Wednesday, January 14, 2015

SELMA and the real Dr. King

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Jan 13, 2015 - 6:17:36 PM

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Martin Luther King leads march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, March 1965.

WASHINGTON ( - The movie Selma is, and will likely remain, one of the most talked about films of 2015.

It earned four Golden Globe nominations, for: Best Picture; Best Actor, David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Best Director, Ava DuVernay; and won Best Original Song, “Glory” by John Legend and Common. And it is certain to be a contender for multiple Academy Awards as well.

Selma is an exceptionally well crafted depiction of the last successful campaign in the career of the most charismatic and possibly most misunderstood leader of the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement. It takes its greatness from portraying the tension caused by blood in the streets of Alabama in the mid-1960s brought on by violent, White-racist, legal and extra-legal resistance to the legitimate demands for the right to vote by Blacks in the South, and from the political push and pull generated from the teeming grassroots represented by Dr. King, all the way to the desk of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The movie tells the story of three months in Selma, Ala., in early 1965 when Dr. King was mobilizing for the fight for voting rights. The bloody, one-sided “beat-downs” of peaceful, unarmed, non-violent protestors by vicious police, some on horseback, some with dogs, with tear gas, with billy clubs and other weapons, provokes a painful reaction to the scenes of the injustice and reminds moviegoers of the public moral outrage in 1965 which became massive public support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act by Congress later that year.

And while a great deal of “artistic license” is taken with the presentation of, or the exclusion of important Black figures in the voting rights struggle—Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokely Carmichael, Ella Baker, Floyd McKissick, among others—it is President Johnson’s screen role in the infamous Selma marches which has garnered the loudest rebuke.
This March 21, 1965 file photo shows civil rights marchers crossing the Alabama river on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. to the State Capitol of Montgomery. Photos: AP/Wide World photos
Historians and former Johnson administration officials have insisted that the film is flat-out wrong in the way Mr. Johnson is shown, as an opponent of the Selma voting rights marches, when in fact the march was his idea, his former aides insist.

In the film, one dramatic climax occurs when Dr. King scolds the reluctant and tough-talking president, about the immediate need for federal voting rights legislation, all the while with a portrait of George Washington looking on in the background.

“Mr. President, in the South, there have been thousands of racially motivated murders,” Dr. King says, imploring President Johnson to put his weight behind a voting rights law. “We need your help!” But the President replies: “Dr. King, this thing’s just going to have to wait.”

“In real life, that December 1964 meeting happened—but not that way, according to one who was there,” Richard Prince reports in his online column “Journal-Isms.”

“‘It was not very tense at all. We were very much welcomed by President Johnson,’ recalled former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, who attended the session as a young lieutenant to King. ‘He and Martin never had that kind of confrontation.’”

Others, including Clifford Alexander, a Black man and former deputy special counsel to the President, and later Secretary of the Army in the Jimmy Carter administration, as well as Joseph Califano, Mr. Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965-1969, and scholars at the Johnson Presidential Library cite transcripts and audio recordings in which Mr. Johnson appears to be the author of the idea of the Selma marches, encouraging them as a way to generate pressure on Congress to enact voting rights for disenfranchised Blacks.
State troopers swing billy clubs to break up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala., March 7, 1965.

While this film concentrates on early 1965 and Selma, one of the shocking early scenes shows the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church—less than three weeks after Dr. King’s triumphal March on Washington for Jobs and Justice—in which teenagers Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley were blown to bits by a Ku Klux Klan bomb.

The film also shows Dr. King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, but it omits much about the Black community which was the backdrop for Dr. King’s success, and more importantly the bolder, more militant Martin Luther King Jr.—The Real King, so to speak—who emerged during the three years after the Selma victory.

“There is no movement without the Black church. There is no movement without historically Black institutions. Not just colleges, high schools,” Dr. Greg Carr, chair of the African American Studies Department, at Howard University told The Final Call. “(The Revs. James) Bevel and (Fred) Shuttlesworth came back from Birmingham and said, ‘I’ve been going to the high schools talking to these kids. They’re ready to move.’ That’s when the Children’s March emerged.” Organizers were meeting at 16th Street Baptist Church, he pointed out, which is “Why they bomb(ed) 16th Street…because it was an institution.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., right, pictured in his first meeting with Elijah Muhammad, left, head of the Nation of Islam Feb. 24, 1966, in Chicago, IL. Dr. King said Elijah Muhammad agreed a movement is needed against slum conditions.

