It really isn't very difficult to understand. As long as we are making everyone laugh, we're ok. As long as we are entertaining everyone, we're ok. As long as we work for capitalism, and just accept the overall disrespect and oppression that the masses of our people experience without saying anything about it, we're ok. As long as the slave does nothing except show appreciation for the slave master, we're ok. This model and these requirements have been the dominant form in which Africans are permitted to be displayed through popular culture for so long that most people don't even question it today. Even still, we hear you loud and clear Marshawn. By the little that you said, you spoke volumes and we appreciate you for that. The capitalist system said it pays you to perform for it, so therefore it expects you to respond to its whims and if you dare not do so, it will punish you. It said you belong to it today just like your ancestors did when we were first dragged over here. It told you that it will not tolerate you disobeying its orders. Your response? Instead of bowing your head and selling out, you strode up there defiantly and in spite of whatever backlash that will certainly come from the capitalist endorsers, the National Football League, reactionary, racist talk radio and television, you told the entire world that you ain't playing their slave master/slave game. The capitalist media, uninterested in our athletes and people for anything beyond fetishes and spectacles, got aggressive with you in an age old attempt to intimidate any rebellious slave who dares stand up against the master. You didn't blink. You didn't bow. You didn't laugh. You didn't capitulate. You looked them right in the eyes and you called them out for the hypocrites that they are. You reminded them that they don't care about us as people so why should you care about them as messengers for the capitalist system? Without saying it, you refused to let them forget that there is no difference between how the state sanctions systematic murder against our people and how the mouthpiece media system for the state attempts to treat you as it's private property. You told them that you aren't their docile slave and in case any of them were still confused, you clarified it by shouting out to "the real Africans!" This is not difficult to understand at all, but for those of you who are still confused, look at it like this. African people are not Americans. We were never brought here to be Americans and it doesn't matter if we stay here another 500 years, we still won't be Americans. We can't be because the capitalist system was built and is maintained today through our exploitation. Or, as one of the young African activists put it earlier this week; this system's comfort is built on our fear. We aren't Americans. We are Africans. The only stake we should have in America is destabilizing it and reclaiming our resources that this capitalist society steals daily. It's not that difficult to understand. In fact, it's so easy to understand that Marshawn hardly had to say anything to make it crystal clear and whether some people want to act confused about it or not, the one good thing about the capitalist media is tonight, there are Africans everywhere in the world who have received the message. Whether you wait tables, pick up garbage, pick fruit, teach school, or play pro football, you are an African. America is not your home, Europe is not your home. Canada is not your home. Central, South America, and the Caribbean are not your homes. You may live in all these places, but home ain't where the heart is unless that heart is properly politically educated. We are connected to Africa. Wherever you live, Africa is your real home. That connection will remain there whether you acknowledge it or not. Whether you do anything about it or not. You are an African because the future of Africa and your personal future are intrinsically linked so if you want to understand some sort of intersectionality, understand that intersection. You may live in America, or wherever you are, but you are African. It's not hard to understand. Maybe if more of us were saying less, but making it count, as Marshawn attempted to do today, less of us would be confused about this very important message. By saying just that little bit, he spoke up for all of us and all the uncle toms that will be pulled out of the woodwork in the next few days to denounce him won't change that one iota. It hasn't happened nearly as much as it should and unfortunately for every Muhammad Ali, Roberto Clemente, Mahmood Abdul Raoof, and now Marshawn Lynch, there are plenty of Jackie Robinsons, Joe Fraziers, and David Robinsons, but it doesn't matter because with just a few short words, Marshawn shut down all those uncle toms. And, if you don't believe that, just watch over the next few days how brutally the slave master reacts when one of his slaves rebels. Thank you Marshawn. We hear you. We understand you. And, and we are with you!! We will keep working to help our people understand that we aren't just Black people. We aren't African-Americans, Black British, Afro-Cubans, Nigerians, etc., etc. We are Africans period! It's not that difficult to understand, but our enemies have worked hard to confuse us. So, we will keep working to demonstrate to our people our true and actual relationship to this backward capitalist system, but for today, thank you brother for making our work just a little easier.
