Friday, January 4

The Roundtable with Brother Muhammad presents


The Roundtable with Brother Muhammad interviews Elner Clark, sister of the late Black Panther Party organizer for downstate Illinois, Mark Clark, who along with Fred Hampton, was assassinated on December 4, 1969 by a Chicago police task force under J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and the abusive COINTELPRO program, designed to discredit, disrupt and otherwise neutralize Black American Leadership, Black American organizations and Black American individuals who resisted racism, racial injustice and the discriminatory practices of the American government. 

Tuesday, September 17

From The Final Call Newspaper

Weed Isn't The Answer

By Bryan 18X Crawford -Contributing Writer

While some consider marijuana, or weed, a natural healer or even a gift from God linked to religious practices, the plant has in some ways also been the bane of Black existence. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people—of the more than two million people incarcerated in America—locked up on some kind of weed charge.

According to research from the Drug Policy Alliance, in 2017, 659,700 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation. Of that number 599,282 people, or 91 percent, were arrested for possession of marijuana. All told, of the number of people arrested for drug law violations, 47 percent of them were either Black or Latino.

Still, these figures have not quelled the daily ritual of Black people smoking weed and getting high.

Now, as legalization initiatives are being passed from state to state, springing forth a brand new economic industry that is no longer underground and at the forefront of society, the relationship between Black people and weed seems to have gotten deeper, but there are some troubling aspects of this relationship.

Some view the burgeoning marijuana industry as a modern day gold rush because there is now the ability to actually sell weed and not be arrested for it. Others are taking the softer laws around possession as a sign that America is finally doing right by the Black man who has served more jail time for weed crimes than any other group of people in this country.

But is it a trap?

Can Blacks really trust those who have overseen the system of their oppression for centuries to give us a way out of the condition we’ve been purposely placed and kept in for so long?

“The reason marijuana is being legalized at the state level, but remains illegal at the federal level, is part of the trap,” Dr. Wesley Muhammad, a Nation of Islam student minister who has done a series of popular lectures on the subject, told The Final Call. “But even more than that, marijuana is being legalized because it’s a sedative. Marijuana quiets Black rage.”

For Black people who have personally used marijuana, or know someone who uses it all the time, Dr. Muhammad’s words about weed quieting Black rage may ring true. The drug is quite often used as an escape from the daily pressures associated with being a Black man or woman in America. It’s a drug that helps Black people not focus on whatever problems they may have, and works as a form of escapism. Essentially, as long as you’re high, you’re not as overly concerned with things the same way you might be if you were sober. While on a surface level, this can be viewed as positive in terms of stress relief, the reality is Black people live in a constant state of stress and anxiety, meaning more often than not, they may be more willing to smoke marijuana as a form of relief.

But, if weed acts as a sedative, could smoking it hinder Blacks from channeling righteous anger and indignation they should feel as a result of their condition? Could weed lessen motivation to act to change things and contribute to a more passive state?

Weaponized weed?

Dr. Muhammad, who is an author and holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, said there is a difference in the THC content of marijuana of today and that of the past. THC is the chemical in the drug that produces the users’ high. Modern weed has been scientifically altered to contain significantly higher levels of THC than what would normally be found in marijuana that is cultivated naturally, warns Dr. Muhammad. It is that high grade of marijuana that is not only pushed on Black people, but is now demanded by Black people, he added. These days, weed smokers in Black neighborhoods and communities only want “loud” and not “Reggie,” or a powerful type of marijuana known for its unmistakable smell versus a less powerful version of the drug, he continued.

When consumed in a tobacco leaf or “blunt,” meaning marijuana placed inside a hollowed out cigar, two chemical compounds mixed together can have detrimental effects Black people aren’t even aware of, Dr. Muhammad said.

“White people smoke joints. But because of the weaponization of hip hop, we smoke blunts, which are a Negro phenomenon. When you take the weed with the elevated THC, and mix it with the nicotine in tobacco, both of these compounds have an affinity for melanin,” explained Dr. Muhammad. “The nicotine in tobacco is more dangerous to Black people than White people. Nicotine attaches to melanated tissues and latches on, forever releasing its poisons into the body. … So when Black people smoke blunts, we become walking reservoirs of these two compounds. With weaponized THC married to nicotine in tobacco, it’s doing double the damage and it’s two times as dangerous. So when we talk about recreational legalization, because Black people and White people are not only socially segregated but also scientifically segregated, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that dispensaries in the ’hood have very different marijuana than dispensaries in middle class, White neighborhoods.”

