Issue Number 14
October 17, 2002

To our great relief, was spared from commenting on the "Barbershop" furor. Only one reader wrote to us about the movie, and his was a novel contribution to what has been a very shallow debate.

Carl Harris' letter made us leery, at first. It was addressed to "Honored influential loving leader," causing heads in our office to swivel, as in, "Where?" We're still not sure if Harris is a skilled satirist, or blessed with the rare quality of sincerity. You decide.

"Barbershop" has scenes mentioning Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King in a manner that some feel is negative. Some suggest editing out those scenes. An alternative synergistic solution exists, and you can influence a positive solution. "EDITING IN" scenes is recommended. I recommend that the film stars create a serious scene emphasizing the importance of registering to vote, voting, and the roles that Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King played in facilitating voting rights in this free democratic society. After this change, leaders like you can urge potential viewers to "reverse boycott" the movie and seek qualified registrars to "sit in".

Your ability to influence many is greatly appreciated. Will you please use your many resources to insure that the right people get this message and that action, as you deem appropriate, is taken? Thank you kindly.

Harris provides complete instructions for a "'Barbershop' Reverse Boycott - Sit In Voter Registration Drive Apology," to be undertaken jointly by the movie's producers, writers, and actors, and the "honored influential loving leaders" who are so concerned about the current version of the film.

I believe that it was implied that Rosa Parks was just tired when refusing to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, an action that lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, precipitating many other civil rights actions. I also believe that Martin Luther King's "alleged" philandering was made light of.

If time is allocated in every showing of "Barbershop" with the cast seriously informing viewers of the power and importance of voting in the United States of America, this could make a very big difference in this democracy, particularly this November. An additional campaign soliciting qualified registrars to "sit in" at every showing of the movie having materials available to register viewers could have a huge impact on the political system in this free and democratic society.

Far greater than an apology, I recommend that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Incorporated, Ice Cube and others participating in the movie "EDIT IN" a message for all current showings and future digital video device and video released versions of the movie. This message, asking all viewers, especially the African-American ones, to register to vote and actually get out and vote, communicating that voting is "cool", could reach many. Qualified registrars could "sit in" and potential viewers can be urged to "reverse boycott" the newly edited version of the movie by community leaders like you.

Harris thanks the "leaders" for their "valued time." Harris deserves thanks for his wit, and for providing us with an opening to briefly discuss the "real" Rosa Parks: the fully conscious, never-tired-of-struggle, knew-exactly-what-she-was-doing activist who has been buried in mythology while still alive.

It served the civil rights movement's purposes to depict Ms. Parks as a kind of "face in the crowd" of racial oppression, just another middle-aged Black woman who one evening decided to sit down and rest her feet with dignity in the "white" section of a bus. The character had great appeal - to white liberals, especially - but it was a fictional character.

In reality, the Rosa Parks of December 1, 1955 was a veteran mover-and-shaker who stepped on that Montgomery, Alabama bus fully intending to light the fuse of history.

We thank Evelyne Laurent-Perrault ([email protected]), Coordinator of Multicultural Programs at Haverford College, for forwarding to us a review of a Penguin Books biography of Rosa Parks, the disciplined and conscious change-maker:

For example, "while the NAACP executives made dinner speeches and attended national conferences," Parks, as the local NAACP secretary, "balanced the ledgers, kept the books, and recorded every report of racial discrimination that crossed her desk. She also did field research, traveling from towns like Union Springs to cities like Selma to interview African Americans with legal complaints, including some who had witnessed the murders of blacks by whites in rural areas."

In 1945, on a trip to a NAACP leadership-training seminar in Jacksonville, Florida, she met and became good friends with Ella Baker, the legendary womanist who in the 1960s encouraged young civil rights activists to organize the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNICK). In the spring of 1955 she refused to go along with a petition drawn up by her closest associates for a partial desegregation of Montgomery buses because she thought it "demeaning" to demand less than outright desegregation.

Shortly thereafter, over the objections of Raymond Parks, her beloved barber husband, she decided to take two weeks off from her job at the Montgomery Fair Department Store to learn new techniques for activism at the Highlander Folk School. At Highlander she met Septima Clark who had studied with W.E.B. DuBois at Atlanta University. "Some of her great courage and dignity and wisdom may have rubbed off on me," Parks would say later.

