Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Black on black violence is the lesson from Malcolm X's death

On yesterday, 52 years ago, members of the Nation of Islam killed Malcolm X.

Who killed Malcolm isn’t a matter of debate. Leaders of the Nation of Islam haven't been charged with his murder. Some argue the FBI conspired to murder Malcolm.

What matters is how Malcolm's death impacts conversations related to reducing black on black violence. How effective can the Nation of Islam be in leading efforts to convince black people to stop killing one another when their leader has justified the death of Malcolm X

During his 1993 Savior Day message, Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, called Malcolm X a traitor and defended the right of a nation to kill a traitor. 
Louis Farrakhan discusses the death of Malcolm X

It’s a despicable part of black history. Three black men killed Malcolm. Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were convicted of murder in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. All three were members of the Nation of Islam. Prior to his death, Malcolm told Gordon Parks that the Nation of Islam was trying to kill him.

Farrakhan said a nation has the right to be governed by their own laws. He said it’s no one’s business how a nation deals with a traitor. Malcolm was nurtured by the teachings of the Nation of Islam and it’s the right of the nation to punish those who violate their trust.


It’s a lesson that resonates among some black men trapped in the web of street justice. Some die due to the consequences of betrayal. Some are punished for violating a set of rules established within a culture not troubled by the laws of the broader society. They are bond to lessons about solidarity to their own cause. They are taught lessons about manhood that establishes relationships of trust.

Farrakhan said it’s no one’s business. The Nation of Islam has the right, no, in his mind, the obligation, to kill anyone who decides to promote a different message. This is the mindset of groups like the “Bloods” and “Crips”. The death of Malcolm X helps frame discussions involving street justice and the increase of black on black violence. 


Members of the Nation of Islam killed Malcolm.


It was his third death. Each death came with a change in his name.

Malcolm Little was the name on his birth certificate. A part of his past died when he took the last name X. The X denoted the unknown. Little was the name of his ancestor’s slave owners. It implied a relationship with the people who forced faith in the blue-eyed Jesus.

The X was replaced by El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz after his pilgrimage to Mecca. His Hajj was delayed in Jeddah when his U.S. citizenship and inability to speak Arabic raised questions related to his status as a Muslim. He was given Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzan’s book “The Eternal Message of Muhammad” with his visa approval.

He became a Sunni Muslim and returned to America with a different message.

“I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color,”  El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz said during a forum at Harvard Law School on December 16, 1964.
It was a second death.

The final death happened on February 21, 1965.

He was preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity. More than 400 people were gathered at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom to hear him speak regarding his effort to speak before the United Nations about human rights violations.

"Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket,” a man yelled.

As his bodyguards attempted to subdue the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot Shabbaz multiple times with a sawed-off shotgun as two other men fired semi-automatic handguns. The autopsy located 21 gunshot wounds to the chest, shoulder and legs.

The third death was community trust. He belonged to all of us. His words inspired the type of change that challenged movement toward a better way. Three brothers killed his dream. Three brothers taught a lesson we can’t forget.

This is the burden of black on black violence.

It started with Malcolm’s death.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump's "fake news" exposed for being the truth


Thank you, Donald Trump.

Really. I mean it with all my heart. I know, it’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air, but my reasoning behind thanking 45 goes beyond my desire for pieces of chocolate, a fine meal and a bottle of bubbly to set the mood.

All of that is true. My mama raised me to be a romantic, but there is nothing about Orange Julius to trigger warm fuzzy feelings. Put another way, there’s little love in my statement and God’s grace and mercy have nothing to do with my position.

I’m thanking the Orange faced liar for helping people understand the significance of the press. Trump’s feud with the press may be the thing that will boosts confidence in the men and women dedicated to telling the truth.

Prior to this past election, the press was impugned with being responsible for everything wrong with America. No one trusted the media. In fact, the media became synonymous with fiction writers, public relations agents and creatures from outer space. Whenever questions arose related to what aisles America, the media became the predetermined response.

Why do we have crime within poor communities? The media. Why do we have such a high achievement gap between black and white students? The media. Why did Trump win the election? The media. Why is Corrine Olympios still a contestant on “The Bachelor” –  it must be the media, because that stank has to go.

The phrase “the media” has become fixated as America’s villain replacing Lex Luthor, Darth Vador, Hannibal Lector and the Joker as the evil behind the destruction of our dreams. “The media” did it. All of it.

“The media” is controlled by the same stuff that smashed America’s political process. Love for money skillfully manipulated the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Some gluttonous corporate mogul pulls the strings of journalist who wobble from one story to the next like puppets devoid of the backbone to say “Hell no”.

That’s the newest spin regarding the disunited state of America. Be it Democrats on the most progressive end of the political spectrum or Republicans on the alt-right, the press did it – all of it.

The press should have reported more on the rise of Bernie Sanders and the avarice that silenced their pens. The media should have talked about the old school political structure that undermined the voices of young people sick of business as usual. The media should have exposed Clinton’s corruption while spending less time promoting Trump’s agenda.

You heard it all.

It’s the media’s fault.