Dr. Muhammad’s intense study of marijuana and the elevated THC currently found in today’s weed is right and exact. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a study saying, “The marijuana available today is much stronger than previous versions. The THC concentration in commonly cultivated marijuana plants has increased three-fold between 1995 and 2014 (4 percent and 12 percent respectively). Marijuana available in dispensaries in some states has average concentrations of THC between 17.7 percent and 23.2 percent. … Higher doses of THC are more likely to produce anxiety, agitation, paranoia, and psychosis.”

Danger to pregnant women, unborn children

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, in a recent advisory, warned there is no safe amount of marijuana for teens, young adults, or pregnant women.

Yet increasing numbers of pregnant women are using marijuana, often dealing with conditions like depression or severe nausea despite risks to their babies—a risk many physicians say should not be taken. “I would say we are really rolling the dice with our kids if we expose them to it,” Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, chief medical officer at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services told USA Today. “We have a preponderance of evidence marijuana does affect brain development.”

“Studies out this summer in the Journal of the American Medical Association also reported a sharp increase in the number of pregnant women smoking marijuana and an alarming link between cannabis use and preterm births, defined as 37 weeks or earlier,” USA Today reported Sept. 12. “The authors concluded marijuana is ‘likely unsafe’ because preterm births were twice as common in marijuana users vs. non-users. (12 percent vs. 6.1 percent). That’s despite finding a positive effect between marijuana use and lower incidences of preeclampsia—a dangerous condition that includes high blood pressure—and gestational diabetes.”

“Between 2002 and 2017, pregnant women who used marijuana in the previous month increased from 3.4 percent to 7 percent overall and from nearly 6 percent to just over 12 percent during the first trimester, according to new federal data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,” according to USA Today. “We don’t have any evidence it is safe, but many women at this point don’t even question it as a potential problem,” one doctor observed. “It is often coupled with a distrust of the medical system and particularly medications for mental illness.”

“Yet even doctors who support medical marijuana say medical professionals aren’t warning women enough. They say there is misinformation and an overall lack of information on using cannabis products during pregnancy. Medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states. “Women aren’t getting a consistent message,” Dr. Jordan Tishler, president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists and an advocate for legalizing medical marijuana, told USA Today.

As part of a National Institutes of Health study, “officials called dispensaries and told them that they were pregnant and suffering from extreme nausea. Transcriptions of phone conversations were recorded. In one case, a dispensary employee told a woman, ‘Edibles wouldn’t hurt the child, they’d be going through your [digestive] tract.’ Dispensary employees also sometimes told women to consult with their health care provider, but few did so without being prompted. The study also found 36 percent of recommendations said cannabis use is safe during pregnancy,” said USA Today. “With mixed messaging on marijuana, pregnant women in need of relief are not able to make fully informed decisions, physicians say.

“I don’t think any woman goes into pregnancy wanting to hurt her child, so if she’s using it it’s either because she doesn’t understand the science or hasn’t heard the science,” a physician told USA Today.

A multi-billion dollar industry
According to a study by Grand View Research, the legal marijuana market will be worth $66.3 billion in the next six years. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 23.9 percent. To put that in perspective, according to The Motley Fool, that growth is on par with heavy civil engineering construction (25.7 percent) and alcohol distillation (26 percent), but higher than beverage manufacturing (17.1 percent), real estate (15.1 percent), specialized freight trucking (14.9 percent) and architectural engineering (13.7 percent).

“In terms of recreational, we’re talking about a brand new industry. But the fact is, cannabis is a 99 percent White-owned industry. But with recreational legalization comes the social equity conversation for those impacted by the war on drugs,” explained J.R. Fleming, community activist and founder of E.P.I.C (Equitable Partnerships in Cannabis) to The Final Call.

There have been calls for purging records of Blacks who had weed charges in the past and calls for freeing those jailed for doing what is being presented as a legitimate, even welcome business, as politicians tout its potential to bring in revenue.

Then there is also the question of drug testing, how it would work, or how results should be interpreted by employers?

“How can an employer continue to pursue a drug-testing policy in the midst of the continuing trend of states legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use, especially when these states’ laws run up against federal laws that still ban the psychoactive drug’s use?” asked the online magazine EHS Today, in an article titled, “Drug Testing in the Era of Marijuana Legalization: In a constantly changing legal landscape, employers must take care when creating a zero-tolerance policy.”

“‘It can be hard to do so, but it is still possible,’ according to attorneys J. Christopher Selman and Alexander Thrasher of the law firm of Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings LLP. ‘This rapidly evolving legal landscape presents new challenges for employers, particularly those with offices and employees in several states,’ they admit. ‘Employers must balance complying with often divergent federal and state laws, maintaining a safe work environment and protecting employees’ rights,’” wrote David Sparkman.

