as a result of a bad trade policy. It would
appear that Sharpton has put African Americans in the middle
of his own bad trade policy by selling out to right wing
a preacher, and I'm disgusted with preachers' lack of truly
standing up for the people and not just for ourselves!!
O. Sibley has the decidedly secular job of Director of Publications,
Office of Marketing & Communications at Tuskegee University,
cover story, "The Problem with Al Sharpton" is the
best written piece about the African-American perspective on
this year's election that I've read. Well structured, relatively
objective. I give the writers two thumbs up!
among the many sites that picked up our piece on Sharpton.
That’s how Thomas D’Amico found us.
article was superb. It was also my impression that the man
was a powerful force in getting the Democrats to do right.
Since Dr. King I have become smarter about life and even at
84 my anticipation still is that Black Americans will rescue
the U.S. of A. Well, we lost Sharpton to the money and his
narcissism, I am sorry to say. But somehow I still have the
hope that Dr. King’s dream will come through for all of our
citizens. I won’t see that day but maybe my great grandchildren
Bruce Banter prizes
efficiency in speech:
man. The Black Commentator don’t play!
Sharpton’s “missteps” will
certainly affect his future, but they do not erase his past.
Sarah Santora writes:
Al Sharpton has my eternal thanks and appreciation for bringing
national attention to police shootings and brutality against
Black Americans, especially young Black men and teens. If my
teenage son is not shot in the back by a fat cop who doesn't
feel like chasing him, it's Al Sharpton I have to thank. He
focused national attention on the issue, causing police to
behave themselves if only to keep him from coming to town.
For that he has earned my deep gratitude and whatever else
happens, I will never stop thanking him for what he has done
for me and mine.
Here’s how we addressed
Sharpton’s place in history in last week’s piece:
must ask why Al Sharpton emerged as a contender for national
via the presidential primaries. The answer is simple, and
should be deeply troubling: He was the only one to step forward.
Such was also the case in the decades of Sharpton’s rise
to prominence in New York. When police brutalized African
Americans, Al Sharpton was there. When demonstrations needed
to be mounted, Sharpton was on point. When Black anger rose,
Sharpton rose to the occasion – year, after year, after year.
of all political persuasions denounced Sharpton as an opportunist
seeker – as if they were telling Black folks something we
didn’t know. But we desperately needed publicity, and an
opportunity to be heard. Rev. Al seized the spotlight and
shook things up, which was a lot better than nothing.
had to do it.
who’s stepping forward, now?
D. Goodison begins her letter, “If I sound as cynical as Sharpton it comes with
the territory.” She’s a New Yorker.
can't speak to the merits or demerits of Sharpton's run
for the presidency,
his candidacy remains a minor event but it is interesting
that Sharpton's white New York City "liberal" critics
such as Joe Conason and Wayne Barrett are so concerned with
where he gets his money. Forgive my cynicism but I don't
care if he gets paid by Halliburton. The Democratic Party
of New York has long held its black supporters in utter contempt
and without their hypocrisy and racism Sharpton would not
exist as a force.
of what I may think of his attributes as a civil rights leader,
Sharpton has done one good thing for black New York: shown
them that there is an alternative to supporting people who
don't think much of you or your vote while arrogantly expecting
it anyway. Sorry but I didn't cry when black voters took Sharpton's
suggestion and sat on their hands and refused a fourth term
to Prison Governor Cuomo or the mayoralty to the obnoxious,
condescending Mark Green. After all, white "liberal" Democrats
had no trouble abandoning a black mayor for the atrocious Giuliani
and not all of us find the better of two evils argument compelling.
When Hillary 'Ghandi owns a gas station downtown' Clinton comes
around again for my vote I still won't care too much whether
Sharpton plays with Democrats or Republicans.
