Category Archives: American Progressive Politics

Martin Luther King more than starry-eyed dreamer

Monday, Jan. 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. ~ January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

I listen to Martin Luther King’s speeches and sermons over and over again like some people listen to popular songs.

I have my favorites, such as “The Other America,” “Where Do We Go from Here,” “The Drum Major Instinct,” and “How Long, Not Long.” I like these better than “I Have a Dream” because they have more substance.

In “The Drum Major” sermon, King said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve” — regardless of your station in life. In “The Other America” speech, King preached about wasting billions on an “ill-considered war” while neglecting the poor here in America.

When you examine the levels of poverty and unemployment in the nation today, I believe that King would determine that the nation had failed to heed his vision of jobs, justice and peace.

These days it’s hard to compete with the mainstream’s success in making King just a starry-eyed “dreamer” and a commercial commodity.

I was watching a football game during the holiday season when a commercial from one of the major retail chains announcing its MLK Day Sale popped up on the screen. It didn’t even use an image of King, just the initials “MLK,” accompanied by an array of appliances marked down for “the one-day event.”

Looking back to the dedication of the King Memorial on the Mall in Washington this past October, you couldn’t ignore the many corporate sponsors of the monument. The list of supporters was a who’s who of American business — General Motors, Tommy Hilfiger, Verizon, General Electric and Wal-Mart, just to name a few.

Even so, I’m always thankful when Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes around. Whatever the advertisers try to sell you and the politicians try to tell you, King’s message of unconditional love and nonviolent redemptive good and his steadfast attack on the evils of racism, poverty and militarism just cannot be ignored.

They can try to co-opt him, but his image is always going to look odd next to a washing machine or a hamburger or a self-serving politician.

Gray is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. E-mail: pmproj@progressive.org; website: www.progressive.org.

South Carolina, MLK, Black America’s Invisibility

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Kevin Alexander Gray on State Violence and the Murder of Troy Anthony Davis

KPFA FLASHPOINTS

Execution of Justice by Kim Nicolini

With the murder of Troy Anthony Davis by the state of Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a 2009 capital punishment opinion of  conservative associate, Justice Antonin Scalia, in which he ruled: “[T]his court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”

Still, the ultimate victory for Troy Davis is that he inspired millions of people – around the world and here in the United States – who want to live in a more peaceful and less violent society. In that regard Troy’s life and murder by the government was not in vain. Sometimes it takes a single incident to shake people up.

Bruce Dixon, managing editor@Black Agenda Report: ” It’s great that so many people signed Troy Davis’s petition and made themselves so visible as opponents of the death penalty. But Troy was clearly and obviously innocent, and imprisoned for decades, ultimately executed anyhow. But until we stand up for the rights of ALL the imprisoned, convicted and formerly convicted, including all those whose innocence, however you construe that word, is not so obvious and those who may in fact not even be innocent —- till we stand for their human rights to education, to health care and a decent chance at life by radically shrinking and ultimately ending the institution of prison the machine that convicts the literally innocent will retain legitimacy and roll on, doing what it does. In other words, coming out to oppose the execution of an obvious innocent person like Troy Davis is low hanging fruit. It’s good that so many are wiling to reach for it. But we will rarely be able to save even these till we de-legitimize the institution of prison and chop down the whole rotten tree.”

Amnesty International

To hear Kevin Alexander Gray’s interview click on header@top of page.  To contribute time or money to organizations working to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. click on any or all of the provided logos.  Click on Kim Nicolini’s artwork of Troy to link to his website which is being maintained by family and friends.  Or start, help start or join an existing anti-death-penalty group.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

The struggle continues.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

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Unconditional, unrequited love? | By Kevin Alexander Gray

(Note: edited version, “Obama and Black America: Who Has Whose Back?”’ published in August 2011 edition of The Progressive | updated data –WashPost/ABC News Poll: Big Drop In Black Support For President Obama )

“I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul.”

—Martin Luther King, “Loving Your Enemies,” November 17, 1957

I ran into Congressman Jim Clyburn at Brookland Baptist Church, here in Columbia, during the 2010 midterm election season while campaigning with South Carolina Green Party senate candidate Tom Clements. As we all exchanged pleasantries, I jokingly mentioned to Jim that I had gotten his campaign mail with the picture of him and President Barack Obama on it. He seemed genuinely pleased, so much so that he walked me over to check out the special poster he had at his campaign material table. The poster was also of Clyburn with the commander-in-chief. Clyburn appears to be making a point in the President’s ear. Obama looks and leans as though he’s listening. The U.S. flag is in the background. At the bottom of the poster read the caption: “JIM HAS THE PRESIDENT’S EAR, AND WE MUST HAVE THEIR BACKS!!!”

Clyburn didn’t really need Obama’s help in getting reelected in his safe district, which is 57 percent African American. And he’s never had any serious opposition to his seat. But it would have taken some help from Obama for him to keep his spot as the second-ranking Democrat in the House after the drubbing their party took in the midterm elections. That help was not forthcoming. When the dust settled, Clyburn wasn’t even offered the minority whip job, which went to Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Clyburn was given the new title of assistant Democratic leader. Clyburn has fewer staff than before, he is no longer involved in vote-counting, nor is he a key party messenger. Clyburn’s demotion has not sat well with the Congressional Black Caucus, which he used to chair. But it typifies Obama’s indifference to African Americans across the board.