“Most employers today have implemented a zero-tolerance policy that bans the use of alcohol and illegal substances for obvious safety reasons, but new state laws can create additional problems partly because those company policies usually exclude prescription drugs when a worker informs the employer about using them.

“At one end of the spectrum, some states require that employers must accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana. … At the other end of the spectrum, states like California and Ohio where medical marijuana is legal do not require accommodation of employee use.

“An effective drug policy decreases hazards and promotes an accident-free work environment. While state and federal laws meant to promote this goal may seem straightforward when read in isolation, problems arise when these laws overlap or conflict with one another,” the article cautioned.

Legal, illegal and unresolved questions

Black people are overrepresented in jails and prisons when it comes to marijuana arrests and convictions, but though many states are legalizing weed, at the federal level, it still remains a Schedule I drug; meaning the government views marijuana as being just as dangerous as heroin, LSD, but somehow less dangerous than cocaine. In addition, even though the penalty for possession has now been greatly reduced and the drug is becoming legalized at the state level, the federal government has no plans to release anyone currently convicted and incarcerated on weed charges in states where marijuana is legal.

“As long as marijuana is federally illegal, the government has the discretion to go in any state where marijuana is legal and make arrests. Federal law trumps state law,” argued Dr. Muhammad. “This is the trap and the ultimate win-win for our enemy. Make it legal so that we continue to partake of it, but suffer the physiological consequences of it and be lured into a false sense of security that we can’t be arrested for it. But you can still get arrested and we still are getting arrested for weed, which continues to feed the private prison industry which has a relationship with the government. Legalization is our enemy’s trap and trick.”

Wednesday, September 11

From The Final Call Newspaper

Race, Class and Privilege and the NFL’s Unresolved Issues

By Barrington M. Salmon Contributing Writer @bsalmondc

See Also
Dreads, Super Bowl tickets and a tricky start to NFL-Roc Nation community partnership

“I’m not going to stand to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black People and People of Color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish for me to look the other way.” —Colin Kaepernick

Perhaps it was inevitable that the National Football League would not be immune to the raw, angry clashes around race that have exploded into super bursts of toxic energy around the country particularly since wannabe cop George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.

San Francisco 49ers Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick take a knee during the National Anthem prior to their game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte North Carolina, Sept. 18, 2016. Photo: MGN Online

Sports, we’re told, is the great equalizer. On the field, they intone, race doesn’t matter, only athletic prowess, hard work and the devotion to winning. But this truism is as false as a $3 dollar bill, as illustrated by the NFL’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s fateful decision to kneel before a preseason game in August 2016. His gesture demonstrated his opposition to the second class treatment of Black people, racial injustice and condemnation of a society which condones police brutality and the extra-judicial murders of Black men, women and children.

Since then, the former San Francisco quarterback has been banished by owners of the NFL’s 32 teams, ostracized by some fellow players and shunned because of a principled stance against the laundry list of racial- and racist-inspired challenges that confront Blacks in America. He has also won the admiration of many, inspired a movement, was offered a Nike deal, continued his activism and forced the league to settle and pay him as part of a labor dispute. He still doesn’t have a job in the NFL.

Despite NFL team owners antagonizing, threatening and bullying players who knelt in solidarity, spoke out or displayed other forms of civil disobedience—and President Donald Trump jumping in to disparage and insult the Black players and changing the narrative of the real reasons for the protests—the issue hasn’t gone away.

Color of Change is just one of a number of social justice organizations that have supported Mr. Kaepernick since he began his protest. Executive Director Rashad Robinson said Mr. Kaepernick has played a vital role in pushing forward the struggle for racial equality, fairness and justice.

“Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter activists have opened up the movement and engaged to change written and unwritten rules,” he told The Final Call in a recent interview. “We’ve been really engaged. We’ve done work to push corporations to respond and support Kaepernick and Eric Reid. We’ve gotten members of Color of Change to give visible support. We’ve fought back in the media on behalf of Kaepernick and other players and offered other support with op-eds.”

“We feel that we have to leverage these movements for system change. That’s our goal.”

There have been noticeable impacts on the NFL because of the player protest movement. The subsequent public boycott of the NFL by those supporting Mr. Kaepernick—who last played for the San Francisco 49ers—has hurt revenue, reduced viewership and tarnished the brand.

Fans who support Mr. Kaepernick have refused to watch games, attendance has fallen and big money entertainers refused to be a part of the NFL’s signature Super Bowl 2019 halftime show as the league refused to allow Mr. Kaepernick—who despite his age is still considered an elite quarterback—to vie for and take his place on a team.