McLaughlin is a Professor Interdisciplinary Studies and Professor
of Languages, Literature & Philosophy at predominantly
Black Medgar Evers College, in Brooklyn. She’s got a theory.
read your article, "The
Problem with Al Sharpton," and I believe the article
should have been entitled "The Problem with The Black
It's obvious that:
blames Sharpton for the lack of Black unity reflected in African
Americans voting for some of the white Democratic candidates
in greater numbers than for Sharpton. There is no mention
of the impact of "Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome" in
Black voters seeking the approval of "massa" instead
of their own kind, or of the opportunism of certain high profile
Black Democrats who, following Democratic Party orders, undertook
a preemptive strike to throw any Black Democratic presidential
candidate overboard unnecessarily early on in the campaign;
everything white folks write about Sharpton, from the arch-conservative New
York Times to the so-called progressive Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice;
factor in the human nuances of "personal friendship" or the fact
of human nature that human beings, even conservative whites, are attracted
to charismatic individuals of influence such as Sharpton;
a short memory of the battles Sharpton has led, the lashes he has taken over
the years. The real sellouts are Black Democratic leaders and voters
who could not support Sharpton in a credible way for more than several months
despite his sacrifices for the national Black community;
In short, needs
to engage in investigative reporting and a more advanced political analysis
instead of rehashing the garbage of the corporate mainstream media.
her credentials, Dr. McLaughlin presents only sweeping statements
insult. We have already covered what we believe and don’t believe,
what Sharpton denies and does not deny, and Sharpton’s contributions
to Black struggle over the years. It occurs to us that McLaughlin’s "Post-Traumatic
Slave Syndrome" theory might be applicable to Sharpton,
himself, or to professors who ignore facts when any Black
luminary gets in trouble – but that’s not part of our humble
discipline. As for her challenge that do
an investigative piece on Sharpton – she does the Reverend
no service. Long before this primary season, we already knew enough
about Sharpton’s modus operandi to add substantially to the
negative body of reporting, had we chosen such a course – as
do literally scores of Black reporters and activists. McLaughlin
(and Sharpton) should be glad that we find more productive
things to do.
McCaskill, of Irvington, New Jersey, wonders what drove Sharpton
to a “strategy
may not be able to describe the depths of my despair regarding the bombshell
reporting of Sharpton's dubious political and financial
associations by the Village Voice and Black Commentator.
By far it is the most disturbing and devastating
blow to black empowerment in general and the representation
of those aspirations in the person of Al Sharpton in
particular in recent memory with the exception of the
mute Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
the daughter of a Baptist minister, I am struck by the Rev. Sharpton's
lack of faith in a God of Justice and the grassroots who
have meant his survival for these many years. His indiscretion
is reminiscent of the story of Moses' impatience with God
as he led the children of Israel in the wilderness when he
struck the rock to produce water for the people instead of
touching the rock with his staff as God instructed.
Due to his disobedience Moses was not allowed to see the
promised land. Tragically, Rev. Sharpton has mortgaged his
future and the future of black and progressive issues for
some $270,000 odd pieces of silver (the amount on the promissory
note signed over to Roger Stone) and the $348,450 plus in
expenses for his presidential campaign.
and humanity perfection is not a requirement for
legitimacy. However, one wonders how he can ever extricate
himself and his National Action Network from his deal with
Republican devils. Moreover, Rev. Sharpton's demise
is precipitated by an almost forty year gap in continuity
and the co-option of so called black leadership which
has not mobilized people and institutions in a
coherent fashion to combat the scourge of racist political
and economic exclusion that persist in spite of acts
by congress and the courts to ameliorate the legacy of slavery.
While true that the concerns of the black body politic reflect
those of other Americans concerned about jobs, health care
and education, the case for Black America is always urgent
given our doubled rates of unemployment compared to the national
average and dearth in every other measure of societal progress.
Blacks this primary season have thus far split their vote
among the other candidates, hoping to support a candidate
who will beat George Bush. The role that Sharpton would play
in keeping the Democratic Party accountable – already undermined
by black party operatives – will for the foreseeable future be moot.
Sharpton's sense of outrage at the betrayal of the Jackson
family and other establishment black politicos drove him
into a strategy of madness casting his entire promise upon
the waters of collusion with the enemy. Sharpton has
not only destroyed himself but there is now a gaping communal
wound with no apparent balm bearer to redeem the fold. As
an organizer and activist I have long advocated a community
model of leadership where none are as important as the whole.
Hopefully it is not too late to council the Reverend to abandon
this doomed strategy and "get religion" for real
as suggested by Wayne Barrett in the last last line
of his Voice Article.
always your contribution to the struggle of progress is indispensable.
I am privileged to share this moment in history with such an
erudite and committed vision of humanity justice and community.
Can't and won't live without my Black Commentary and Ms. Margaret
Kimberly. Right On!
