Organizing Upgrade

A+ A A-
Movin the Masses: Ramblings on political action in the Black Community

628x471Watching part's of the Zimmerman trial has reminded me of all that's wrong with the American jurisprudence system. In my best legal argument - the prosecution eats ass (sorry if there is a organized group of salad tossers who are offended by the comparison to the prosecution). Let's start with the picking of a jury that includes no Black woman. Any trial attorney who has studied the science of jury selection knows that - in a matter involving a Black male victim or if the defendant is a young Black male - Black women are more open to listening to the nuances of the case.  The most obvious reason is that Black women have birthed many a Black son. Black women like Trayvon's mother are familiar with what racial profiling is from their own lived experiences and from the lives they share with fathers, sons, uncles and cousins who also have to survive being targeted on a daily basis.  This strategy is almost sacrosanct for prosectors who want to win some justice in these type of cases. To somehow allow the selection of five white woman (on a six-member jury) shows that the prosecutor is either inept or has potentially decided to throw the case.

Further, the prosecution has not presented a succinct theory of the case. In essence this case is about a wanna-be Barney Fife who was rejected from being a cop and who had his "thug-o-meter" go off because he sees a "threat" from every young Black man.  Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin, left vehicle and instigated a confrontation (reflected by 911 operator saying that they don't need him to continue following). At some point, he may have been losing the fight and then shot young Martin.

Instead of presenting a case that can be easily understood, we get an overabundance of witnesses that step over each other and who did not need to be called to the stand at all. The prosecution needed only one police investigator to lay out the background, the 911 operator that Zimmerman spoke to, one expert who could document why neighborhood watch-cops should not confront people they deem suspicious and a forensic expert. In the closing argument, he should  present a crisp clarification on how the "stand your ground" law works: you can't start a fight and then claim self-defense when you get the worse of it.

The star witness should have been Trayvon's young friend, Rachel Jeantel, who  was on the phone with him during his walk home when he noticed he was being followed. Her dramatic testimony - along with Martin's mother's - should have sealed the conviction. Ms. Jeantel was of course nervous when testifying because - really - who isn't when being asked questions in a trial that is a media onslaught and then having to face a harsh cross-examination? It would be interesting to know how many hours were spent preparing the witness, making sure that she understood what was going to happen and how to respond. However unflatteringly she was portrayed by stupid and racist pundits, there was an element of a witness who was not sure how to respond when attacked. The prosecution (who also has a "creepy ass cracka" look) seems to have not spent an adequate amount of time making sure the witness was ready for what he knew would happen during the cross-examination. Although she held up well, she may not have been properly prepared for the art of theater in the court room.

As we know, the state policing system never wanted to press charges in this case. Out of impulse, they immediately sympathized with anyone who claims self-defense after shooting a young black man. The idea that our youth are captured animals who can turn dangerous at any time when they are not under supervision has almost become an instinct to the larger white society. This prosecution is similar to those that we have seen many times when actual police offers are tried against the will of the prosecutor and the verdicts are almost always a foregone conclusion.

If the verdict in this case turns out to be what many are beginning to suspect - that Zimmerman will be found "not guilty " - the passion and resistance by the family and the grassroots community that demanded charges were filed against Zimmerman won't be forgotten. If the verdict is not guilty, many will take to the streets again to make sure that others understand that there is a price to pay for taking the lives of young Black men and that - when a so-called criminal justice system continues to fail in providing even a small level of justice - the community will act. And we will find more than just Zimmerman guilty.

13AmendmentSquareAfter 148 years, Mississippi has "officially" abolished slavery by ratifying the 13th amendment. We can assume that what took policymakers so long was the historical and present-day desire to make sure white privilege was so ingrained that formal slavery was no longer needed. Mississippi policy makers, the moneyed elite and - at the time - the vast majority of its minority white population were all in agreement on how to proceed on this important task. The historic sequence of outright terror and new systems of servitude launched against the Black population included mass killings, lynchings, rape, sharecropping, prison labor and forced flight that decreased the majority Black population of Mississippi to a minority. This all sufficed to raitfy a political economy of white dominance that was well in place through the 1950 and 60s. Even after the civil rights and black power movements killed off the last of de jure segregation in Mississippi, a new consensual de facto supremacist system still rules. This system is embraced by far too many people in Mississippi's now majority white population and by its policy makers, moneyed white leaders. It is even quietly endorsed by the Magnolia's State new Black elite.

obama and israelAs Lupe Fiasco said in Words I Never Said “Gaza Strip Was Gettin Bombed, Obama Didn’t Say Shit…” Well, actually he has. The White House has fully endorsed Israel’s bombing campaign against the Gaza strip. Press Secretary Jay Carney, speaking for the Obama Administration, stated “there is no justification for rockets from Gaza.” I guess stealing land, destroying homes, drone bombing campaigns and creating an updated American style reservation that amounts to the largest prison in the world would not be justifiable for those not living in it.

