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, August 20

From The Final Call Newspaper

Skepticism greets Jay-Z, NFL talk of inspiring change

By Bryan 18X Crawford and Richard B. Muhammad The Final Call Newspaper @TheFinalCall | 

When Jay-Z decided to engage in a business relationship with the NFL, the hip-hop mogul had to expect to receive some backlash. But over the course of days after the announcement that his Roc Nation company would take over the NFL’s entertainment event platforms—like the Super Bowl—while also helping push the league’s newly created “Inspire Change” initiative, the news wasn’t met with broad joy or optimism.

Jay-Z was roundly criticized for his decision by many, while others argued it was too early to come to any definitive analysis of what was happening and the end game Jay-Z had in mind.

Music artist Jay-Z is seen on the sideline during an NFL football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams, Nov. 19, 2018, in Los Angeles. Photo: Ben Liebenberg via AP

Yet the hip-hop mogul was accused of allowing the NFL to use him to bury Colin Kaepernick and the spirit of his protest and even called an outright sellout. At the Roc Nation offices in Manhattan, Jay-Z and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hosted select members of the media to formally announce the partnership.

Later questions arose with reports that Jay-Z would become or was working on becoming an NFL owner, which was not revealed until after announcement of the NFL partnership. Then there was the Aug. 19 tweet by New York-based radio host Funk Master Flex about Jay-Z and Atlanta-based producer and performer Jermaine Dupri and advice to back off of an NFL deal. “I just got off the phone with Jermaine Dupri … he confirmed that when he was working with the NFL last year, he did get a call from Jay-Z asking him .. ‘How deep are U in with the NFL?’ Expressing … ‘That might not be a good idea.’ ”

“Jay-Z had multiple reasons for becoming part of the NFL family, and TMZ Sports has learned one of them is that he is going to become part owner of an NFL team ... and it’s going to happen soon,” TMZ reported Aug. 16. “We’re told Jay wants to become a part owner ‘because he’s a huge fan, already has a sports business and wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.’ ”

“ ‘Jay-Z claimed to be a supporter of Colin [Kaepernick],’ Carolina Panthers safety Ed Reid said to reporters while wearing a No. 7 jersey stitched with the phrase #IMWITHKAP,” the Washington Post reported. “[He] wore his jersey, told people not to perform at the Super Bowl because of the treatment of what the NFL did to Colin, and now he’s going to be a part owner. … It’s kind of despicable.” Mr. Reid has been a supporter of Mr. Kaepernick and fought his own battle with the NFL over his anti-police brutality protests.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during the NFL football owners meeting on May 22, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

“I think Black people have to be very extremely cautious and careful about calling people that they disagree with sell-outs for neo-colonialists and the like,” commented Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, during a CNN interview. Those who are protesting should continue protest and the blackballing of Mr. Kaepernick is an important issue, he said.

“We can agree or disagree but we should not name call,” said Dr. Dyson, author of the new book, “JAY-Z: Made in America.” “The enemy is White supremacy, White nationalism, the inability of White owners to acknowledge the humanity of Black people across the board if they refuse to hire Colin Kaepernick. At the same time, Jay-Z is talking about this is what we are going to do.”

Leadership and guidance are needed alongside a blueprint to make things better, and players can still protest, two things can be done at the same time, argued the Georgetown University sociology professor. “Let’s stop the name calling and figure out what we can do in concert together,” he advised.

“The concern of the average person was where is Colin Kaepernick? Where is he on this partnership?” commented Mark Thompson, Sirius XM broadcaster and a contributor to the Roland S. Martin daily digital show, who was in the Aug. 14 Roc Nation-NFL meeting. “Any deal that any Black person makes with the NFL should include the blackballing of Kap being lifted and him being hired to play football again.”

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.

Mr. Kaepernick’s girlfriend, New York radio personality Nessa Diab, said of Jay-Z’s newly formed partnership with the NFL, “I don’t mind you doing a business deal—but I do mind you wrapping it in social justice when you’re working with an organization that denies someone an opportunity,” she said on her Hot 97 radio show. “The disappointment in Jay-Z isn’t in the partnership. The disappointment is wrapping it in social justice.”