McCaskill provides a fine segue to Margaret Kimberley’s February
5 column, “No
More Souls to the Polls.” The Freedom Rider wrote:
political appeal of the black church is obvious…. But the history
of the black church should not be an excuse for laziness and
lack of imagination in making political appeals to the black
community. While the presidential candidates campaigned in
Iowa and New Hampshire they held pancake breakfasts, firehouse
chili feeds, school auditorium rallies and luncheons in living
rooms. The candidates ought to know that black voters also
have living rooms and their neighborhood schools would be excellent
sites for political events. Our activities do not begin and
end at the church door and those who do not attend church are
equally entitled to know what politicians are proposing for
their communities and for the nation.
Whitaker Betances introduced himself to Ms. Kimberley as “a
fellow New York ‘product.’” He continued:
to declare both my pleasure, and my agreement, with the
tone and specific
points contained in this fine article.
the dramatics you cataloged, on the part of Democratic
may have some small attraction to those among us who do not
pay even scant attention to local/national politics, they
are an insult to the intelligence of the rest – who are capable
of clear thought!
people have, for too many years, been subject to the trickery
of political "leaders," whose self-interests always came before our interests. (Far too
often, this included many of our own brethren who, in
effect, "sold us out" for their personal "enrichment." And
large among this group have been some "Christian" ministers/pastors,
who have cooperated in the type of manipulation you
described in your writing.)
a whole, Black America is as much in jeopardy today, as
it was prior to
the success of our civil rights efforts. Yet,
we have fewer real leaders, have far less family and community
cohesion, and have lost much of our ability to teach our
young the skills they will need to survive in this society...as
well as among the peoples of the world.
are ill-prepared, as a people, for this "Brave New
of our few chances to stem this tide of being swept to
our destruction clearly
involves all of us becoming more aware of, critically-thinking
about, and participating in local and national voting efforts.
we "African-Americans" are doomed!
the subject of “doom” – once
the corporate media decided to question Howard Dean’s “electability,” his
presidential candidacy was finished. Through hyper-consolidation,
corporate media now possess the power of near-instantaneous
prophesy fulfillment, as was demonstrated when they halved
Dean’s polled support in the space of two weeks in the latter
part of January. John Kerry, who was polling in single digits
in November, suddenly became the frontrunner, having done nothing
on his own to get there. But then, Newsweek polls in mid-December
had shown Dean to be just as electable as Kerry and Wesley
Clark. What happened?
Corporate Power Media (CPM) machine happened. We wrote about
Destructive Power” in our January 29 Cover Story:
is no longer possible to view commercial news media as
mere servants of
the ruling rich – they are full members of the presiding
corporate pantheon. General media consolidation has created
an integrated mass communications system that is both objectively
and self-consciously at one with the Citibanks and ExxonMobils
of the world. Media companies act in effective unison on
matters of importance to the larger corporate class. For
all politically useful purposes, the monopolization of US
media is now complete, in that the corporate owners and managers
of the dominant organs are interchangeable and indistinguishable,
sharing a common mission and worldview….
corporate media has the power of self-fulfilling prophesy,
and they know it. Negative impressions rained down on Dean
like a monsoon, and didn’t let up even after the damage was
done. Dean was tagged by the media as a loser to Bush well
before he let out “The Scream” – an innocuous, non-event, on
the night of his Iowa defeat.
F. Brabenec is a very smart guy from Attica, Michigan. He
asks and answers
the question: “Who controls the agenda?”
Over many decades
I chaired a number of committees, each with various goals
and philosophies. Early on I found that if I also assumed
the duties of physically compiling the committee agenda,
I could control the meeting with little challenge or deviation.
If the topic wasn't on the agenda, it didn't get discussed.
Period. That was the trick I used to steer the committees
in the direction I wanted them to go, regardless of sponsors'
intentions or those of other members on the committee.
After witnessing the mainstream press ridicule and ignore Dean, Kucinich,
Sharpton, Lieberman and Braun in Iowa and New Hampshire and their previous
belittling treatment, I realized that my prior experience on committees
had a direct correlation to what is going on in Corporate America today.
The power elite control the American public's agenda
through their subsidiary, the Corporate Media – which consists of most of our major newspapers, magazines,
cable and network TV and radio stations. Over 90% of the media in this
country is controlled by just a half dozen individuals behind the conglomerates – who
control America’s agenda. And if the topic isn't on the agenda, it doesn't
get discussed in their media.
What we hear or read is chosen for us along with its spin.
When one considers that the decisions we make are based
exclusively on the knowledge we have
of a subject, then it's no wonder we act and vote the way they want us
to. The topics on our daily agenda – and their political spin – are chosen
by Corporate America, not us.
