Archive for culture

Casualties of Media Warfare

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2011 by brucepoinsette

A recurring theme in my talks with Occupy Portland participants has been the “media war”. Consider Jason Parker collateral damage.

Parker was arrested a couple of weeks ago at the encampment for allegedly pulling a gun on protesters during an argument. According to the news reports, he pulled the gun after protesters challenged him for taking unauthorized video. One of the less emphasized elements of the news stories was that some of the protesters called him a racial slur.

In discussions with my editor, we both agreed something didn’t add up about the story. Why would someone pull a gun after he was told not to take video? For that matter, since when did a people’s protest make such a fuss about unauthorized video? Isn’t that what characterized the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and so many other countries?

The Skanner News Group decided to make an inquiry and the police report produced a much more disturbing account.

According to the police report, some protesters began arguing with Parker for taking video. They called him a racial slur and then pulled knives on him. In response, Parker, who is a concealed weapons holder, lifted his shirt to show them he was armed. Instead of arresting the protesters who threatened him, the police put Parker into custody.

He was released the next day and no charges were filed. However, his mugshot was posted online and the incident put a blemish on his otherwise, clean record.

In the midst of this “media war”, this incident was brushed under the rug by many on the left. Conversely, some right wing pundits used it as a way to prove the left is racist.

It is not the fault of Occupy Portland that this unfortunate incident happened or that there are some unsavory elements among the protesters. However, the refusal to fight for a black man who was the victim of injustice will leave a permanent stain on the movement.

Many have complained that occupiers aren’t giving enough attention to issues that face communities of color, even though they profess to be fighting for the “99 percent”. The Jason Parker incident validates the concerns and skepticism among communities of color and helps to explain why there is very little diversity at Occupy Portland.

While unity is an honorable goal, it has to go beyond words.

Communities of color will never accept the rhetoric of unity if well intentioned people choose to defend racists who threaten our people, all for the sake of winning a public relations battle.

The “99 percent” may be getting oppressed by the same powers that be but there are a number of divisions between us that can’t be patched up by words from unofficial spokespeople.

Asking communities of color to accept the racist elements while not challenging these racist elements to do the same and defending their flagrant violations of human decency is neither building unity nor upholding the fight for the world’s oppressed.

In the time I’ve spent at the Occupy Portland camp and my talks with occupiers, I’ve found that the vast majority are committed to making real positive change and standing up to power. They really believe in the power of unity and justice.

Thus, I urge occupiers to not let the wrong done to Jason Parker, or anyone else at Occupy Portland, to go by the wayside. True enemies of the movement would love nothing more than to use this incident to stop Occupy Portland and further their malicious agendas.

At the heart of standing up to power is the need to tell the truth.

New Article: Supporters Want Occupy Movement to Address Racial Issues

Posted in Journalism, News Wire with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Check out the new article.

Supporters Want Occupy Movement to Address Racial Issues.

Recap of the Teaching with Purpose Conference 2011

Posted in Journalism, News Wire with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Check out my recap of the Teaching with Purpose Conference 2011. If you’re in the Portland area, and an educator, parent, community member or simply a person, try and attend next year. Don’t miss out on the innovations that could revolutionize education.

Education Expert Augusta Mann: Black Students Need the Five R’s.

The 66 Percent

Posted in Music for Thought, Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Protesters in the Occupy movement have chanted they are the “99%” but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the majority of protesters are white. Many wonder why more people of color aren’t showing up to the protests, considering the disproportionate effect the financial crisis has had on them.

In the case of Portland, look no further than gentrification and an understanding of history.

Bankers looking on Occupy Portland should consider themselves lucky. The supposed “99%” occupying downtown aren’t doing it nearly as forcefully as a certain 66 percent  have done in Northeast Portland.

Thanks to overzealous police and predatory lenders, many of the same people you might see at Occupy Portland have taken advantage of black people getting pushed out of their homes.

People go to war over their property in other countries. In Portland, people are reluctant to even acknowledge gentrification is happening, much less that there’s something wrong with it.

The businesses that have replaced the black owned establishments stand as monuments to this passive aggression colonization.

For example, what was once a black owned barbecue restaurant, Doris’s, has been replaced by Russell Street Barbecue. Doris’s was one of the many black businesses that couldn’t get a full business loan and had to survive under capital. Not surprisingly, it didn’t last.

Russell Street Barbecue stepped in and gave Doris’s a white, yuppy makeover, complete with cheap, thrift store furniture and drastically smaller portions of all the same food. However, it didn’t even have the decency to pick a logo different from Doris’s. (At least the people that replaced Yam Yams, another black soul spot, had the decency to change it into a Mongolian Grill).

When I went there for the first (and last) time I couldn’t help but feel I was toasting to the white takeover of historically black Portland neighborhoods.