International reactions against police shootings of Africans, Israeli terror against Palestinians, and other forms of injustice against humanity, have elevated anti-racism work to unprecedented levels. I can’t think of a better time for my latest novel – The Courage Equation - to be released. Since this literary fiction manuscript is a story of anti-racism work, there are some people who will undoubtedly raise an eyebrow to the fact this story is told through the eyes of a white female. I can hear it now…Why and how will a white woman effectively tell a story about working against racism? Having spent my entire adult life involved in the struggle against racism, the choice to write the book this way came easy for me. I know many African activists will nod their head when I say that I am forced to spend an inordinate amount of my time working around, thru, and against white people who claim to be friends of oppressed peoples. As a result, I wanted to tell a story about how to be an effective ally to our struggle. So, although this book is told through the eyes of a white woman, the story doesn’t cater to her and in many ways is about something much more important than any one person. This lead character lives in Africa and is the lone white member of a community of African revolutionaries who rely on the consultation of an elder African female Griot for guidance. The primary white character is also the friend and understudy of a strong African sister – Adwoa Kaakyire, who helps lead the group while supporting, yet directing, the white character personally in everything she does. The primary character has even taken the step of changing her name from Ashley to Boahinmaa (Bwa-hen-maa). Her name was given to her by the children in Ghana where she lives and it (ironically) means “one who has left her community” in Akan.
This book is important for Africans because it reflects African people building institutions and providing leadership to African people through strong African cultural lenses. It also shows those African cultural lenses as the framework for leadership for white people by demonstrating how a white person; Boahinmaa, enthusiastically accepts that leadership with humility and respect, something often missing from our real world. The story is relevant for white allies because it shows white people truly interested in doing ally work how to carry out that work in a healthy way (in our humble opinion) without compromising/diminishing your worth as a human being. The story also has several examples of Boahinmaa working/struggling to understand and accept a world shaped through those African lenses, something African and other people of color have to do daily in order to function within white supremacist structures. These types of issues along with others, like addressing white privilege in Africa and the U.S., and productive ways in which white people should address those issues, are demonstrated repeatedly through Boahinmaa’s behavior, interactions, and work throughout this book.
My sincere hope is that this story will help spur discussions around these topics. I’m confident that this story, although fictitious, will contribute towards advancing people’s consciousness around these concepts. Of course, in order for any of this to happen, people have to know about the book. This is a difficult task for an unknown activist writer such as myself and that’s where I need your help. My objective is to talk to as many people as I possibly can about the concepts carried in this story. I know that when I do that the people I talk to will read the book and talk to people about it. Those people will in turn read the book and continue the process. This will contribute to this consciousness phenomenon in a way that I think will assist genuine work designed to advance human society against backward concepts of racism, patriarchy (also addressed significantly in the book), and other ills that prohibit us from reaching our full potential as human beings. I know that there are some people who will read this statement and say “he just wants people to buy his book.” You are correct, I do want people to buy the book, but if you know even the slightest thing about the publishing industry, then you know that it is probably easier to find a needle in a haystack than it is for an unknown writer to get his/her book on bookstore shelves (no retailer wants to buy books they aren’t convinced will sell). So, if my focus was on getting rich, I wouldn’t have written this type of story. Instead, my objective is to inspire people to reflect on what type of people we need to become in order to solve these problems we face. Talking about these issues is the key to making that happen and that’s my focus; being able to talk to as many people as possible about the book and the concepts contained within it; e.g. independent African organizations, true white allies, strong, anti-patriarchal African and white women, women’s solidarity, building and respecting African unity, and a focused and militant effort to stamp out white supremacy. These concepts are often things most people cannot imagine existing together, yet this story/book shows us how this can happen and why it should happen. I’m excited and ready to come to your book club, church, school, organization, conference, training, campfire, radio program, television program, whatever, to inspire discussion about all these things. Then, may these discussions spread like wildfire.