Grace Lee Boggs reviewed "Rosa Parks: A Penguin Life," by Douglas Brinkley. The book details how "black men and especially black preachers were not used to sharing the spotlight with women. So, out of envy, male colleagues like E.D. Nixon and Rev. Ralph Abernathy began making Rosa's life miserable by belittling her and her husband...."

It's long past time to shout it loudly and proudly: Rosa Parks was a radical soldier in the struggle long before she sat down on the bus. Perhaps Carl Harris, the originator of the reverse-apology-sit and edit-in, can convince our "honored influential loving leaders" and movie moguls to produce "The Real Rosa Parks" - with voter registrars manning the theater snack bars.

The price of silence

At times it seems we can almost hear the roar of approaching war - but little outcry is heard from the national office of the NAACP. Sadu Nanjundiah, a physics teacher at Central Connecticut State University, is more than disappointed with the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

I am a subscriber to Black Commentator and appreciate the views and news of the African-American community. I am sorry that the NAACP has not taken a strong stand against the impending Bush war against Iraq. It is illegitimate and immoral, given the terrible innocent casualties that will result from bombing. When the U.S. Army is sent in, African-American soldiers will be on the front line in great numbers bearing the brunt of any battle.

The National Security Adviser, Dr. Rice, is wholly unrepresentative of the feelings in the community. I was aghast when she received the NAACP Image Award recently. Even worse is the silence of the NAACP in face of the targeted attacks against African-American Congressional Representatives like Ms. Cynthia McKinney and Mr. Earl Hilliard.

NAACP officials we have talked to stress that the organization is a non-partisan, democratic, deliberative body that has not had the opportunity to discuss the imminent hostilities at a full meeting of the board. On the syndicated TV program America's Black Forum, NAACPChairman Julian Bond voiced his personal opposition to a unilateral U.S. first strike against Iraq. "I don't think that a majority of the American people are for that," said Bond, adding, "I speak only for myself."

NAACP Executive Director Kweisi Mfume, of course, has a long way to go to make up for giving the Image Award to Condoleezza Rice, who is now the African American female image of aggression.

The organization cannot avoid its responsibilities much longer. "The NAACP can no longer afford to be hypocritically silent as African-Americans are used/recruited to conspicuously perpetrate injustices abroad, as we cry for relief from similar injustices at home," wrote Rev. Curtis Gatewood, president of the Durham branch of the NAACP, in a letter to Mfume.

Gatewood was reprimanded by the NAACP national office last year for calling upon Blacks to refuse to serve in Afghanistan. At that time, Mfume issued a statement: "This is a time for all Americans to stand united and defend the ideals of a free and open society where terrorism has no place."

The Durham activist has all but dared Mfume to strip him of his chapter presidency, declaring that the national office's silence is "keeping us side-tracked and artificially united around the flag of patriotism that is deceitfully waved in the clouds of racism.
I'm saying the NAACP should pick up the banner and be on the front line for world justice, not just American justice."

Welcome to The New American Century

reader Phil Goldvarg is a poet. In response to our commentary, "Black America and Bush's New World Order," Goldvarg dropped us a line, and wrote a few to George Bush.

Thank you for your strong voice. With respect, I wanted to share this poem with you.

In Glen Ford's October 3 Letter to the Readers, he drew attention to a report of the Project for a New American Century, entitled "Rebuilding America¹s Defenses," the apparent blueprint for Bush's war-without-end. Jim Thompson, editor of the Jefferson Post, in Jefferson, North Carolina, forwarded his own editorial response to the global war plan.

Is the rush to war against Iraq really about Saddam Hussein - or is that just an excuse to seize control of the second largest oil reserves in the world? Does the Bush Administration plan to turn space into a battleground? Do they really believe the United States should seek to dominate the world by military power? Other nations have tried, and all have failed disastrously. There is no reason to think we would succeed.

The American people have a right to know the answers to these and other questions. It is the average people who will be asked - or forced - to make the sacrifices to fulfill this nightmare of attempted world domination. The Bush Administration needs to distance itself from The Project¹s imperialism before the rest of world decides we are a rogue nation - and acts accordingly. They might remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools."