Those details and others depicting important local leaders were conveniently scrubbed from the film. “The politics of the film, the intent of the politics of the film were clear in the erasure of Stokely Carmichael, total erasure. The diminished capacity that is the role of Diane Nash and other women, the anti-SNCC perspective was just so clear,” Dr. Jared Ball, Associate Professor of Communications at Morgan State University told The Final Call. “John Lewis is a hero (in the movie), not just because of what he did but because he walked away from SNCC.”

The film, very skillfully diminishes the role of young Black militants who increasingly began to influence Dr. King in and after the events at Selma, in favor of the need for the movement to capitalize on a sense of White conscience and guilt.

But the reality is that conditions on the ground were changing fast in 1965. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by LBJ in Washington—with Dr. King at his side—on Aug. 6, 1965. One week later, a continent away, the Watts Riot (rebellion) broke out on Aug. 13, protesting police murders and brutality toward Black people, like the 2014 demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

“That LBJ, is made to look almost heroic (in the movie) in juxtaposition to George Wallace, and could get—in the theater where I saw it—a round of applause, tells you where the film was asking us to go. The emphasis on the inter-racial aspect of the movement was a clear message of, ‘let’s walk away from Black collective national activity, let’s make a point about today,’” said Dr. Ball.
“If you look at the critique that is all over the place of Whites in these anti-Ferguson, anti-police brutality rallies, the critique is still there. ‘Why are you in these rallies White folks? And what is your intent in marching with us? And how is your presence becoming theater for you, as opposed to a movement for us?’

“All of those questions—like there is a response in Selma (the movie) to all of that—by saying ‘They’re (Whites are) supposed to be here. There’s a benefit to their inclusion,’ and all of the arguments or debates against that have to be diminished, ridiculed, omitted entirely.’”
“The problem is, that I did like it,” Dr. Ball said. “I was moved by some of it. I did think it was well made, and some of the acting performances are good, which makes, the negatives have much more of an impact. That’s the problem that we deal with. If it was all whack, it would be easy to critique and dismiss.”
In this Jan. 18, 1964 fi le photo, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in his White House offi ce in Washington, D.C. The Black leaders, from left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

The “real” Dr. King emerges

In the months after the Voting Rights Act, Dr. King underwent a radical transformation. The influence of the Nation of Islam was clear. “At one time the Whites in the United States called him a racialist, an extremist, and a Communist,” Nation of Islam National Spokesman Minister Malcolm X said of the mainstream Civil Rights leaders he nicknamed “The Big Six.” “Then the Black Muslims came along and the Whites thanked the Lord for Martin Luther King.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

The strategy, of which Dr. King and the Civil Rights leadership was so proud, had produced a “victory with no victory,” Minister Malcolm X declared of the successful tactic which produced no tangible results. In the film “Selma,” Dr. King even laments in a jailhouse scene that he may have been fighting to integrate lunch counters at which most Blacks could not even afford to eat.

The Whites, Minister Malcolm X continued, did not integrate the Civil Rights Movement, they infiltrated it.
On Feb. 23, 1966 Dr. King visited the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, at his home in Chicago, and may have been further radicalized, but he quickly explained to his anxious White benefactors and to the public, that he was not forging an “alliance” with the Nation of Islam. In 1966 Dr. King’s Chicago organizing campaign was violently rebuffed by racist, White citizen attacks. He left Chicago, unable to claim a victory.

April 4, 1967 the day when Dr. King explained why he was opposed to the war in Vietnam arrived. “He comes out in this speech and he calls America, his country, ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.’ That’s a strong indictment. The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” radio and television interviewer Tavis Smiley told Pacifica Radio’s Mitch Jesserich in an interview before the release of Selma.
Police attack marchers as they crossed Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday”. Photos: MGN Online

“He goes on in that speech to talk about what he calls the ‘Triple threat of racism, poverty, and militarism. Racism, poverty, and militarism.’ If you think you know Dr. King and you don’t know of the story of the darkest and most difficult part of his journey—which for him just happened to be the last year, April 4, ‘67 to April 4, ‘68—if you don’t know that story, then you don’t know Dr. King yet.”

Mr. Smiley is the author, along with David Ritz, of “Death of a King: the Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year”. During that troubled time, up until his assassination, Dr. King had become so unpopular that another author, Clayborne Carson said many of the people who went to his funeral, would not have been seen with him on the day before he died.