The media is a bunch of liberal-minded hippies out to destroy America with their socialist agenda. There’s a list for that – the gay agenda, the black agenda, the weed smoking agenda, the agenda to destroy white people – it’s a long list.

All of that ‘fake news is fired by the liberal media. Don’t listen to their version of the news. In fact, there’s alterative news that doesn’t get boggled with insignificant issues like facts. The media wants to pitch facts, but who needs facts?

Right?

But, glory be to God and Donald Trump!

This is what happens when the media fails to do their job. If the media stops digging and asking and following up at the end of the press conference, the lies become normative. If the press accepts being censured for refusing to accept the alternative version of the news, America becomes a dictatorship devoid of adequate challenges when the Constitution is thrown out the window.

Trump called reports regarding National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s contact with Russia “fake news”. Trump placed CNN in a corner, like a second-grader wearing a dunce hat, for doing their job. Americans were told that’s what the press does. Reporters are biased. They never tell the truth.

Thanks to Trump, Americans are being reminded of the role of the press. In a story, reminiscent of the Watergate scandal of 1972, the media is challenged to expose the truth. The Trump administration won’t like it, and many Americans will dispute what’s written.

But this is how we roll. This is what we do, and despite the criticism we have faced, you should thank the media for protecting America’s freedoms.

Mr. Trump, call it fake news if you wish, but the truth will set us free.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Why I'm not praying for Donald Trump


I will not be praying for Donald Trump.

It’s my answer to a question that keeps popping up in my Facebook newsfeed. I’ve read numerous postings arousing people of faith to pray for Trump as a sign of unity, understanding and peace. It all sounds reasonable given how scriptures are manipulated to endorse compromise in times of discord. Who else, if not the Church, will challenge people to end the mudslinging.

So, I will be praying, but not in the way many expect.

Don’t expect a series of sermons regarding the need to move beyond race, gender and a myriad of other groupings used to pit people against one another. Don’t expect the endorsement of an ethic that promotes forgiveness, the turning of the cheek, and checking personal feelings at the door, to engage in a meaningful mountaintop experience.

It’s not that I don’t believe in prayer. I will be praying. In fact, I’m praying more than ever before. So, it’s not an invalidation of the purpose and capacity of prayer, but a question of the focus of my prayers. I will not pray in a way that negotiates the Great Commission to teach and baptize people in a truth that radically changes the world.

I will not pray in a way that panders apathy and relinquish the role of the Church as a mediator of revolution. I will not participate in the type of slapdash engagement that measures faith by partaking in the American dream. I refuse to relegate faith by an unquestioned patriotism symbolized by waved flags and denunciations of those who protest the movement toward a xenophobic agenda.

Why is this important?

Because when the Church prays in a certain way, it is being used to promote an agenda that compromises the work of the Church. The Church becomes slothful and daft with teaching that sponsors the positions of the rich, the privileged and the powerful. The Church prays on behalf of the individuals and institutions that oppress and belittle the weak, rather than teaching a message that demands repentance.

Yes, the Church prays for the minds of the powerful to be changed, not for the dominant to facilitate a process that increases the burden. The Church is commissioned to defy all spirits and systems that limit the advancement of our neighbors. The Church is called to function as the Spirit of the resurrected Christ in ways that evoke the will of a loving God. The Church is challenged with the enduring obligation of reminding institutional leaders to undo the systemic evils that hinder human progress.

Thus, I will not pray for unity and peace that forces compromise related to God’s vision for the world. I will not bid people to pray and get over it, to work harder without confronting revolting systems or to hold hands, sing songs and pretend evil hasn’t been legislated by political and religious leaders.

I know the scripture often used to implore congregants to pray for political leaders

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. “This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

I’m aware of both the context and culture that frames Paul’s plea for prayer. He’s writing to a community vexed by an oppressive government. I’m aware of the challenges Paul faced due to being jailed for proclaiming a message not endorsed as a legitimate religion. Paul’s appeal for prayer is offered from a unique perspective. He requests prayer for leaders responsible for his imprisonment.

When placed within the context of his writing, these words attributed to Paul, offer a reason for his request. This is not an appeal to pray over the handling of public education, national security or immigration. Paul is requesting prayer that evokes a change of mind. Given the lack of support for his message, the author sought prayers that would correct the way leaders perceived his ministry.

The prayers of the Church weren’t passive acts. The work of the Church coincided with prayer. It didn’t relegate the power of prayer to lofty words during the Sunday morning ritual. Paul, and the other men and women who promoted the teachings of Christ, did more than pray for leaders. They worked to change the minds of leaders by presenting an alternative view on how people can coexist.

They continued to expose hypocrisies within their own religious system and the governments that subjugated poor people, women and sick people. In encouraging a new way of thinking about what makes a community, prayers were needed to change the way people thought about what that means.

This means I will not be substituting prayer for protest. Don’t expect the type of discourse that validates the spirituality of Christians who spew hate towards members of the LGBTQIA community, attacks women’s reproductive rights, have a limited understanding of what it means to be the beloved community or fails to move beyond a fundamental approach of scripture to assist in conversations that undo the tension between the Bible and science.