And our intelligence. Unfortunately, the movie was so historically inaccurate it had to be intended to be that way. I'm a literary fiction writer and I'm flexible enough as a person that I can understand the creativity that comes with producing art, but this movie is a portrayal of a historical event of monumental significance. There are real people displayed in this movie, plenty of them. Therefore, a project like this has a responsibility to not lie about history, which is what this movie often does. This wouldn't be so irritating to me if it wasn't for the fact I know most people don't read. Most people view study as a dirty disgusting habit. Consequently, since most people rely on popular culture to get their understanding of everything, there are literary millions of people who will use this movie as their research into the political work taking place in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Many of those people will argue tooth and nail with activists like myself about what happened when 99.9% of what they know will come from this movie. That's why it's important to me that I see movies like this one, which I did last night, and provide a balanced perspective of what I saw based on my years of activism and mentorship from many people who were direct participants in that struggle.
First, let me say I did glean one positive from the movie. The acting was well done. David Oyelowo does a credible job as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Actually, the fact the British born actor could so convincingly play the Southern U.S. born preacher/activist is testimony to our political position as Pan-Africanists that it matters little where we are born, we are still Africans. After that, there are serious shortcomings with the movie. I'll start with the troublesome portrayal of Malcolm X and the film's depiction of an interaction between him and Coretta Scott King. In the film, when she sees him arriving in Selma, she dresses him down for attacking her husband and he cowers like a mouse in response. This depiction may represent the movie maker's sick desire to rewrite history to fit their political agenda, but it ain't what happened folks. First, the movie goes to great lengths to give you the impression that King's organization -the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was the dominant civil rights organization and other groups like the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC - pronounced SNICK) were portrayed as being unreasonable fringe militants. The movie suggests that Malcolm opportunistically pushed his way into the work SCLC was facilitating in Selma while Dr. King was in jail. The truth is that SNCC had a base in Selma long before SCLC arrived and it was SNCC, not SCLC, that organized the event that day and it was SNCC, whose organizers were becoming increasingly influenced by Malcolm's militant nationalist/Pan-Africanist ideas, that enthusiastically invited Malcolm to speak to them, not SCLC, that day. In fact, Coretta Scott King gave an interview of her account of that day to Jackie Shearer on November 21, 1988. During that interview, Coretta Scott explained that she didn't even arrive at the event that day until after Malcolm had spoken. She recounted that she got there and Andrew Young immediately started chiding her to speak to try and redirect the enthusiasm that Malcolm's speech had generated. Coretta Scott indicates that she went into the event and spoke and after concluding, sat down next to Malcolm on stage. According to her, and everyone else who was present, it was at this time that he leaned over to her and told her that he was there to help. She expressed that her response was a simple thank you and that was it. No discussion. No tension. No drama. She goes on to state during that interview that this was her one and only encounter with Malcolm and how much she appreciated his "kind words." Their exchange lasted no more than 10 seconds, which was 10 seconds longer than any verbal exchange Malcolm and Dr. King ever had. These are facts folks.
Problem two is how SNCC was portrayed. The movie represents SNCC through the presence of only two characters; John Lewis and James Forman. The fact only two SNCC organizers are portrayed is unfortunate. SNCC had so many magnificent organizers working around Selma at that time. For example, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, a SNCC project (lead by Kwame Ture - formally Stokely Carmichael) was functioning just down the road from Selma in 1965 and it's success to register almost 1000 Africans through an armed self-defense effort was probably more significant than what happened in Selma. Actually, it was the Lowndes County project, better known as the Black Panther Party (BPP), which of course influenced the Huey P. Newton/Bobby Seale initiated Oakland-based BPP the next year. Also, Kwame Ture's defeat of John Lewis as chair of SNCC in 1966, represented the clear militant push to the left that SNCC was engaged in that had a major influence on the Black Power movement and in defining the struggle for the latter part of the 60s, 70s, and beyond. That's why it was curious why the film makers choose to depict SNCC as simply John Lewis - at that stage in SNCC's development he was one of it's most moderate members - and a completely under-developed James Forman who was much more in SNCC than the whining malcontent displayed in the film.