Maybe it was just bad timing for the announcement? After all, Jay-Z and Mr. Goodell held that press conference on the three-year anniversary of Mr. Kaepernick’s kneeling being noticed and made public. The quarterback tweeted a video that included images of Walter Scott being shot and killed in South Carolina, Eric Garner being choked to death by NYPD, Luis Gongora, a homeless man in San Francisco who was shot and killed by police, and many other shootings captured on video in which officers involved received little to virtually no disciplinary action. The caption of the tweet read, “Today marks the three year anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression. I continue to work and stand with the people in our fight for liberation, despite those who are trying to erase the movement! The movement has always lived with the people!”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Jay-Z appear at a news conference at ROC Nation on Aug. 14, in New York. The NFL and ROC Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment and sports representation company, announced Aug. 13 they were team- ing up for events and social activism, a deal Jay-Z said had been in the works over the last seven months. Photo: Ben Hider/AP Images for NFL

Was this a veiled shot at Jay-Z, who famously wore Mr. Kaepernick’s jersey during live performances? The same man who turned down an appearance at the Super Bowl because he was standing in solidarity with the quarterback? Or was it a shot at Roger Goodell and the NFL, who have aggressively tried to curb any on-field protests while the league tries to change its negative reputation? Is Jay-Z really a pawn in what Nessa called a “PR stunt” on the part of the NFL? He doesn’t seem to think so.

“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success,” Jay-Z said at the media event. “This is the next thing, because there are two parts to the protest—you go out and protest, and the company and individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’ ”

Aug. 19 tweet by New York-based radio host Funk Master Flex about Jay-Z and Atlanta-based pro- ducer and performer Jermaine Dupri.

What do we do next has been a question since February when it was announced that Mr. Kaepernick had reached a settlement with the NFL over his grievance that he was blackballed from the league. Mr. Kaepernick later secured a multi-million dollar Nike deal as a result of his activism, and started his “Know Your Rights” camp for Black and Brown youth.

“Honestly, that’s where I have some criticisms for Kap,” Mr. Thompson said. “It’s still not clear if his settlement means that the movement to get him hired again is over. He needs to provide leadership on that and say something on that piece … . You can’t be half a leader. You can’t inspire people to something and then don’t talk to them anymore. Does Kap expect the public to continue its boycott of the NFL until he gets a job? For those of us in the social justice movement, it’s unnatural to shut down a movement before we’ve gotten justice. In making a settlement without a provision for him to speak to people was also a shortsighted move. That’s like Dr. King and the Montgomery Improvement Association, suing the city of Montgomery in the Supreme Court over segregated buses, and then during the middle of the boycott, they reach a settlement and then don’t tell anybody whether they should continue the boycott or not.”

“People who are comparing Kaepernick’s settlement to Jay-Z’s business deal need to step all the way back,” argued Elie Mystal on His Aug. 16 piece was titled “Colin Kaepernick Settled His Grievance, Jay-Z Is Just Taking The Money.”

“There seems to be some confusion about the difference between Colin Kaepernick settling his collusion grievance with the National Football League before an arbitrator could rule on the merits, and Jay-Z allowing the NFL to paint itself in Hovaface in exchange for some Super Bowl money. The mischaracterization seems to be: Kaep ‘took the money’ and Jay-Z took the money, so it’s all the same and so now let’s get READY FOR SOME FOOTBAW!!!”

“The NFL collective bargaining agreement is notoriously crappy for the players. Kaepernick, and fellow NFL player Eric Reid, filed their grievance in October 2017. In August 2018, the court dismissed the NFL’s motion for summary judgment. This was crucial. It meant that, according to the arbitrator, Kaepernick and Reid had made enough of a showing that collusion might have happened that his legal team could continue gathering evidence and making their case. Surviving the motion for summary judgment was a major victory for the players. That’s also why the NFL went into settlement mode. … Every lawyer on the planet would have advised Kaepernick to take the settlement. Only a very bad client would ignore this advice.”

Speaking from his National Action Network in New York, civil rights leader Al Sharpton advised against being drawn into a debate about Jay-Z and Colin Kaepernick. The issue is justice for those killed by police officers and those brutalized, he said. “Don’t let them distract you fighting the wrong fight,” Rev. Sharpton said.

“I got into Atlanta … TMZ waiting there. ‘Rev. Al, what do you think about Jay Z? They call him a sellout and all that.’ I said, ‘The issue is Jay Z has done documentaries around and about [Kalief] Browder and other things. I’m not attacking Jay Z and I won’t participate until Kaepernick has a job. The issue is Eric Garner. This issue is Tamir Rice,” he said Aug. 17 in a clip posted on Twitter.

In fairness, Jay-Z has used his platform and enormous wealth to draw attention to a number of issues that have plagued Black and Brown communities for decades; from police brutality and wrongful incarceration, to the unjust justice system that saw another rapper, Meek Mill, on probation for more than 10 years, with a judge presiding over his case that seemed to have a vendetta against him. He has also supported the Black Lives Matter movement, highlighted the problem with cash bail and paid bail for protestors jailed during some demonstrations.