“Clayborne Carson is absolutely right,” Mr. Smiley said. “In the last year of his life, everybody and everything turned against Dr. King.

“After he gives his speech, the media turns against him. What The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time magazine had to say about him, you would be embarrassed. So the media turns on him. Then the White House turns on him.” While President Johnson and Dr. King worked together for the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act—perhaps the two most seminal pieces of legislation passed in the entire 20th Century—now King is opposed to LBJ on this war in Vietnam, according to Mr. Smiley.

“The NAACP and Roy Wilkins turns on Dr. King. Whitney Young and the Urban League publicly turn on Dr. King. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., powerful Congressman, turns on Dr. King, publicly. Ralph Bunche, the only other Black Nobel Peace Prize winner, turns on Dr. King publicly. I can’t even say on the radio—it’s in the text—but I can’t even quote what Thurgood Marshall—The Thurgood Marshall—had to say about Dr. King. It was vicious and ugly.
Still from the movie “Selma”.

“And then the Black Press got in on it. It wasn’t just the mainstream, liberal, White press, the Black press started to turn on Dr. King. It’s a story most of us don’t know because we’d rather freeze-frame King at the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington.

“That dream that he talked about in ’63, by the time he gets to ’67, where this book picks up, the last year of his life, he is saying publicly that that dream has become a nightmare. He says to Harry Belafonte and a few others at a gathering one night, ‘…that for all that we have done for integration, I fear that we have integrated into a burning house.’ These are Martin’s words.

“The one that shocks most people: Martin was murdered on a Thursday night in Memphis. If he had made it back to Atlanta that Sunday to Ebenezer, his church where he was preaching every Sunday, his sermon would have been a shock,” continued Mr. Smiley.

On April 4, 1968, one year after his anti-Vietnam War speech, “One of the last calls he made from the Lorraine Motel was back to his church, to his secretary, to his father, to let them know what he was going to preach on Sunday. Had he made it back to Atlanta, his Sunday morning sermon was going to be entitled: ‘Why America May Go to Hell.’

“He didn’t say we were going to hell, but why America may go to hell. Now you tell folks that the ‘I Have A Dream’ man was going to preach a sermon called ‘Why America May Go To Hell,’ they don’t get that. King was always a believer that America could be greater. That’s what his life’s work was all about. But by the time he gets to ’67, ’68, he’s questioning whether or not America really has the will to address these issues that are really just threatening to the lives of too many fellow citizens,” said Mr. Smiley.

Ironically, the sentiment about the Vietnam War which earned Dr. King such unforgiving scorn is not unlike a prediction nearly 200 years earlier by Thomas Jefferson, one of this country’s Founding Fathers. “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever,” Mr. Jefferson said.

In order to get an idea of whom “The Real” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is Dr. Ball has a recommended reading list after having seen Selma. He recommends that people study the history recounted in the film, read Dr. King’s last book “Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos Or Community”, read James Forman’s book “The Making of Black Revolutionaries,” and read everything by or about Kwame Ture/Stokely Carmichael.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Promises, Commissions and a Black America at the Crossroads

By William P. Muhammad

“It is time now to turn with all the purpose at our command to the major unfinished business of this nation. It is time to adopt strategies for action that will produce quick and visible progress. It is time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens-urban and rural, white and black, Spanish-surname, American Indian, and every minority group…”
(Excerpt from the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders – 1968).

               We’ve all heard and seen this song and dance before. The unwarranted abuse and killing of unarmed Black people at the hands of local authorities, the time worn narrative of “justifiable homicide,” and of course, the usual posturing of so-called Black religious leaders, rewarded with recognition in exchange for their quieting of the dissatisfied masses, have together revealed a disturbing trend regarding the current disposition of Blacks in the United States. 
Within a progressively diverse society, and through the context of an increasingly globalized market economy, Black American youth are unhappy with the obsolete ideas and faint-hearted agendas advocated by yet another generation of timid Black leaders and organizations compromised by grants and philanthropic contributions. Ironically having hundreds of billions of dollars at their disposal, but failing to apply the unity necessary to exploit those dollars, go-along-to-get-along leaders, particularly of the religious ilk, employ too much compromise and too little principle regarding the social, political, and economic development of Black America. 
In Ferguson, Mo., after more than 70 days of civil unrest stemming from the August, 9 2014 gunning down of unarmed Black teenager, Michael Brown, and the heavy-handed militarized response against protestors, the fa├žade of American civility has been removed as paramilitary police forces deployed tear gas, heavy weapons, and armored vehicles to reestablish and impose an unjust order upon a Black people who have clearly had enough. In response, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s recently announced plan to institute a study, to address community fear, anger, and mistrust, in the name of his so-called Ferguson Commission, appears to follow on the state level what Illinois Governor Otto Kerner presided over on the national level 46 years ago.