Caesar Howell has a more theatrical take on the players who strut the world stage:

I have noticed a few things concerning the "staged" scenarios that are occurring since last year's events and after the administration had a meeting with the movie industry. Follow me as I connect The Republic and the Star Wars series. It is not so far fetched considering what is happening. In Plato's Republic, the plan for domination is spelled out and following the present path. As for the connection to the Star Wars Saga, the Emperor (George W.) has taken advantage of a situation of danger and exploited it to his advantage (Episode I). Next the Senate (U.S. House of Reps and the UN) are arm-twisted to solve a crisis and give up their better judgment in a battle, real or imagined (Episode II). And as soon as the world gets a little wiser to the global domination and loss of rights, the Emperor plays his card to dissolve the Senate (the U.N. - "You are either with Us, or Against US!").

Does that sound familiar? If the UN does not capitulate to what the US wants, what do you think will happen?

Nelson Mandela has spoken about it. What are we doing over here?

David Shaffer-Gottschalk took note of our comments on the public opinion polls, which show that the War Party is made up of "youngish, white, affluent, well educated, churchgoers."

Thank you for that insightful analysis. I happen to be one of those white church-going people, but one who does not support the God of War. You have boldly said in your letter about the Bush administration what I have been trying to say (in vain, I might add) to those around me, and you have said it more eloquently than I have been able to.

Brother Sekou also writes eloquently, yet concisely:

Thank You for your insight, foresight and endarkenment. As a Vietnam Vet, I have learn't my lesson about war, and who is the real terrorist.

And, from Jerry A. Stanley:

You did a great job of presenting the issues in this article. Keep it up!

The Billionaire Trojan Horse

Bob Johnson may speak for half of the Black billionaires in the U.S., but most readers don't appear to think highly of him or BET. In our last issue, we called Johnson "the most powerful Black Trojan Horse in the nation, by virtue of his wealth," and described his ongoing collaboration with the Bush White House on social security and tax issues. Adrienne D. Dixson registered her contempt for the man-called-mogul:

I am appalled and thoroughly disappointed that this man will sell us out for his personal gain. He should be ashamed of himself. As much as I enjoy watching videos on BET (yes, I'll admit to that), I refuse to watch the network anymore. It makes me wonder how much further he will sink? I am saddened that we cannot trust that those who have benefited so much from our loyalty will truly look after the entire community and not just his own.

Thank you also for providing the links so that reader's can do their own research on Mr. Johnson and his cronies.

Dr. Cecilia Bowie is spreading the word around on Johnson.

Thank you for such an illuminating article on such a deceitful individual. I'll be passing this type of information along to my colleagues. continues to be one of the most informative documents ever.

Johnson gathered almost 50 rich African Americans, including a number of Black media manipulators, to endorse elimination of the Estate Tax on the wealthy. Attorney Leroy Wilson, Jr. handles rich people's money, all the time. Wilson knows greed when he sees it.

Since Bob Johnson is one of the wealthiest African-Americans, I wonder how much of his wealth is passed on to charity as a percentage of his net worth, when compared to Bill Gates and Ted Turner? I select these latter two because I know that they have made substantial contributions to worthy charitable causes. Of course, Walter Annenberg's $50 million contribution to UNCF is still unparalleled, I think.

The New York Times (910/6/02 at page 33) reports that Mr. Annenberg left half of his fortune to his family, an art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the rest to charity.

Perhaps if Mr. Johnson and others knew of the estate and income tax advantages that they could get by using charitable giving in their estate planning, they would give some of their wealth away to benefit those who are not members of their immediate families. On the other hand, they may also use the tax laws to make gifts to their families. Bill Gates' father and Warren Buffett spoke out very forcefully on this subject. In fact, they argued that a repeal of the estate tax would cause a lot of charitable giving to dry up. Bob Johnson makes a mistake however, when he characterizes (as I remember) his wealth as being generated by him. He seems to forget that he accumulated his wealth on the backs of the Fannie Lou Hamers, and others, including those who provide the talent for his shows.

Clarke R. Watson rates Johnson as a plague on Black people. Watson also caused pain to the billionaire's pocket.

What you don't understand is that Bob Johnson will eagerly sell out Black folk for a dime.

Remember, it was his glorifying gangsta' rap that launched his BET career. I had his local cable channel 50, here in Denver, yanked off the air a decade or so ago. He flew all the way out here from DC to chastise me about the 1st Amendment.

Nevertheless, it stayed off the air. As an African American I think Bob Johnson is as dangerous to our interests as the KKK.

Stewart R. Hubbard wrote far too long, so we told him to shorten it up or accept our edit. This is what was left.