Russell Street Barbecue is just one of many establishments that have taken advantage of racist lending practices and shamelessly appropriated black culture to make more profit than their doomed black predecessors.

This is not to say that they were malicious in their intent. White privilege doesn’t require malice. It’s simply the ability to take advantage of opportunities denied to people of color.

This is what evokes suspicions about Occupy Portland, as well as the Occupy movement as a whole.

Do the people that are participating really care about the welfare of people of color? Where were all these people when it was time to protest ridiculous immigration laws or the prison industrial complex?

What’s stopping them from leaving the people of color they co-opted for their movement hanging out to dry when all is said and done? After all, this has been the motif of history.

Whether it was the Revolutionary War (and every one since) or the 60s counterculture, majority white movements have had a predictable penchant for using people of color to push their agendas without any real commitment to their concerns.

Terms like the “99%” sound nice but to many they sound a lot like “post-racial America”, meaning they take unity for granted without addressing wounds that have yet to be healed.

Being a progressive doesn’t exempt anyone from the legacy of colonization.

The one percent may have cleared people of color out of their communities, but that doesn’t excuse the 66 percent from settling there and appropriating black culture for profit.

Until we can have honest discussions about gentrification, don’t get upset when you don’t see faces like mine at Occupy Portland.

Snitch: Informants, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice

Posted in Bruce Bruce's Books, Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed tomorrow at 7 pm. He was denied clemency today in what may go down as yet another case of police corruption.

Davis was convicted for the killing of a police officer but he maintains his innocence. Despite several witnesses recanting their stories, Davis is still set to die. One of the two witnesses who didn’t recant his story is presumed to be the killer by many with knowledge of the incident.

This would strike many as shady. However, it might be another case of the corrupt police policy to coddle informants, even potentially dangerous ones.

Ethan Brown breaks down this phenomenon in his book “Snitch: Informants, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice”.

According to Brown, prosecutors are allowed to reduce sentences on criminals if they are willing to cooperate with law enforcement under Section 5k1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Cooperation could include testifying against state targets or going undercover and implicating the targets in crimes.

Even though informants work for the police, they are allowed to participate in illegal activity like drug dealing in order to catch criminals in the act of crimes. Some informants have even been able to get away with murder.

According to Brown, Gary Thomas Rowe, one of former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover’s informants, beat civil rights workers and attacked them with blackjacks, chains and pistols. He was also present for murders but wasn’t guided to intervene because that wouldn’t make him a “good informant”.

“Snitch” documents numerous cases up until the present of cooperators and informants who have been able to avoid harsh sentences by working with the police. They’ve been let loose on the streets for no other reason than to assist in investigations, often by providing false testimony. These criminals have used 5K motions to continue to commit crimes and “get out of jail free”.

The double game played by these criminals is both detrimental to society and the justice system that created the atmosphere for it.

“Snitch” highlights this corruption with stories of prosecutors relentlessly attempting to implicate innocent men in crimes, and often succeeding, as well as cooperators who never stop committing crimes (One was even implicated in the murder of a prosecutor).

Despite these clear dangers of police cooperation policy, efforts to bring them to light have been stifled, according to Brown.

One of the most infamous of these efforts was the “Stop Snitching” campaign. It started when a barber in Baltimore made a film interviewing people from around his neighborhood, including Carmelo Anthony, about people snitching in the community. The film was filled with threats but it also named names of corrupt police officers and informants.

Media and police tried to demonize the makers of the video for witness intimidation but the “Stop Snitching” movement became a cultural phenomenon anyway (or possibly because of the controversy).

When a policy endangers the public, people have the right to know. What good does it serve society if the police are as dangerous or more so than the criminals they’re assigned to protect us from?

It’s imperative to learn how this system works so more innocent people aren’t killed by it, as Troy Davis is scheduled to be tomorrow.

Ten Things VH1’s “Most Shocking Hip Hop Moments” Missed

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2011 by brucepoinsette

VH1 reminds me of Barack Obama. I’ll lose hope for months on end but then it will deliver a special (or two) that reminds me why I messed with it in the first place. Such was Sunday night’s premieres of “40 Most Shocking Moments in Hip-Hop” and “Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation” (How long before they make the same movie about ecstasy?).