More and more liberal observers are recognizing that “the mainstream media
in the current era is the enemy, and must be treated that way.” While we
stand and aim our progressive arrows at the Corporate Huns out in the field,
their first line assassins in the media who are directly in front of us
are cutting open our bellies.
Damien Hyde sent us
a kind note from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
writing to thank you for your excellent article. I am sending
this article to many of my friends and relatives. Thank you
for exposing what many of us always suspect but are unable
to take the time to put together on paper the way you have
Goldblatt has for some time understood that the corporate media
is the enemy. However, he writes, the beast is hard to get
article on how the corporate media "punked" Howard Dean
and marginalized the peace demonstrators. I tried to
organize a local consumer boycott organization to boycott
the corporate media, besides other inappropriate corporate
outlets – natural gas distribution companies, etc. We
worked for nine months, but could not pull it off. That
is the direct action I think is needed, which the article
alludes to at its end.
marched and continue to march against the war; the international
was marginalized by the press. I've worked for Dean for
a year and for no apparent reason, his "numbers" started
of course cannot be trusted but it was apparent the corporate
media chose to punk Dean.
(we’re not yet two) Peter Taylor is a longtime reader.
the past year or so, I have found your e-zine to be a weekly
breath of fresh air, i.e. life-giving.
you yourselves have noted: Black people are in a position
of leading us all:
is no substitute for confronting the corporate media head-on,
through direct mass action and other, creative tactics.
The rich men’s voices must be de-legitimized in the eyes
of the people, who already suspect that they are being
systematically lied to and manipulated. African Americans
have an advantage in this regard, since we are used to
being lied to and about.”
thanks and blessings to you for exercising this leadership
engage in “conspiracies” all the time: that’s what boardrooms are
for. As fully integrated members of the corporate community,
Big Media favor politicians and parties that promise to create “favorable” business
environments. Consequently, corporate executives are overwhelmingly
Republican – although business also funds conservative Democrats
to further narrow the scope of discussion.
Welch is a genuine corporate barbarian, a downsizing and
merger maniac. Although
retired as General Electric chief – and as the ultimate power
at GE-owned NBC – Welch remains a ruling class member in good
standing. Folks tell him stuff, and he shares his insight with
Chris Dodson picked
up on the general line of discussion.
December 3, '03 Chris Matthews [MSNBC] badgered Howard
Dean until he answered
that he would indeed attempt to break up the media oligarchy
if elected. Even though Matthews had all the candidates
on his weekly election special, Dean was the only one who
received this "special" treatment.
today (2/7) on CNN's money matters with Jack Cafferty,
guest Jack Welch
(hissss) blurted out that Dean had been "slotted" as "unelectable" before Iowa. Hmmm, how would
the former CEO of GE know this? It doesn't take a brain
is going to be a tough fight. We need to work together to build
MJ Parrish called
our attention to an online story that casts a shadow on computer
voting in the New Hampshire primary.
knew electronic disenfranchisement was a real danger, particularly
since eight million people will be voting on electronic "black
box" voting machines this year. But I had no idea
how easily so many votes could be shifted from one candidate
to another without raising a hue and cry – until the NH primary.
At 8 p.m., CNN's Wolf Blitzer said exit polls indicated the
race between Kerry and Dean was too close to call. Yet as the vote tallies rolled
in, that too-close-to-call phenomenon wasn't evident. At the end of
the night, the poll results were very, very different from what exit polls
would have indicated. In precincts where paper ballots were used, Kerry beat
Dean by 1.5%. Yet the two types of electronic voting machines
showed very different results, giving Kerry a runaway victory.
Parrish urges readers to click here: “Kerry
Beat Dean in New Hampshire by Only 1.5% When Computers Were
Not Doing the Counting,” then scroll down to the report.
endgame of the U.S. campaign for “regime change” in Haiti
may be in motion. (See “Haiti
Opposition Attempts “Naked Power Grab,” in this issue.) is
fortunate to have a readership with the depth and breadth of
experience and memory to place apocalyptic events in context.