The Kerner Commission, 1968

 Appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the causes of the urban rebellions in major U.S. cities between 1965 and 1967, The National Commission on Civil Disorders, also called the Kerner Commission, reported that Black frustration emanated from a lack of economic opportunity, housing disparities, and a mainstream media oriented solely to the views of the white world. Warning that America was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal,” it is clear, in 2014, that neither the report, nor its recommendations were truly designed to respect or empower Black America as an equal.  
In addition to the study’s findings, the commission predicted that if nothing were done to disperse Black population centers, and to reduce Black fertility rates, cities would become majority Black entities surrounded by White suburbs by 1985. It also suggested that police departments should “develop a means to obtain adequate intelligence for planning purposes;” that “an intelligence unit staffed with full-time personnel should be established to gather, evaluate, analyze, and disseminate information on potential as well as civil disorders,” (and) that “it should use undercover police personnel and informants.”
While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., initially praised the Kerner report for some of its pronouncements, did he recognize the potential for abuse that such a study could actually engender?           
Today, it is clear there has been an active plan to disperse Black populations in most urban centers, throughout the United States, and to reduce or eliminate local Black political bases. It is also a fact that Black fertility rates have declined from an increasing trend through the 1980s, toward a flatter trend today, where Black America’s numbers have dropped below the Latino population. With these facts being true, along with the rise of mass incarceration, in an increasingly privatized prison industry, what was the actual motive and intention behind the Kerner Commission in 1968, and was is the true motive and intention behind the so-called Ferguson Commission in 2014?


According to Europe’s France24 television, and an internationally televised discussion centering on the future of Black America, they referenced an October article in the U.S. news magazine, The Atlantic, regarding a piece titled: “What If Black America Were a Country?” After thoughtful examination of why European viewers would harbor such an interest in this subject, along with the facts and statistics cited throughout the piece, an astute reader should deduce that the U.S. government and European capitals both view the existence of a conscious, enlightened and empowered Black America as a threat to their long-term mutual interests.


Following this logic, it also should be obvious that any moral appeal for Black economic empowerment; an end to government monitoring, surveillance and counter-intelligence activities; and the abolishing of the prison-industrial-complex, will fall upon deaf ears. With no incentive for the white elite to countenance a socially, politically, and economically strong Black community, buying off weak and malleable Black leadership, and discouraging the concept of collective wealth and infrastructure creation, appears to serve a policy and agenda of white supremacy on a global level.   
Don’t underestimate your significance on the world stage
According The Atlantic article, a 2005 RAND Corporation study used a CIA assessment based on the University of Denver’s International Futures model to measure national power. Accordingly, “the main metrics of world power used in the…assessment are gross domestic product (GDP), population, defense spending, and a less precise factor that includes innovation in technology…Black America cannot be scored on all these factors, but key indicators are examined here to approximate its standing,” the article said.
Consider the following data discussed and outlined in the piece:
·         Blacks are the only racial group overrepresented in the U.S. military. Blacks make up 12.6 percent of the U.S. population, but over 17 percent of military service members.
·         For GDP per capita, Black Americans (as an independent country) would rank 46th in the world, below Saudi Arabia, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, but above Russia, Mexico and Brazil.
·         As a population, Black America ranks 31st in the world, just below Mexico, the UK and Italy, but above Canada, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
·         According to the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index, Black America (as an independent country) would resemble a fragile state listed among one of the world’s worst 30 nations.
·         Black America’s poverty rate of 27.4 percent is currently higher than that in war torn Iraq.
·         Black America’s median wealth per adult is $4,955, just below Mexico, China and Brazil, but above India and Russia. Black American household wealth is just above the median wealth of Palestinian adults.
·         Black American men have higher incarceration rates than the total numbers confined in the countries of Cuba, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and India.
·         The United States ranks 5th in the Human Development Index, but if Black America were a country, it would rank 30th, between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The previously stated facts reveal that Black America is indeed at a crossroads, and while there is clearly a plan from the highest levels of society and government, to manage and control the destiny of Black America, there is also a plan to lift it from the level it currently occupies. While many rightfully argue that a white supremacist system created the condition in which Black America now finds itself, it is also true that the wherewithal to correct it is undoubtedly found in Black excellence, uncompromisable Black leadership, and above all, the love of self and kind.
Today, the most significant obstacle to local and national progress is not necessarily racism and white supremacy alone; but it is without doubt fear and ignorance of that dying ideology that neutralizes Black leadership’s effectiveness, particularly if they fail to muster the courage to overcome that fear and ignorance. 
Black America, and its leadership class, have a choice to make and time is fast running out. We can either continue down the current road, believing that going-along-to-get-along politics will save us and preserve our future; or regardless of religion, creed, or class, in the Black community, we can contribute to our own social, political and economic salvation by uniting our human capital as well as our nickels, dimes and dollars. Backing strong Black leaders and doing for self, as outlined by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is a start, and studying their social, spiritual, and economic programs without envy, jealousy or bias is a must. Visit and see what has been done, will be done and can be done with just the contribution of your nickels, dimes, and dollars. Following right guidance may very well save our lives in a time of crisis.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

