Thursday, January 22, 2009

This Revolution Was Televised

This was a motherfucking revolution. Not a Che walking through the jungles of Bolivar revolution. No Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver standing in black leather jackets and a shotgun "fuck the pigs revolution". This was the revolution that CLR James wrote about in The Black Jacobians or Paulo Friere wrote about in Pedagogy Of The Opressed.

This was a revolution about seizing power. Power to reshape urban school systems; power to cool a planet; power to harness runaway markets; power to reassert an ideal founded in Philadelphia and recast at the reflecting pool by a southern preacher, and power nurtured in a small cell on Robben Island -that there can be no compromise for individual freedom.

Tuesday at noon, revolution beamed down on the face of an illiterate Kenyan woman sitting behind an ex-President. She could not understand the words that were being spoken, but witnessed their meaning on the faces of hundreds of thousands, who came to hear her grandson accept the leavers of power.

Last night I walked down U Street in the nation’s capital and, booming from speakers in a parked car were the speeches of Barack Obama, laid down over hip hop and jazz tracks. Like Bob Marley, Obama’s words of eloquence, poetry and intellect are now seeping into the global consciousness. These words of revolution carried on the digital waves of the Internet will be played in Bodegas in Harlem, at Youth night in Cotton Valley Louisiana, in back alleys in Lagos, on side-walks in Ho-Chi- Minh-City, and on IPods in Amsterdam.

Hope is the material out of which dreams are formed, and then transformed into imagination which fuels revolution. The revolution that began on January 20 is so powerful that a child in Zimbabwe watching a black and white television screen, powered by a generator, imagined himself differently after a black hand reached for a bible on the steps of the Capitol. A young college girl in China looked at the podium on the Capitol and imagined, "I can change my village, my town, my city, my country for the next generation." Revolution comes when regular people imagine themselves to be great.

This was a revolution that will affect every capital and village in the world. We may not see the results in our lifetime, but then we just might. We cannot know because none of us has ever been here before.

Yesterday, Moses did not just ask to "Let my people go," but was appointed to the motherfucking throne.

Gil Scott-Heron was wrong. The revolution was televised on a 42-inch flat screen in HDTV. I know because, like the rest of the world, I saw it with my own eyes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just Come To DC

I have no words for what is happening in Washington DC. I am not objective. A writer should never write without being objective

So Just Come To DC

Friday, January 9, 2009

Morning With Joe

I spent yesterday morning with an old mentor. Joe and I had not spent time together in years. He is now 67 years old and working on his Masters. He plans to go on and pursue a PHD. Joe has been a lawyer for well over 30 years. He is legally blind from the ravages of glaucoma, a disease that disproportionately affects African-Americans. The disease was genetically passed to me also.

We had a spirited conversation about global politics, race and of course Obama's election. Joe always had a conservative view of feminism. However, he just finished a class on feminist theory which led us to an engaging conversation on Bell Hooks – I am a fan, he is not.

I have always looked at individuals a generation out from me and used them as a bench mark of where I would like to be when I reach that age. I left my morning with Joe with the aspiration that when I reach the age of 67, I hope I am as intellectually curious, and as passionate about pursuing the life of an intellectual as Joe is. It was a good morning.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Of The Palestinian People?

There are certain realities in the hundred-year-OLD war THAT IS CURRENTLY being aired on the 24-hour news cycle between Israel and Hamas. First, American politics have, and for the foreseeable future, aligned itself with Israel. Hamas has refused to retract on its founding principles that Israel must be destroyed, and thus have been declared by America and the European Union, to be a terrorist organization. Hamas is the duly-elected representative of the Palestinian people as a result of fair and open elections. Israel and America responded to Hamas' election by imposing a smothering economic boycott of Gaza, that has had a devastating toll on the Palestinian people.

Finally, there have been atrocities committed by both sides that blur the meanings of words such as "terrorist."

President-elect Barack Obama said in Israel this summer, "If someone was raining rockets down on the house that my daughters slept in, I would do everything I could to stop it." Who could not agree with the President-elect on that statement? However, even the Israelis knew that Obama's words were an act of political pandering to the Jewish vote, in a hotly contested Democratic Primary election. It was also a simplistic response to a nuanced set of political realities. Clearly, someone who gave a complex speech on race just a few months earlier, knew that.

The MORE POIGNANT questions for the President-elect are "what if someone built a fence around the south side of Chicago and then imposed an airtight economic boycott of those caged inside?" "What if the people were not allowed to travel outside of that wall, and WERE subjected to what former President Jimmy Carter described as apartheid conditions?" "What if the sole purpose of this economic boycott was to force the elected representatives from power?" "Would the President-Elect simply sit in his living room and watch his daughters world slowly strangled?"

And it must be remembered that the Palestinian people did not turn to Hamas because of its political ideology. The Palestinians had lost faith in the corrupt Palestinian Authority and what they saw as the West's unwillingness to reign in Israel's expansion policies into Palestinian lands through illegal settlements and the building of a security wall –on Palestinian land.

There is no debate that Hamas' adherence to radical Islam is a major impediment to peace. Only despots carry on a war in the name of God. It is unrealistic to expect that the person sitting across the table from you would trust any agreement as long as you openly called for his destruction. Even the Arab governments in the region despise Hamas.

However, the Israelis raining high-tech weaponry down on one of the most densely populated centers on the planet, simply cannot go unchallenged by the moral world. This war was launched as much for internal politics as it was for attacking Hamas.

It has become too exhaustive to assign blame to this mess. What is clear is that the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot resolve this conflict on their own. The United States needs to be honest brokers. No other President has come to power with the goodwill of the world AND THE ABILITY TO force the TWO parties into a meaningful and lasting peace AGREEMENT MORE than Obama. Obama needs to speak to the world with the same moral complexities that he did on race. To the shock of the media, America appreciated HAVING A MATURE DIALOGUE on its original sin. I suspect the world is ready for the same nuanced analysis on the middle-east, too.

To speak of Israeli pain and not mention the pain that Palestinian people have lived with since the formation of Israel, can no longer be this country's policy. The fact is - the people who have suffered the most in THIS mess - are the Palestinians families, who want no more than anyone else –a future for their children. In poll after poll, residents of Gaza support a two state solution with Israel as a peaceful neighbor.

When Barack Obama speaks of this crisis as President, he must speak not only of Israel's security, but also, "what of the Palestinian people?"