Last December, when he was polling in the mid-nineties among blacks, during a White House press conference a black reporter asked Obama about grumblings among the black leadership. He replied: “I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African-American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do.”

Yet even as he boasted, that same month the black unemployment rose from 15.7 percent to 16 percent, almost double the Dec. 9% national rate (Aug 2011- 9.1%). Black male unemployment rose from 16.3 percent to 16.7 percent as 1.3 million black men were out of work. For black women it jumped from 12.7 percent to 13.1, or roughly 1.2 million unemployed black women. And the unemployment rate for black teens stood at a staggering 46.5 percent (by contrast, the rate for white teenagers was 23.6 percent).

When Obama entered office, the black unemployment rate was 12.6 percent. But rising unemployment still didn’t dampen black optimism going into his second year. According to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll conducted Jan. 27-Feb. 9 of this year, 85 percent of blacks said they were optimistic about the future course of the economy while 72 percent of white held that view. Eighty-four percent of blacks felt hopeful about their personal financial situation, compared with 73 percent of whites.

Obama and Black AmericaObama is right that the African American community gives him overwhelming support, but it’s not as overwhelming as it used to be. In the most recent polls blacks see “the economy” or unemployment as the nation’s top problem with one in seven or 2.9 million African Americans out of work — the highest number in nearly a quarter century. And some economists argue that 16%+ rate isn’t the “real” or accurate rate. They say that if one takes into account those people who want work and cannot get it and have stopped looking, those not counted such as the 900,000 incarcerated black men and women, and those recently released from the military– the “real” underemployment rate may be 25% or higher.

Back in 2008, nearly all (95 percent) black voters cast their ballot for Obama. Presently, they give him approval ratings just above 80 percent although there are polls with higher numbers.

Blacks still seem to have Obama’s back, but does he have theirs? Continue reading

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Call for Changes to SiriusXM Left station-IDs/ads

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To Listeners of SiriusXM Left satellite-radio channel (Sirius/XM 127)

Currently, if any sound-bite is used in an on-air ad or station-ID for SiriusXM Left, it is invariably  something taken from one of President Barack Obama’s recent speeches, press-conferences, etc. 

Obama, however, is not the sole spokesperson or representative of the U.S. left/liberal/progressive political movement.  In fact, many of us have come to believe that Obama does not wish to represent our viewpoints in any significant way on any significant issues (war/international-relations, the economy, taxation, education, civil rights/liberties, healthcare, etc.)

Shawn Poole

We propose using a new collection of sound-bites that still may include the occasional appropriate Obama quotation but, more importantly, would be expanded greatly to include many more statements issued by various well-known (and perhaps some not-so-well-known) activists/speakers/leaders from the U.S. left/liberal/progressive section of the political spectrum, both past and present. 

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/call-for-changes-to-siriusxm-left-station-idsads/

Shawn Poole, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania & Ryan Hilligoss, Chicago, Illinois | SiriusXM Left subscribers/listeners/occasional-callers

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The Sunday Show with Philip Maldari | KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley

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Kevin Alexander Gray joins Philip Maldari on Sunday July 3 @12 noon to 1:00pm (Eastern) 9:00 to 10:00am (Pacific) to talk about Independence Day

On July 2, 1776, the “anti-slavery clause” was removed from the Declaration of Independence at the insistence of Edward Rutledge, delegate from South Carolina. Rutledge threatened that South Carolina would fight for King George against her sister colonies. He asserted that he had “the ardent support of proslavery elements in North Carolina and Georgia as well as of certain northern merchants reluctant to condemn a shipping trade largely in their own bloodstained hands.” Fearful of postponing the American Revolution, opponents of slavery, who were in the clear majority, made a “compromise.” Thus, July 4, 1776, marks for African Americans not Independence Day but the moment when their ancestors’ enslavement became fixed by law as well as custom in the new nation.

If only anti-slavery foes had said “no compromise!” to South Carolina and rejected slavery and white privilege, the United States would have begun as a principled nation instead of a hypocritical one..,” Kevin Alexander Gray.

(From “Dispatches From South Carolina: Same as it ever was” | Published May 2, 2000.)

http://www.counterpunch.org/scflag.html

http://www.counterpunch.org/gray1221.html

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Call for 100 Signers: Letter to SC Governor Nikki Haley

As you may  know SC SB 20 is on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature. We’re asking her to veto this legislation. Please reach out to community leaders, businesses, local organizations, etc. and ask them to add their name to this letter.  I will add names as you send them to me.  Since Governor Haley is expected to sign this bill ASAP, please send names/organizations by close of business Monday, June 27 so that we can get this letter to her quickly.

 Thank you all!

Amanda N. Jackson
Field Director
Church World Service
2062 N. Beltline Blvd
Columbia, SC 29204
cell: 803-394-4895
ajackson@churchworldservice.org
jacksona03@vzw.blackberry.net
twitter@CWSMsJackson Continue reading

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KOPKIND 2011 | CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS

Dear Friends,

Once again, please help to spread the word to people who would be interested and interesting to be part of Kopkind this year. Your nominations of participants is always important, never more than this year, because I have had a few hiccups along the road, including losing many, many email addresses in a hard drive meltdown. Many apologies, also, for sending this a bit late.  Those interested in attending the session for journalists and activists should send a letter of intent to my email address by Saturday, June 18. The call follows.

Love and thanks,
JoAnn Wypijewski Continue reading

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