The NFL is an entertainment league and Jay-Z is one of the biggest entertainers in music history. His status as a billionaire from making hip-hop music almost ensures that the NFL has left the entertainment arm of its business in great hands. But what of the Inspire Change initiative? The penalty for being an outspoken athlete when you consider the amount of money athletes get paid today can be harsh and expensive. Colin Kaepernick was made an example. But, can these men who play football on Sundays still have a meaningful impact on the community Monday through Saturday? Jay-Z seems to think it’s possible.

“For me, this is action,” he said. “We help millions of millions of people or we get stuck on Colin not having a job.”

Jay-Z, left, and Meek Mill make an announcement of the launch of Dream Chasers record label in joint venture with Roc Nation, at the Roc Nation headquarters on, July 23, in New York. Photo: Greg Allen/Invision/AP

And while Roger Goodell said that any of the NFL’s 32 teams is free to sign Mr. Kaepernick if they want to, the reality is with him being the face of all the league’s PR troubles the last three years, and by taking the settlement, which all 32 teams paid into, his days of playing in the NFL were over as soon as the ink dried on that deal. Now, for the NFL, it’s back to business. And that business is entertaining people in more ways than one.

“I think what the players want is to focus on the world, the community and the problems we are addressing,” Mr. Goodell said. “They did the protest to bring attention to them. Now they want to get to the hard work … I want them to take what they are talking about and what they are protesting about and go make change in the communities. That’s what they want. That’s what they were doing. Let’s move forward and work to progress and let’s do things together. If we need to shine a light on something, let’s do it together. That has been very effective for us.”

Malcolm Jenkins, who plays safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, felt the entry of Jay-Z into the conversation could be a good thing. He has been involved in the discussion of police brutality and racial justice, even participating in a 2017 congressional hearing. “I think having somebody like Jay-Z who can add to that conversation, he does these things on a daily basis. He has a history of doing these things, helps us as players to have an ally like that. We’re looking forward to seeing what they turns into,” he said in a video clip posted to Twitter on Aug. 19.

Still, one could argue the NFL has been effective at blunting and redirecting energy away from its major problem of race, power and perception to questions against the man the league called upon to help solve the problem.

Tuesday, August 13

From The Final Call Newspaper

Ferguson five years later Still painful, still healing, still in the struggle

By Richard B. Muhammad Editor @RMfinalcall

FERGUSON, Mo.—The little town that was the catalyst for a national movement against police brutality and the epicenter of demands for the end to the killings of Blacks by police has seen some change, some progress, some political advances and some stubborn problems.

Michael Brown Sr., with his wife, Cal Brown, addresses media. Photos: Cartan X

Five years ago, the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., brought thousands of activists, civil rights leaders, protestors and ordinary people to this suburb of St. Louis where an urban uprising erupted, and police officers looked like storm troopers in a foreign combat zone.

The police department was majority White, and Whites controlled political power over the majority Black population in a town of about 22,000 people. Today there is a Black police chief and four of six city council members are Black. The St. Louis county prosecutor, Wesley Bell, is a Black man and former Ferguson city council member.

Media outlets in Ferguson, Mo., five years after the fatal shooting of Mike Brown by White police officer Darren Wilson.

Fran Griffin was a concerned mom and resident who took to the streets after the Brown killing and police response in 2014. She now represents Ferguson’s Third Ward. She has focused on police policies like use of force and the right of officers to search people, changing those policies and increasing police accountability.

She backs reopening of the case of the killing of Mike Brown, which she called a catalyst for change in the city and country. “Not only did they treat Mike Brown, Jr., inhumanely, but they treated a whole community of Black people inhumanely. It’s up to us to stand with the family in support of reopening this case so that they can finally get some justice for their son,” she said.

“The police decided to attack a community of people who were mourning the death of the loss of a child, one of our children. That did something to me,” she continued. Along with the pain, she felt there would be a chance for residents to impact what was happening in Ferguson. She got involved. She looked at police policies and how they gave police the legal right to manhandle residents.

Activists and men of the Nation of Islam, stand in unity with Mike Brown, Sr. Photos: Cartan X

Changes to these policies and greater police accountability is underway, but it’s a constant push, Ms. Griffin said. The police department remains under a federal consent decree that includes a monitors’ team and a federal judge overseeing police department reforms, said Ms. Griffin. “But it’s up to the people in the community to push it as far as we can to make sure our voices are heard,” she added.

Black drivers are still stopped more often than Whites, which was once a major moneymaker for Ferguson through traffic tickets, fines and arrest warrants. State law now limits use of these tools.