Jack Kent is a writer
and doctor who has been to Grenada and Nicaragua during their
revolutions, Cuba, Mozambique shortly after the defeat of Portuguese
colonialism, Vietnam in the early Eighties, and many points
in the Middle East. Mr. Kent recalls arriving in Haiti on May
that day there was a failed exile attempt to overthrow
the Papa Doc Duvalier
regime. Arriving at the airport I had this deja vu feeling. Greeting
us as we disembarked was a young man with a cane in a white
sporting outfit. There had been a similar character
in the movie, The Comedian, which I had seen recently in
were only a few tourists who got off the plane and I didn't
any others that day. An official assigned me to a hotel. Most
striking on the ride into town was the sight of women walking
long distances, ferrying water & other goods on
top of their heads.
arriving at the hotel, an old, rambling, colonial style building – again,
deja vu. Almost instinctively I looked to
my right. Was the pool there? In The Comedian, there
was a pool in which some poor butchered soul had been dumped.
I was relieved. There was a pool but no body.
hotel owner brought me up to snuff. Indeed, this was the hotel.
It had been recreated in (forget the country) as the Duvalier
government wouldn't permit it to be filmed in Haiti. Richard
Burton had portrayed the owner, while the airport greeter
was some experience. A haunting close-up of mass starvation. It was tough
to take – me, the only fat man among a million clinging
desperately to life. There was a quiet. Had to
do, I believe, with preserving energy. I guessed it was no
calories in, then no calories out or some such biological
conservation. Unfortunately, it hadn't helped much, I could
see, as there were easily identifiable signs of starvation – pot-bellied
children, for example.
was more. I wrote about it and sent the article to the
journal of the
student medical association. At the time I was a staff physician
in a VA hospital. The article was to be published but there
was a change of guard at the journal. The anti-war editors
were replaced by "old guard” sorts and out went the
are other memories of Haiti, too, but the present situation
doesn't surprise me. Withholding those hundreds of millions
of dollars because of so-called fraudulent elections – what
a joke considering how many legitimately elected governments
the US has overthrown in the last few decades alone.
article Jack Kent wrote nearly 40 years ago was titled, “A
day in Haiti among a million dead.”
A striking number
of visitors that rummage through ’s
archives emerge with comments on Dr. Martin Kilson’s Think
Piece from July 17, 2003: “The
Pretense of Hip Hop Leadership.” The renowned Harvard professor
castigates the recent crop of Black “intellectuals” that exhibit “mindless
hip-hop style irreverence toward African-American civil rights
leadership.” Dr. Kilson
is especially incensed by California professor
of cinema/TV Todd
Boyd’s “grotesque slanders” against
historical Black leadership.
dismisses as valueless the courage, blood, sweat and tears
Blacks in the long and tortuous struggle to smash the cruel
edifice of legal White supremacy. This intellectually thuggish
outlook embraced by Boyd and his hip-hop followers – an outlook
that honors nothing genuinely human – is packaged in slick
commercialistic lingo that adds to its profanity. Boyd appears
to be building a career on insults to past generations of
heroic American-American leaders and citizens who, in Martin
Luther King’s words, “fought the good fight.” Boyd’s words
drip with contempt for Black people’s civil rights tradition….
fact of the matter is, there’s nothing whatever that’s seriously
radical or progressive about hip-hop ideas and values. It
is sad that there are university academics among us like Michael
Dyson and Todd Boyd (respectively at the University of Pennsylvania
and University of California) who fail to recognize the political
emptiness of most hip-hop expression. Hip-hop entertainers
and its entertainment modalities do not represent a “new worldview” for
African Americans. Quite the contrary, the “hip-hop worldview” is
nothing other than an updated face on the old-hat, crude, anti-humanistic
values of hedonism and materialism
Jose S. Gutierrez
Jr. is a Hip-Hop radio
personality, part of the AHB Network, International. Gutierrez
also holds a masters degree in education. He thought long and
hard on Kilson’s commentary, and composed this response:
words and verbal challenges posed towards Hip-Hop culture
are welcome to debate. However, I find Dr. Kilson’s words
lacking insight into the meaningful origins and roots of
the Hip-Hop culture. His credibility and understanding of
the development of Hip-Hop is certainly open to question – given
his statements. I say this out of general respect for Dr.