Last, but not least, the depiction of Lyndon Johnson and his interaction with Martin Luther King, George Wallace, and J. Edgar Hoover, was downright criminally inaccurate. Johnson was a Southern cracker from Texas who was not very different in his thinking from George Wallace. Johnson was known to be just as quick at using the n word as anyone could accuse Wallace so the film's effort to depict Johnson as the pragmatic political leader and Wallace as the bigot is a very weak attempt at political revision. The truth is Johnson and King's relationship at best was highly strained and difficult and no one can find anywhere any evidence of King referring to their relationship as anything else. In other words, those two had no working relationship. Anything Johnson did, from signing the Civil Rights legislation in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, was done only as a result of overwhelming political pressure mobilized against him to do so. And, he certainly didn't tell Hoover what to do. Any student of history knows that J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI with an iron fist from the 1920s until he was forced out in 1971. How? Because Hoover used the bureau to spy on everyone, including presidents. He had files on everything dirty every president was involved in from Coolidge in 1923 through Nixon in the late 60s and he made sure each president knew it. As a result, no president ever did anything to challenge Hoover, in public or private and this is a fact. The only reason Hoover was effectively moved out of directing the FBI in 1971 was because at that time he had exceeded the age limit for being eligible to be an FBI Director and this was the leverage Nixon's administration used to persuade him to finally step down. This is important for people to understand because the FBI continues to function autonomously, engaging in illegal practices against so-called citizens whenever it pleases. Hoover set the model. The bureau doesn't wait for any president to tell it to terrorize African people. That's its policy directive.
What's my conclusion on this film? The movie clearly has an agenda of promoting the concept that Africans and other oppressed people must have patience, be willing to suffer, and be prepared to accept nothing other than non-violence as the only available tool to fight any grievance we ever have with U.S. capitalism. In fact, despite whatever problems and shortcomings capitalism has, any solution we can generate can only ever be achieved within the context of this system. Anything else is absurd. That's the underlining message in this movie. The film's complete and irrational focus on non-violence and its distortion of the critical roles played by SNCC and Malcolm X, and the movie's complete dismissal of the roles played by groups like the Deacons for Defense confirm this. All of the militancy is cut out of Selma so that those who are ignorant never know that it existed in the first place. The film even included the often repeated scene of a white man brutalizing King in front of dozens of people who do nothing to stop it. This is clearly some sick white interpretation of us as helpless victims with no agency while they are able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. That scene itself says all that needs to be said about this movie. Watch it carefully. MLK is completing paperwork with a group of people when a white man asks if he can introduce himself. When he does this, everything stops as if nothing else except this white man is important. Then the man proceeds to walk up and slap the you know what out of the King character. Had this happened in real life, that cracker would be pushing up daisies right now whether the movement was committed to non-violence or not. The scene makes sense in this movie because the final objective of this movie is to continue the whitewashing of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To fashion him out as a brooding, sex-craved man who had such a one dimensional commitment to this tactic of non-violence that he didn't even have the common sense to defend himself from attack. All lies designed to keep us from focusing on who King really was and what his work was really about. Despite this film and other propaganda efforts, the truth is King was moving closer to the positions expressed by Malcolm and SNCC. In fact, SNCC was the primary vehicle pushing him to the left. It was SNCC that pushed King to take the progressive position against the Vietnam war and any student of history knows that, but you have to be clever enough to realize no Hollywood Corporate Movie Company, including one with Oprah's input - she's no advocate for real social change - is ever going to show you that true anti-capitalist direction that King was traveling towards.
So, see the movie and enjoy the drama, but don't be fooled into thinking you are learning anything about the history of our movement and certainly don't let yourself be influenced by our enemies on how the movement today against police terrorism, injustice, and anti-capitalism needs to be fought. King, Malcolm, SNCC, and others represented the aspirations of the masses of African people. The forces they were fighting against; the police, local, state, and federal government, and the corporate entities, are representative of the forces who benefit from the exploitation and oppression of African people. As a result, we will never negotiate our freedom and justice from these entities. Whatever we achieve against them will result from us understanding that their wealth is stolen from us. What we get will only be what we are willing to organize and take back from them. Any movie that depicts that real life struggle wouldn't permit you leave with that warm fuzzy feeling inside and won't be winning any awards in the process because Gil Scott Heron was correct when he told you the real revolution won't be televised - or shown in a motion picture.