“In Ferguson, the disparity in traffic stops of black drivers has increased by five percentage points since 2013, while it has dropped by 11 percentage points for white drivers,” the New York Times noted.

Jason Armstrong became Ferguson’s second Black police chief in July and Black cops have increased from four to 21 officers.

Members of the Ferguson community spoke during a memorial program Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., the fifth anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. Photo: Cartan X

Mayor James Knowles III is one of the few holdovers from the heated days of nightly demonstrations, stand-offs with police and stifling racial tension. Some racial tension remains.

Not every problem has been solved but some people have put in a lot of hard work over the five years, said Ms. Griffin.

The Third Ward is a predominantly Black community with the lowest income of the city’s wards and the most apartment complexes but there was a longtime plan to move Blacks out of the area for new development, she said. This plan is being revised and now residents, again, must stay involved to press for racial equity that the plan is supposed to include, Ms. Griffin explained. She sits on the city planning commission to make sure she knows, and residents know what is happening.

Residents are still angered by the heavy-handed police response, with attack dogs and military weaponry to initially peaceful protests in Ferguson. Resources for youth, along with a lack of Black civil representation are still problems today, five years after the killing of Michael Brown, activists say. Photo: MGN Online

A planned health center and Boys and Girls Club are welcome, but healing should be holistic, not just a moneymaker for insurance companies and 18- to 24-year-olds must not fall through the gaps, she added. “This development is going to take place and will guide the city of Ferguson for the next 20 years,” Ms. Griffin observed.

“Who would have believed that out of a community like this and out of a tragedy would come a whole movement that sprung out all across this country in terms of not only issues of police accountability, police restructuring; but also in some ways there’s a whole movement around reparatory justice associated with this, too,” commented Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute for the Black World 21st Century.

“I think that we’ve made progress in the sense that there’s been people who’ve been elected to office, people got activated, they elected some prosecutors, you know, and all of that’s good. But at the end of the day, we still have a lot more work to do,” said Dr. Daniels, who is based in New Jersey. He was in Ferguson Aug. 9 for a reparations conference and stopped by for a commemoration of the fifth-year anniversary of the killing of Mike Brown, Jr., in the place where the teenager lost his life.

“All this is sacred ground,” said Dr. Daniels.

The problems of policing and lack of opportunity in Ferguson are linked to longstanding issues of segregation and racism. White flight, lack of jobs and lack of public transportation are linked to Black progress or the lack thereof.

Last summer, “Segregation in St. Louis Dismantling the Divide” laid out how entrenched challenges in Ferguson and elsewhere in the region are tied to specific policies to deny Blacks access to equal housing and services and protect White enclaves.

The tactics ranged from denying Blacks homeownership opportunities and not building affordable housing to destroying or taking over once thriving Black communities or neighborhoods.

“Developers of whites-only subdivisions were vastly favored for construction loans to build single family, large-lot homes,” the report noted in an explanation of historic housing policy.

“After Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson in 2014, the relatively recent history of white and middle-class flight in North St. Louis County received national attention. Ferguson’s demographics were reflective of the hypersegregation and disinvestment affecting a large segment of its African American population. Though Ferguson appeared diverse at first glance, in reality the majority of African Americans lived in poor and segregated neighborhoods within Ferguson. Rothstein in ‘The Making of Ferguson’ observed that Ferguson had ‘ghetto conditions we had come to associate with inner cities now duplicated in a formerly white suburban community.’

Earring says, “Hands up don’t shoot”.

“Those conditions included high-poverty segregated neighborhoods, lower performing schools, abandoned homes, and a sense of community powerlessness,” it said.

“North St. Louis County residents often find themselves in isolated neighborhoods with less access to social services and support agencies, poor transportation options, and declining schools and tax bases. Studies indicate that the St. Louis region remains among the 10 most segregated in the country,” the report said.

“With the reaction to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson followed three years later by the exoneration of a City of St. Louis police officer in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, St. Louis has become a place now roiled by intermittent conflict and protest. Issues of inequity and segregation underlie much of the discontent. Pockets of integrated neighborhoods exist, but systems and policies have not been put into place to preserve their diversity and keep them from transitioning to disinvested, newly segregated communities,” it warned.

Still there is the ongoing battle to bring equity and justice to Ferguson through the work of groups like the Urban League’s Ferguson Empowerment Center, built on the place where a convenience store was burned to the ground in the early aftermath of Mike Brown, Jr.’s death and police teargassing of street protestors.