Kilson. However Dr. Kilson and others who speak of and claim
to celebrate Hip-Hop culture must be aware of the origins
of Hip-Hop; a culture that was born of peace created in the
midst of war – orchestrated by the honorable founders: Afrika
Bambaata, Kool Herc, Flash and many other poor Blacks and
Puerto Ricans from The Bronx, New York.
am aware that most people wrote off Hip-Hop when my sister,
I were breakin’ as elementary school children in the early ‘80s
or when my mother was pop-locking in Watts in the ‘70s. Most
people figured Hip-Hop was a fad, a ghetto fire soon to fizzle
and many people recently jumped on the bandwagon when Hip-Hop
became “mainstream.” Most people ignored the joy and love
experienced by those who live as Hip-Hop breathes inside
and through them. I am aware. If nothing else, Dr. Kilson
in his statement demonstrates our failure as a people to
document, provide mentorship and take ownership of our beautiful
creations (jazz, the blues, bluegrass, the golf tee, etc.). We
devalue ourselves to the point where we devalue our creations
as well, only for external forces and modern-day Mobutus
to allow mercenary forces to tell us what we are worth and
juice us to the pulp. Where are the elders in this process? The
leaders to guide Hip-Hop culture, rather than shun it, debase
it or ignore it?
Kilson rightfully and honorably acknowledges our ancestors
and foundation layers
and the organizations that they represented and that represented
them. But I must also acknowledge something that I see. I
see a failure of some, not all, of our elders of color holding
on to the leadership of our communities to their last dying
breath. I see fake “role models” in church, school and business
who are not uplifting our greatest offering: young people. Our
young people will either be future leaders, future followers
or future puppets and criticizing one of the only things
(Hip-Hop) that empowers them and provides them identity is
a crushing blow, rather than an engaging slap on the butt. I
see people trying to please external populations rather than
our own. Recently I met with a brother, the founder of Tacoma,
Washington’s Eastside Bloods – notorious in the late ‘80s
through the mid-‘90’s for murder and violence. This brother
has been incarcerated for violating the law, but when he
was released he began The Big Homie Program, which provides
mentorship for young kids in Tacoma – who face many challenges
growing up. This brother, Stone, attempted to reach out
to the elder leadership in the Black community and in the
church and he was initially turned away by his own and accepted
and supported by a White pastor down the block. Not that
the White pastor is not a good man, but if we don’t help
our own – we leave them to others to do what they will and
this has an effect on how we look at, treat, trust and interact
with each other. This is not unlike how young Hip-Hop artists
have wound up signing contracts submitted by businessman
who are ignorant of the culture and the people who are of
respect the efforts made by Dr. Kilson and his colleagues
serving for decades
and I stand by the fact that there is much room for positive
improvement in the messaging and modeling for our young people,
but we must communicate with young people rather than dismiss
them. We cannot relinquish influence – these are the youth
with much to learn and right now they are learning from people
who are more interested in how much money can be made than
how much quality of life can be achieved. There is a fine
difference between getting paid and getting paid hand over
fist. Many of the Hip-Hop artists who I have conversed with
and managed have been caught up in record deals that only
a fool would sign, because at the time they were hungry,
too enthusiastic, ignorant and were not nurtured. At the
same time that they must be willing to be nurtured, there
must be people enthusiastic about nurturing them.
I recommend a refocus. Rather than making statements like “There’s nothing
whatever that’s seriously radical or progressive about Hip-Hop
ideas and values”, which is an empty self-satisfying and
depressing statement to make – why not change the game or
at least try? Dr. Kilson with all of his educational, organizational
and life experience on hand could explore a little and reach
out to those people/artists who will respond and who do live
off of their radical and progressive ideas and values which
extend far beyond Hip-Hop. Dead Prez is just one of these “radical” organizations/groups
with political, racial and economic insights and literature. DPZ
(as they call themselves) speak and rap about empowering
people of color, socialism, uplifting Black women (most importantly)
and they highlight current issues like police brutality – always
while acknowledging the ancestors. They are very pro-black,
but most of the fans at their shows I have attended are White?! There
is something to be said when Black folk aren’t attending
Black celebration events. Dead Prez speak at colleges and
in our communities, conversing with the people not about
them or around them. Davey D, Paris, KRS-ONE, KAM, Lighter
Shade of Brown and many others also represent a community
awareness/activism approach from within the Hip-Hop community.
know that elders are tired and have served respectfully,
but wisdom and training
are needed by the next generation of leaders, and not in-bred
leadership either. The fact of the matter is that Dr. Kilson’s
statement that began, “There’s nothing…” is quite premature.
Young people can benefit from and be energized by is his
(positive) guidance and wisdom, rather than motionless commentary.
respects to Dr. Martin Kilson.