I truly feel that we should not penalize people because they have obtained wealth, whether if they are black or white, or some other race. If people took the opportunity to invest their money wisely, then why should they have to support people through their taxes who do not go out to work? It is not right, regardless if we were all the wealthy people and whites were the poor ones, it would be wrong for them to expect handouts either.

Mr. Hubbard accused of not understanding economics.

Gary Spencer knows all about Bob Johnson's rightwing ways, and seems irritated that we did not detail them all.

You act as though we should expect something better from Bob
Johnson. Isn't he the one who assisted in the elevation of "booty-shake"
with BET all of those years? Isn't he the one who couldn't be bothered
with any serious African-American cinema during that ownership? Why
should we expect anything else?

We could have mentioned Johnson's firing of superb commentator Tavis Smiley, his union busting at BET - the list is long. Billionaires can do a lot of damage. We can't afford this one.

Zimbabwe Guest Commentary response

Last issue's e-MailBox column featured a headline: "Anglo-Saxons Beware." This did not sit well with Charles B. (Ben) Cranston, a professor at the University of Maryland.

As a white Anglo Saxon of British descent I wonder why I was put onto this mailing list. Up until now I have refrained from complaining because the material was interesting and awareness-raising. However, this quote, which was under the head "Anglo-Saxons beware", is somewhat alarming.

[Cranston disagrees with reader Clifford E. Bell, who wrote.]

Professors Metzler and Derman are knowingly or unknowingly supporting the psychological warfare, which is anti any/all African programs for SELF Sufficiency. The two 'scholars' are of a western, institutionalized orientation. They are promoting the idea that Anglo Saxons have the right to be on the land [as well as own land] in Africa. The two 'scholars', knowingly or unknowingly, are pro-western, criminal propagandists.

Given the history of colonialism in Africa I can certainly understand that historical land ownership situations might be considered suspect, however, I draw the line at the assertion that Anglo Saxons might not have the right to own land (assuming it is fairly acquired). To argue otherwise is just reverse racism. I do believe in some form of affirmative action (i.e., just declaring the playing field level and walking away is an insufficient response to historical racism), but to declare differential land ownership rights based on race seems to me to be the wrong remedy.


The "Anglo-Saxons Beware" headline was, like many of our headings in the mail section, tongue-in-cheek. One would think that a person of your [British] background would get the wry humor - and we believe you did. You certainly don't write as if you are unduly alarmed.

On the subject of "reverse racism" - Mr. Bell has no power, and can't enforce any of his pronouncements regarding conditions in Africa. "Racism" has no effect in the absence of power; there is no "reverse" of it in the U.S. as measured against the actual thing, which has killed so many millions.

Privilege comes in many forms. The white "farmers" of the former Rhodesia did gain the land by privilege, in relationship to the indigenous population. That must be addressed. Mugabe's cronies shouldn't be privileged, either - although the real soldiers who fought in the bush should be rewarded. They died in many thousands.

In our October 31 issue, activist and scholar Dr. Chris Lowe will take yet another look at land tenure in Zimbabwe.

Keep writing.

Rosa Parks Book List from the website of the hometown paper of the city she helped make famous.

PDF of Project for The New American Century report.


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Other commentaries in this issue:

Permanent War: Permanent State of Emergency

Trojan Horse Watch: Bob Johnson’s message invades Black radio...Rep. Harold Ford: mess of the blue dog...The Trojan Horse TV show

Briefs:The Four Eunuchs of War...The most dangerous game...Smack, Blow, and Blowback...Lethally stupid and more...

IRAQ, WAR & COLOR RACISM: By Dr. David Graham Du Bois, Guest Commentator

A Jewish Peace Activist on Baraka’s Poem: Urban Legends by Rachael Kamel, Guest Commentator

RE-PRINT: Harry Belafonte on Colin Powell...CNN Larry King Live Interview with Belafonte

Interview: Educate and Advocate - Henry Nicholas on social justice in America

Commentaries in Issue 13 October 3 , 2002:

Lantern of Liberty:
Harriet Tubman Mural Replaced by a Parking Lot

BET's Black Billionaire Trojan Horse:
"Democrat" Bob Johnson Fronts For GOP

Black Children Still Victimized by "Savage Inequalities":
Public education amid racism and isolation
by Elena Rutherford, Guest Commentator

Black political self-financing
Senator Ed Brooke mislaid
Hip Hop and heroin
Anglo-Saxons beware

A letter to our readers:
Black America and Bush's New World Order

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.