It offers trainings, job fairs and a special program which aims to help mentor Black males. It also housed an exhibit devoted to Mike Brown, Jr., during the weekend commemoration of his death and a food giveaway. Nearby is an almost ready Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis, priced at about $12.4 million and including 26,000-square-feeet of space for youngsters. Plans also call for a primary care facility and women’s clinic.

Girls perform during remembrance of Michael Brown, Jr.

There are other smaller programs for youth that have sprang up, including the work of a foundation run by Michael Brown, Sr., and programs run Lesley McSpadden in honor of her son.

There are also Black businesses, entrepreneurs and homeowners who also live in Ferguson, so the outlook is not all bleak.

But warns, Ms. Griffin, vigilance is necessary. Prior to her election in April and defeating Mike Brown, Jr.’s mom for the council seat, the city chose Jeffrey Blume as interim city manager. The Justice Dept. named Mr. Blume, who formerly served as Ferguson finance director, as pushing for more traffic fines to bring in more revenue, she said.

Blacks are 67 percent of the city population, yet from 2012-2014, represented 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of the citations, and 93 percent of the arrests, according to the Justice Dept.

Trumped up charges for code enforcement generated fines and fees for Ferguson’s budget that reached $1.38 million of the $11.07 million collected in general funds in 2010, said the Justice Dept. Budget forecasts continued to exceed expectations year after year. In 2012, city officials “predicted” that fines and fees revenue would increase 30 percent to $1.92 million, however Ferguson courts exceeded the “prediction” and collected $2.11 million. Predictions were exceeded again in 2013 by courts, which essentially are under the control of the Ferguson police chief, collecting $2.46 million in fines and fees.

In 2014, the city issued nearly 12,000 tickets, but the citations fell to less than 2,000 and brought in less than $400,000 in 2017.

Tory Russell leads the International Black Freedom Alliance. Five years ago, he was a Ferguson frontline protestor but today he sees the need for a mass grassroots movement.

Young men perform step routine during tribute to Michael Brown, Jr.

Among lessons he has learned is the need for an intergenerational movement with input from elders. We tried to push the elders out and say we got this, but we didn’t have it, said the 35-year-old organizer.

He believes old-fashioned door knocking, street organizing and people to people contact is needed. “We have to have a grassroots agenda brought to you by the people that’s actually in the grassroots. I think social media activism was cool. I think the hashtags look cute, but them hashtags don’t protect bodies and they damn sure don’t build homes and communities,” he added.

There was also not enough protection of protestors who have been killed and a couple have gone to jail, Mr. Russell continued. We need to build a movement where we protect one another, he said.

His group met over the Aug. 9 weekend to plan and discuss community building, reparations, separation, repatriation. “Now it’s time to have some of that building,” the activist said.

Yo Nas Da Lonewolf, who returned for the fifth anniversary commemoration, has been working with the Brown family since 2014. She was also among protestors five years ago. “Still no justice,” she said. “Officer Darren Wilson is still living his life, but not only Officer Darren Wilson, so many police have been murdering activists and putting it under the rug and acting like it’s a suicide. It’s been seven to ten activists who have been murdered,” she said.

Among those who have lost their lives in connection with Ferguson are Edward Crawford, who the world remembers for a powerful image of him wearing an American flag tee shirt, holding a bag of chips in one hand, and throwing a tear gas canister away from women and children as heavily-armed law enforcement officers engaged in a standoff with protestors. Authorities said he shot himself in the head while riding with two other people. Darren Seals, 29, was found with his Jeep Wrangler engulfed in flames in Riverview, Mo., a suburb north of St. Louis. He died from a gunshot wound to his head, according to authorities. MarShawn McCarrel’s death was called a suicide. Deandre Joshua, 20, was found shot in the head and burned inside his car just east of the Canfield Apartments. Some thought he testified before the Brown grand jury, but family members told the media he did not. He was about 75 yards away from where Mike Brown, Jr., was killed.

Danye Dion Jones, 24, was found hung in the backyard of his mother’s home in the north county community of Spanish Lake, Missouri, just five miles away from Ferguson. The St. Louis County Police Department is investigating the death as a suicide, but Melissa McKinnies, Mr. Jones’ mother, and a Ferguson protestor expressed doubt about the so-called suicide. She said her son was lynched. She was also lacked confidence in police handling of the death and subsequent investigation. Known for livestreaming protests, Bassem Masri, 31, was Palestinian American and reportedly died from an overdose of fentanyl. He was found on a bus.

Ms. Lonewolf called Mr. Seals a good friend and “beautiful brother.” “There is still a problem in Ferguson,” said the activist. “We need to act like Jesus and start saying, “Get behind me,’ as we keep moving as we separate because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to stop this epidemic and this massacre of original people all over the world.”