Slater is a freelance writer, born in the Boogie-Down-Bronx,
in Dallas, Texas. Here’s his commentary:
It started off as
a usual drive home: I threw the laptop in the backseat, checked
the gas gauge, and popped in one of my favorite cassettes.
In my car, I keep an array of old school Hip Hop that includes
the likes of BDP, Public Enemy, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and
Bizmarkie. One may feel that at 34, I should have matured
to Jazz status by now. However, as I drive home I reminisce
of a time that Hip-Hop encompassed a culture, which included
break dancing, Graffiti, MC battles, and colorful fashion
my translation of the word Hip-Hop, I simplify the term
as such: Hip, borrowed
from the Seventies slang term meaning “cool,” and Hop representing
dance, such as a sock hop. When you put these two words together
you get the term Hip-Hop, meaning cool music to dance to.
Back then, music wasn’t necessarily rated G as evidenced
by Boogie Down Productions inaugural album entitled Criminal
Minded, but even by using that example KRS 1 acknowledged
his violence on his follow up hit single My Philosophy, and
raised the bar by using his status in the industry to educate
the public about life in the street, the government, and
regarding blacks in America. Other artists during this era
continued this movement on wax, which was created by the
grit of the street proletariat.
I arrived home, I spent precious family time with my wife
and children, and
then wound the night down by reading the Dallas Morning News.
While perusing the entertainment section of the paper, I
was appalled that the nominees for best Rap Album included
Petey Pablo and Mystical. It was at that point that I realized
that Hip-Hop had turned into Hip-Pop. Gone are the real MC’s
that had different personalities and attributes that set
them apart from each other. For example, Das Efx, Digible
Planets, Rakim, Cool G Rap and Polo and Public Enemy were
able to co-exist in an atmosphere that embraced them for
most rap songs include explicit sexual innuendo, fairy
tales of being
rich and famous, gangster brutality, and violence towards
our women. We find ourselves typecast all over again, as
if today’s artists are nothing but modern day Hattie McDanielses. Part
of me believes that this negative self-imposed image can
be attributed to the lack of a positive male influence in
the lives of Black males in general. It is my belief that
some of these rap artists are emulating a caricature of what
being a strong black man really means. The foul-mouth, sex-crazed,
muscle-bound caricature is a gross misrepresentation. However,
the stereotype can be considered an ugly side effect of the
plethora of social ills that plague the Black community.
way the industry works is similar to a slave auction block,
where the master
secures the services of a muscle-laden, young buck so he
can be assured that he would have a good crop, and create
wealth for himself and his family. Today is no different.
The industry is infatuated with marketing hardcore types
such as 50 cent, Trick Daddy, DMX, JA Rule, and the late
Tupac Shakur. This is the image that the CEOs of major record
companies want you to see. As long as this type of new wave
blaxploitation is profitable, it won’t go away, but will
continue to eat at the fabric that holds the Hip-Hop community
together. Rap will suffer the same fate as the infamous “Freaknik,” which
started off as a get together between schools that encompass
the Atlanta University Center. Playing football in the park,
barbecue, and Frisbee were quickly replaced by sex, violent
acts, and t-shirt sales. Greed and blatant disregard for
the common good inevitably led to the demise of that event.
Until Blacks in
America express their dismay by sending a strong message
to the media distributors, record labels, and producers that
we are tired of being depicted as minstrels, it will continue
to be business as usual.
don’t fault the
artist for making an honest dollar, however, every time I
hear children repeat profanity laced verses, I think of the
adults that allow their children to be exposed to music that
is inappropriate for their age. Hip-Hop, as we know it will
die a slow and painful death unless record companies start
signing artists that are the mouthpieces of the community.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it will take 50 Chuck D’s to
save Hip-Hop; it means that we need to hear what is important
to us, not what serves the almighty record companies.
For now, I will
always cherish the memories of my cousin Terrince and I exiting
my grandmothers Bronx apartment toting a large boom box in
hand, and walking down a urine drenched stairwell to get
to the park bench, where we communicated with each other
by nodding our heads to the beat as we prepared ourselves
for a game of one on one stickball.
a very few exceptions, today’s Hip-Hop reminds me only of that
stairwell, and not Hip-Hop’s glory days.
Lamont Slater can
be contacted at [email protected].
Haynes made our day – no, he brightened the whole week.
enjoy reading your articles. This forum replaces Emerge magazine
that was discontinued. I've been looking to find a replacement,
either print or electronic – glad I found you.