ArethaArticleA 1970's news article on Aretha Franklin's heroic gesture to pay bail for then recently arrested Angela Davis has been circulating on face-book. Aretha offered to pay bail stemming from the capture of Angela Davis in New York after a massive FBI woman hunt in 1970. Ms. Davis was charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy for allegedly supplying weapons for an attempted courtroom escape led by Jonathan Jackson to free his brother and revolutionary leader George Jackson. Angela Davis already well known for her battles with then California Governor Ronald Reagan over her right to teach in California Universities after being identified as a communist sealed her image as a revolutionary icon in the Black movement. The article has caught the attention of many because of Aretha's striking and unapologetic stance in offering bail towards Mr. Davis release.

BarronReading the attack by Moveon.org on New York Councilman Charles Barron was a reminder of how little things change in America. The need to demonize Black leaders who are unrepentant in organizing a sphere of Black political power and in holding independent political positions is as alive today as it was during the Black Power era of the 1960's. Since the destruction of that movement, white political elites are vigilant in  guaranteeing that Black leaders who step outside the acceptable parameters of political thought gets knocked down. Liberals believe that they represent the cutting edge of a rational left discourse. Through their delusional fog of self-righteousness, they believe they should gut-check anyone who steps outside their artificial boundaries.

garveySome Thoughts on What Young Black Activists Should Consider In Creating a Successful Black Movement

Occupy Wall Street’s name is so popular now that it has entered pop culture lexicon and can be referred to by one name only as in “Occupy”, like “Prince” or “Drake”. This speaks volumes to its ability to gain attention and now to be scrutinized by corporate media. This moment that “Occupy” is still attempting itself to occupy speaks to a major breakthrough in the public conversation on uneven wealth distribution and the tactics to confront such. Tactical responses have already stretched the boundaries of the original theme, from worker strikes and port shut-downs on the west coast to adopting the “Take Back the Land” strategy of physically preventing foreclosures and evictions in other areas.

As Occupy continues to shape-shift the question for those intimately involved is what next? How do they create structure and leadership, radical strategic goals and public politics that will define them past this initial burst of action? One prudent piece of advice is to watch out for the Democratic Party and their associates bearing gifts. Ultimately, their goal is to reduce the militancy of Occupy and to squeeze out a few votes for moderate politicians. These politicians will mostly pretend at wanting to change the political and economic order but do little once elected to challenge real contradictions of class and race. Any alliance that is not well prepared will end in cooptation. Despite the impressive beginning of the mostly white-led left leaning groupings important decisions lay ahead on how to move forward and movement build.

wallstMany have questioned the lack of black support for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) moment. The most clear answer I can give is that when black folks in mass are presented with a choice they ain't about to go sleep in no damn damp park. When for now some still got a roof over our heads. As acts of defiance go, we don’t view it as a visually appealing spectacle, sleeping in the park is identified as an act of desperation that happens when you are at the end of your economic rope. Sleeping tents are usually a valuable commodity at this stage. For black folks I don't think anyone has tried such a tactic on a mass scale since the Poor People's Campaign in 1968 that ended as Resurrection City, in an attempt to pass an economic bill of rights in the memory of Dr. King who was assassinated before being able to complete this campaign.

Last year while at Atlanta encampment there were plenty of black people in the park, they just weren't there by choice. Clearly at first both groups kept their eerie distance, except as a mutual curiosity piece. In my most cynical view it seemed that each side took stock of a possible attempt to engage in a quick hustle. The homeless look to see what the “liberal” park inhabitants would give up, while the OWS folks hope to get some media millage by cozying up to some real poor people.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012 09:20

The New Southern Strategy

Kamau Franklin has worked as a community activist for over fifteen years in New York City and is now based in the south. In addition to his work as an activist attorney, he is a leading member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). An organization dedicated to human rights advocacy and building grassroots institutions in the black community. The organization works on various issues including youth development, fighting police misconduct, and creating sustainable urban communities. Kamau has helped develop community cop-watch programs, freedom school programs for youth and alternatives to incarceration programs. He recently moved to Jackson Mississippi to do political work, and he reflects on that move and its strategic implications in this piece. You can read more of Kamau’s thoughts on his Grassroots Thinking blog.

Published in Community Organizing

Comment via Facebook

About the Author

  • Kamau has worked as a community activist and attorney for over fifteen years in New York City and now in the south. He has been a leading member of several grassroots organizations dedicated to human rights advocacy and building grassroots institutions in the black community. Currently he is building a new organization named Amandla Training and Organizing Project. You can follow Kamau on twitter at @kamaufranklin.

Organizing Upgrade 2012 / Built by Union Labor

Register