From The Final Call Newspaper

Black Youth and Black Liberation

BY RASHEED ALI | LAST UPDATED: OCT 14, 2014 - 9:39:53 PM

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Black youth today are portrayed and painted by the media as the worst generation that has ever existed. Black youth are shown on national television killing one another, going to prison, and committing crime. Even many elders in the Black community are losing hope and interest in Black youth.

As Black youth we are misunderstood, angry and in dire need of guidance. No Black leader is as revered and respected by Black youth as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Black youth love and respect the Minister because he doesn’t judge us. Minister Farrakhan does not put us down as one of the worst generations ever. He teaches, “You, our young people, are the strongest, most powerful generation that we have ever produced since our fathers were brought to these shores as slaves. You are greatly misunderstood, not only by your elders but oftentimes by your parents. We produced this generation and we cannot deny what we have produced. They are different from us. They are not hope, they are fulfillment. But when the thing that is hoped for comes along, sometimes we are not prepared for what we hoped for.”

It was among the elders during the time of Moses that the former slaves of Pharaoh rebelled against Moses’ divine direction and were condemned to wander in the wilderness where they died off. It was the youth led by Joshua and Caleb who were unafraid of and conquered the giants in that land and inherited the promised land.

Minister Farrakhan teaches us that Black youth must become a Joshua Generation for our people. He warns us time and time again of a wicked plot to destroy Black youth by the enemy of our people. Why does the enemy desire to kill Black youth?  Because Black youth today are the life blood of the body of liberation for Black people in America. Blood is the most important part of the body because without the flow of blood the body is dead.

Without this generation of Black youth the cause of freedom will be dead! It is the young Black revolutionaries, gang bangers and activists out on the streets of Ferguson fighting and demanding justice. Black youth are fearless today. They are not afraid of the powers that put down and oppress our people. Black youth today are angry about the condition of our people! Black youth are sick of poverty and want, weak Black leadership, police brutality and pastors and ministers who teach a weak theology of submission to our enemies and not liberation and submission to God. That anger has been manipulated by our enemies and channeled to have us kill each other and destroy our own communities with drugs. But today Minister Farrakhan wants to teach us, the Joshua Generation, to channel that anger and energy toward total and complete liberation. We, the Joshua Generation, need to be united and come together. We need to not let streets, colors, cities, skin tones and hair types divide us. We are all fingers on a hand. When the fingers close and come together they make a fist! The fist must be guided by divine wisdom, guidance and love. That fist of our unity will strike a blow against White Supremacy, racism, oppression and all the injustices Black people suffer daily! The Bible says in Psalms 82:4-6,  “Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, You are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”

The Joshua Generation must deliver our poor and needy people and free them from the hands of the wicked oppressor and enemy of our people. We  Black youth have been walking in darkness not knowing the power that we have as a collective group. The light has been shined by Minister Farrakhan and highlights us as the best generation since slavery and the generation destined to bring our people to the Promised Land. Lastly we are Gods, the children of the Most High God. We are not dogs, n-----s, and b-----s but we are Gods, a direct reflection of our Father God. The blood of the body of liberation will be shed because freedom is not free. But living or dead the Black Man and Woman will be victorious and completely liberated.

(Rasheed Ali, is from Boston, a freshman student at Morehouse College, and member of the Nation of Islam.).