At its start in the first year, more than 200 football players joined Mr. Kaepernick in kneeling or engaging in other forms of silent protest. But over time, the numbers have dwindled, with players like Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid and now-Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills being the most outspoken supporters of Mr. Kaepernick and articulators of the protestors’ positions.

Mr. Robinson and other social justice warriors understand and acknowledge how formidable an adversary the NFL is. It’s a $75 billion behemoth promoting the most popular sport in America and the 32 owners wield considerable power. But as several interviewees noted, the players don’t realize the strength they have because the NFL would not and could not function without their participation.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (15) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sept. 9, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

“This was a golden opportunity missed,” said Gary Johnson, founder and publisher of Black Men in America, a premier online magazine. “One Sunday, just one Sunday, if all or most of the players sat down, it would change everything … it would ripple around the whole country.”

Mr. Johnson’s son Chris agreed.

“The players don’t understand the power they have. They are the billion-dollar product. Until those seats are empty, the owners won’t get it,” said the younger Mr. Johnson, a political commentator and musician.

For three years, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell searched in vain for ways to silence the protestors and turn the page on the social justice demonstrations. He now believes he’s found the perfect tool.

Enter Jay-Z.

The billionaire entertainer and mogul recently joined Mr. Goodell a few weeks ago to announce a collaboration that names Roc Nation as the league’s official live music entertainment strategists. As part of the deal, Roc Nation will spearhead and advise the NFL on artist selection for music performances, including the extremely popular Super Bowl halftime show. In addition, Roc Nation is supposed to also work on the league’s social justice platform called Inspire Change. The initiative, launched earlier this year, aims to address the criminal justice reform, police and community relations, education and economic advancement.

But the partnership has triggered fierce pushback and invited deepening public skepticism that the collaboration is nothing more than a camouflage and a not-too-subtle way to let the NFL off the hook.

“It’s a little bit of a smokescreen,” sports lawyer and businessman Michael Huyghue told The Final Call. “Top athletes were refusing to perform. The real damage was not the issues surrounding the protests, the real issue was drawing top performers. Bringing Jay-Z in is a way to make performers feel more comfortable, and by the way, ‘we’ll deal with social issues too.’ ”

In actuality, Mr. Huyghue explained, the NFL has no platform on how it will specifically deal with the social justice issues raised by Mr. Kaepernick, and Jay-Z doesn’t have any real civil rights or social justice background to offer the type of depth and expertise needed to foster real and significant change.

Longtime human rights Attorney Nicole C. Lee described the NFL-Jay Z issue as “simple and complicated,” adding that the NFL has shown no sincerity or desire to address the issues Mr. Kaepernick has raised. The larger issue, she contends, is the attempted muzzling of Black athletes and a denial of their constitutional right to free speech.

“The protest was about the treatment of African Americans by police. The support of Kaepernick is this issue but it’s also about how talented athletes and entertainers are treated as if they’re owned,” said Ms. Lee, co-founder of the Black Movement Law Project, principal of the Lee Bayard Group and former president of TransAfrica. “They’re not allowed to express their individual agency. The NFL is bypassing putting Kaepernick on a team and going to Jay-Z. Goodell bypassed the issue and went to Jay-Z. He basically said, ‘See, I got my African American, people like him.’ ”

“I think it’s actually simple and complicated,” continued Ms. Lee, a diversity, equity and inclusion expert, leadership coach, nationally recognized speaker. “People are still upset with Jay-Z’s move because Kaepernick still has not found a team. The fact that Kaepernick isn’t on a team indicates that the NFL is digging its heels and punishing speech. Black folks are penalized when they speak out. The NFL can have Jay-Z but having him will not change the situation or circumstances. People will continue to be pissed off. This is not going away.”

William “Billy” Hunter, former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), said he hasn’t followed everything that’s been going on in the NFL-Kaepernick imbriglio, but offered his perspective. Despite Jay-Z agreeing to work with the NFL, the issues that led to the player protest are still very present and unresolved, he said.

And the length and intensity of any protests or pushback “depends on the reaction you get from the Black community and players. If they decide that Kap hasn’t gotten justice, this will continue,” the former union head said of the public boycott. “The NFL was beginning to feel impact and Jay-Z gives them assurance that everything is alright.”

Mr. Hunter, a longtime attorney who played for the Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins, said it isn’t helpful that football players have split into different factions.

