Politics Mondays: Jena and "Business and Building" by Cedric Muhammad
I am very proud of the role that BlackElectorate.com had in publicly promoting the story of the Jena 6; advocating public response to those events, and directing thousands of dollars to defend and support the Jena 6 and their families. And I am even more proud of those who made the sacrifice and pilgrimage to Jena, in person (we disagree on Bomani Armah, but I love you and respect what you did Michael Baisden.)
Having said that, as many of you know, on "The Cedric Muhammad And Black Coffee Program" weeks ago, I began taking predictions from my audience on when the collective support and mass unity of our people around this issue would die down and evaporate.
Many predicted the end would come as soon as this week.
Far from being a cynical voice (remember we actively support the Jena 6 movement with our mouths and dollars), I have seen what happens with my Beloved people in the area of follow-through. I have also seen how the massive energy, concern, and enthusiasm around Hurricane Katrina and the response to it, and the continued mismanagement and mistreatment of our people, has died down. I have also seen how something as promising as the Millions More Movement (although many in different parts of the country keep the flame burning), struggles to evolve into the overwhelming force for change that it is destined to become.
[ I will never accept that somehow it is the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's fault that a march, event, and movement planned by 400 Local Organizing Committees (The Million Man March) and hundreds of local groups (The Millions More Movement,) is not properly leveraging what it could on behalf of our people. Our response to those who make this uninformed and wicked criticism has been weak with words (some of us subconsciously agree with it), and even weaker with our action steps, in response to what the Minister has actually called us to do.]
Oh, and did I fail to mention how what I call Black Wacktivism, has managed to give Don Imus a $20 million paid vacation and increased market value (while Black comedians, talk show hosts, and rappers lose market share,) while criticizing one of the members of the Rutgers University basketball team for suing him (the massive news coverage of the tragedy at Virginia Tech knocked the Imus issue right off of our agenda)?
It seems, we still are not clear on the difference between the purpose of a march (which highlights or dramatizes a problem), an event (which takes care of specific action at a time certain and sets the stage for future action), and a movement (sustained, organized, operational action directed toward a specific outcome or objective.)
It is hard to imagine, but true, that as we head into the 2008 elections, Katrina does not even register at the top of the list of concerns we are expressing to candidates in the two major parties running for President.
And that is why it is so easy for Democratic Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to distance themselves from the Jena 6 movement.
Why couldn't we (or his 'adviser' Cornel West) have demanded that Barack Obama attend and speak at the Jena 6 rally on Thursday?
Yet and still, no doubt, we will be herded into supporting either one of them next year on the basis of 'how hard they fight for us.' I already have heard Rev. Jesse Jackson arguing that the proper response to the events of Jena is voter registration. We know that for all of the good work our Brother does, he would never make the lack of support on the Jena 6 movement, from B-Rock, or Hill-Top a litmus test for Black support or his endorsement.
But do all Black Democrats have to follow his lead on that?
Instead of the usual 'a vote for Nader (or whoever the Independent is)is a vote for the GOP,' why not 'a vote for a Democrat is vote against the Jena 6?'
I am not saying that the Democratic candidates oppose the Jena 6 movement as do racists and White supremacists, but you get the point, right?
Hard to imagine us at such a level of political strength and self-enlightened interest isn't it? We comfortably say 'Vote or Die,' but never 'Do For Self or Die,' or 'Jena 6 or Die.'
There is a game being played on the masses of us by the mainstream media, the American political system, and some of our Black leadership.
And that is one of the reasons why on my program I have re-interpreted the song, "Circles" by Atlantic Starr to truly be representative of the Black electorate's relationship to the Democratic Party (I am currently working on selecting a similar anthem for uncritical Black supporters of the GOP.)
I have tried to bring a bit of humor to our plight, but the facts don't allow much.
Our current form of activism is too reactionary, controlled, superficial, misguided, compromised and disorganized to produce the results we are promised by those who lead us most frequently and visibly.
That is why we are promoting a new paradigm and formula - "Business and Building" - which places rapport building, dialogue, and the development of trust around four areas of informed Action which can be portentially applied anywhere on the ground.
As I said to many individuals over the past several weeks - while tending to the criminal justice matters of the Jena 6 is the most urgent matter, what of the conditions on the ground and in the air that made all of this possible in the first place? We have got to become better and understanding the law of cause and effect, as it relates to our miserable condition, and the moves being made against us.
From the lens of "Business and Building" and our four areas: Business and Investment, Political Action, Community Development, and International Affairs we are 1) concerned about the condition of Black-owned businesses in the area and whether or not the Jena 6 movement is supporting them (imagine if money had been pooled in support of economic devlopment for our people in that region) 2) the amount of individuals in the South who have been incarcerated, disenfranchised (and denied employment opportunities) due to erroneous and excessive felony charges and sentencing guidelines 3) the amount of mentoring that is taking place for all of the young Brothers and Sisters of the same age or younger than the Jena 6 in that area and region and 4) the ability of the Jena 6 movement to internationalize this struggle so that every single sympathetic State government, NGO, opinion leader, or activist in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, Central and South America knows exactly how to help and put pressure on the United States government, the state of Louisiana, and the town of Jena.
We are good at internationalizing the struggle of others, but rarely our own.
While it was a beautiful sight to see so many of our people (particularly whole families and college students) united, mobilized, and gathered to show support substantively and symbolically, if we are truly to win in Jena, this 'fight' will have to move beyond a festival and celebrity atmosphere, and into the world of disciplined operational unity, and high-level chess playing.
Remember, the mass media, political system, and certain Black leaders are still playing games with our emotions and legitimate aspirations.
Let's not do with Jena what we did with Katrina.
If you want to discuss taking our struggle to a higher and more effective level, and take action steps toward it, please join us October 26th to the 28th for "Business and Building" II in Washington D.C.:
Monday, September 24, 2007