Don’t expect me to accept Christians who demand the submission of woman and the disallowance of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. I reject the call of “All Lives Matter” as a theological construction. Don’t expect me to pray in ways that refute the pain and passion of hurting people. Don’t expect me to place the impulse for harmony above the commission of the Church.

Jesus came to us to expose hypocrisy. The Church that prays for leaders, devoid of indisputable critique of the systemic evils hindering human progress, is used to advance immoral activity.

The book of James says “faith without works is dead”. To that I add, prayer without activism leads to those dry bones in the valley.

Prophet, preach to the bones.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Trump's fails the Black History Month test

What should black Americans expect from President Trump on the first day of African American History Month?

Maybe a mention of Serena Williams for winning the Australia Open. Williams now stands alone as the all-time leader of Grand Slam titles in the modern era with 23 wins.
Maybe a mention of President Barrack Obama who just left office as America’s first black president.

It was an opportunity for Trump to mend fences caused by his birtherism campaign. Speaking of fences, Trump could have mentioned August Wilson and the performances of Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in the movie adapted from Wilson’s play. He could have talked about “Hidden Figures”, the movie that unpacks the contributions of black women working for NASA.

True to form, Trump used today’s meeting at the White House to celebrate Black History Month to emphasize his grudge with the press.

"I don't like watching fake news," Trump told guests at the listening session.

Given the emphasis on the press, Trump could have transitioned into a discussion involving the work of George Curry, the former editor of the Detroit Free Press and Emerge Magazine, and Gwen Ifill, a veteran television journalist who served as moderator and managing editor of the Public Broadcasting Service's talk show "Washington Week”. Both died in 2016.

You would expect a discussion involving the contributions made by black journalist since the publication of Freedom's Journal, the first African American owned and operated newspaper in the United States. The newspaper was founded by John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish on March 16, 1827 in New York City.

Rather than take the high road, Trump used the opportunity to attack CNN and other news outlets while celebrating the efforts of Fox News.

"Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you," Trump said.

It’s disappointing that Trump’s fight with the press took precedence over Black History.

"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice," Trump said.

Is that the best he can do?

It sounded like a lecture from a Black History Month program during an assembly at an elementary school. As bad as the mention of Douglass played in displaying a lack of sensitivity and refined understanding of Black History, Trump quickly launched into another confrontation regarding an erroneous report that a bust of Martin Luther King. Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office.

"It turned out that that was fake news," Trump said. "But that's the way the press is ... Very unfortunate."

Trump failed to mention that the claim of the bust being removed was never a news story. It was limited to a press pool report tweeted out in social media, but corrected within minutes of its release. It was a regretful mistake that deserves censure, but what does it have to do with Black History Month?

Americans should expect more from Trump than a few comments about Douglass, King, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman mingled with criticisms against the press for spreading his version of “fake news”.

"During this month, we honor the tremendous history of the African Americans throughout our country, throughout the world if you really think about it, right?" Trump said when discussing the life of Douglass. "And this story's one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work and faith in America."

What’s the point in offering a tribute while attacking the press?

The people invited offers a glimpse of Trump’s views on Black History and black legitimacy. The meeting included black pastors, business leaders and people who supported his presidential campaign. HUD secretary-designate Ben Carson and communication advisor Omarosa Manigault attended as the two black members of the Trump team.

The discussion was not an observance of the contributions of blacks throughout history as much as a strike at black leadership. Trump continued his threat to “send in the feds” if Chicago isn’t cleaned up.

"We're going to have to do something about Chicago," Trump said.

What does that have to do with Black History Month?

The mention of Chicago was prompted by a comment from Darrell Scott.  The Cleveland pastor, who serves on Trump’s transition team, said he’s been contacted by "some of the top gang thugs in Chicago for a sit-down."

What does that have to do with Black History Month?

Absolutely nothing, unless you assume the only relevant issues involving black history happened during slavery or the Civil Rights era. It would help if Omarosa, Trump’s advisor in handling black folks, read a few more books and took classes on critical race theory.

So, Oma-Rosa, check this out. Tell Trump to stay on course when he talks about black people. Don’t mix his beef with the press while reflecting on the contributions of black people in America. It feels like black people are no more than a side chat in your personal agenda to minimize the role of the media.

Point two, surround yourself with some credible black leaders. It’s a dishonor to the achievement and legacy of Dr. King, Gardner C. Taylor, Samuel D. Proctor, J. Alfred Smith, Jeremiah Wright, Vashti McKenzie, Prathia Hall, Renita Weems and Carolyn Knight – men and women who minister from a place of deep theological reflection rooted within the context and culture of the enduring witness of black people in America. Scott lacks the insight and intellect to represent black folks outside his promotion of a prosperity driven theology.

Put some respect on our name. In other words, put on your big boy underwear and talk like you know more than you learned in the second grade.

Trump’s Black History tribute is an offensive display of the type of rhetoric that seeks to minimize the message and focus of black liberation. It brutalized the press for reporting the disdain that fuels protest. In blaming the press and offering a crude statement, Trump once again proves he doesn’t get it.


Sadly, no one is surprised.