“The Players Coalition kinda hurts what Kap and others are trying to do because they took money,” he said of the $89 million the coalition of current players accepted from the owners for social justice programs. “The problem is that with the movement, the question is how many people would go with management. When I was with the NBAPA, (Commissioner David) Stern told me that he always had spies. The players are often insecure. They are the ones who might benefit the most but they don’t make as much as basketball players and don’t have guaranteed contracts. They won’t play for more than three or four years unless you have a breakout career.”

In all America’s other sports, the master-slave attitude persists, Mr. Hunter said.

“We had some knockdown dragouts because of this attitude. They expect that,” he said of the owners. “There are a lot of the vestiges of old days. David Stern was a lot more progressive, but the assumption is that if you have money people are supposed to bend or genuflect.”

Trade unionist, columnist and activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. said the Kaepernick protest overlaps as a social justice issue as well as a test of whether these athletes have a right to protest.

“It’s about the right to be protected in protesting which is an athlete’s right,” he said. “This is a stand against hypocrisy.”

Mr. Fletcher said he has had discussions with key people in the NFL Players’ Association and two issues surfaced: Mr. Kaepernick began his initial protest without informing them and that association leadership would only intervene if he gave the nod; and that NFLPA members were not unified on Mr. Kaepernick’s stand because of the split between conservative and left-wing members.

“I would have told Kaepernick to follow the Curt Flood model because he got player support as he fought for free agency,” said Mr. Fletcher, former president of the TransAfrica Forum and author of “They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths About Unions.” “I would also recommend that he build a strategy committee who was prepared to back him. Instead, he encountered periods of isolation. This needed to be a campaign. He was left standing by himself when he was expecting people to support him.

“Kaepernick taking this step by himself was noble and courageous but not strategic.”

Both Mr. Fletcher and Marc Bayard, a leading expert on racial equity and organizing strategies, cited the need for the NFL and individual owners to develop comprehensive education programs for the players on matters of race in America.

“In the past 2-3 years, I’ve had conversations with the staff at the NFLPA and the political realm has gone from typical bread-and-butter issues of better wages, concussion and safety to free agency,” said Mr. Bayard, an associate fellow and the director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative and the founding executive director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University. “They are well-versed in dealing with traditional issues but in an era of overt political issues, we all have room to grow. It’s incumbent of the league to have education and training on hot button issues to understand the nature of issues such as the policy around police brutality. I also believe that the symbolism and importance of players educating the public on social issues is critical.”

Rally in support of Colin Kaepernick at Soldier Field in Chicago Sept. 10, 2017.

Harold Bell, long considered the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television in Washington, D.C., said Mr. Kaepernick’s work is in the longtime tradition of athletes who’ve spoken out. Yet despite the millions of dollars football players make, they are sometimes little more than what sportswriter, author and former New York Times columnist William Rhoden called “billion dollar slaves.”

“This is about how the One Percent controls us; it’s all about divide and conquer,” said Mr. Bell, who created “Inside Sports” in 1972 and who was talking about racism in the NFL, drug use among athletes and other sensitives issues on his radio and television shows decades ago. “When people say sports and politics don’t mix, I say they gotta be crazy. This war has been going on for a long, long time. Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens and Paul Robeson are all strong Black men who stood up but got knocked down.”

Mr. Bell echoed other interviewees who acknowledged that the NFL player protest movement sits at the nexus of sports, race and activism. It’s not a new phenomenon, with athletes in the past like Muhammad Ali refusing to be inducted into the U.S. military to fight in Vietnam, and others like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racism and other racially connected social ills in the 1960s.

But in this case, the players’ opposition to police brutality, institutional racism and oppression had been co-opted by President Donald Trump and others and twisted into criticism of cops, the military, respect for law and order, the appropriateness of protest and patriotism.

“NFL owners have been very embarrassed by this. They would like to do something but they’re afraid of Trump,” Mr. Fletcher said. “You have to look at this at the level of politics. If you don’t organize, it’s very likely that you’ll fail.”

No matter the NFL does, those interviewed said, none believed the collaboration will have any real and lasting effect on the protests that continue unabated as Blacks and others push back against anti-Black racism, police brutality, extra-judicial killings and the increase in nativism, White extremism and hate crimes. What is acknowledged but often ignored too is the fact that the NFL has a White male dominated, conservative, reactionary ownership structure, no Black majority owners and a league where about 70 percent of the players are Black.

“I wonder how long is that going to work; how long is it going to last?” Ms. Lee asked of the Jay-Z and NFL deal. “It may not matter in the short or medium term. Jay-Z has shown he’s fine with capitalism, with being the only Black in the room. The reality is we’re pushing society to be more just. I’m not going to look into the intent of other folks, but I don’t think Jay-Z’s talking about radical change and radical change is needed to change the circumstances of Black people.”