As entertaining as the “most shocking” moments were, I had a hard time believing there weren’t moments more shocking than Sir Mix A Lot making a raunchy video or Gucci Mane getting a tattoo. In honor of the special, here’s ten things VH1 might’ve missed (in no particular order):

  1. Gucci Mane kills someone. Sure VH1 thought it was shocking for Gucci to get an ice cream cone tattoo on his face but did you know he killed a man? After Young Jeezy allegedly put a price on Gucci’s chain, some people took it seriously. A woman lured Gucci to her place and armed men attempted to rob him and his associates. Instead of the almost cliche “I got shot” story, he was able to free himself and his crew shot their way out of the house. Dear VH1, how does this not win?
  2. Big Lurch eats woman’s lungs. Even though this didn’t make the list either, it probably answers the previous question. Big Lurch was high on PCP one night. He decided his female roommate was possessed by demons and chose the only logical option, stab her in the chest and rip out her lungs. When the police found him, he was running through the street, naked and covered in blood. The girl was found with tooth marks on her lungs and face. A medical examination found traces of flesh that weren’t Lurch’s in his stomach.
  3. 50 Cent gets shot nine times. Apparently VH1 is the only entity that forgot 50 Cent was shot nine times. They remembered him losing 50 pounds, but I digress. Not long after 50 released “How to Rob” and offended just about every emcee in the industry, he was ambushed and took nine bullets, including one in the face. He lost a wisdom tooth and the shooting put a slur in his speech. It also helped propel his image and furthered the trend that being shot is a good career move.
  4. Slick Rick almost deported. Slick Rick was huge during the “Golden Age” of hip hop but at the height of his fame, he was convicted for shooting his cousin (who later admitted to having Rick shot) and a bystander. He served time in prison and was targeted for deportation up until 2008, when he got a pardon from NY Governor David Patterson.
  5. C-Murder commits, wait for it, murder. In perhaps hip hop’s sadly least ironic moment, C-Murder was convicted and sentenced to life for second degree murder. Allegedly he killed a 16-year-old fan in a club. The case was retried and in the meantime, C-Murder pleaded no contest to attempted murder charges from a shooting in another club. In 2009, he was found guilty and sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment.
  6. Ghostface Killah’s gangsta > your favorite rapper. Most people don’t remember that Ghostface had to wear a mask in early Wu-Tang Clan videos because the police were looking for him. That didn’t stop certain artists from dissing him. Ghostface broke Mase’s jaw at the height of the shiny suit era. In what might be an even more infamous incident, Ghostface or a member from his entourage allegedly pushed 50 Cent down a flight of stairs after “How to Rob” came out.
  7. Mystikal goes to jail. Do you remember how big Mystikal was back in 2000 and 2001? He was the southern anger management problem counterpart to Ja Rule’s over sensitive Tupac wannabe run of hits. In 2003, Mystikal was convicted of sexual battery and extortion. Allegedly, he and his two bodyguards forced a woman to give head and then accused her of stealing $80,000 in checks. There was even a tape of the sexual assault. Mystikal was sentenced to six years in prison. To add insult to injury, he was convicted of misdemeanor tax offenses in 2006. Mystikal was released in 2010 and had to register as a sex offender.
  8. Eminem’s racist tape. In the early 2000s, Eminem got in a feud with The Source and its owner Benzino for giving The Marshall Mathers LP a 2/5 mics rating. Lyrically, the battle was a landslide, with Eminem ripping Benzino apart in every way you could think of. However, Benzino had one good punch in him. The Source released an Eminem tape from the late 80s called “Foolish Pride”. It was recorded after he broke up with a black girlfriend and Eminem even called the girl a nigger on it. While it’s hard to see him as a racist based on the company he keeps now, the tape managed to hurt Eminem’s image and score a few points for Benzino. However, the release of the old tape and the obvious bias in ratings ultimately hurt The Source’s credibility more than anything else.
  9. Hip hop vs the police. Hip hop is the music of the youth and chances are, if you’re young, not white and just got your driver’s license, you’re not a big fan of the bacon patrol. NWA famously received a letter from the FBI, who took offense to their classic anthem “Fuck the Police”. Time Warner pulled Ice-T’s record “Cop Killer” off his group Body Count’s album after immense political pressure. Mac Dre went to prison for five years for refusing to snitch on his friends for armed robbery, even though he wasn’t personally involved. However, the undisputed winner is Tupac Shakur, who shot off duty police officers and had charges dropped because one of the officers lied about firing at his vehicle. Another reason why he was one of the realest personalities in the game.
  10. RIP Nate Dogg, Mac Dre, ODB, Proof, Guru, Pimp C, Big Pun, Big L, DJ Screw, Scott La Rock, Cowboy and other fallen soldiers. VH1 obviously didn’t have time to include every dead rapper on the list but these losses were shocking blows to the hip hop community. They will all be sorely missed.

Obi Wan Obama You’re Not Our Only Hope

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by brucepoinsette

I’ve had a number of elderly black people whom I have the utmost respect for ask me why I, or people like me, criticize Barack Obama. “This may be the only chance we get” or “Why don’t you support the guy you voted for?,” are common arguments I hear.

With all due respect to the ancestors and the elders, I have a hard time believing they fought so hard so we could be passive political participants. People like my cousin Septima Poinsette Clark dedicated their lives to securing voting rights for my people. Was the goal really to have a black President follow the script of white Presidents (puppets really, but I digress) before him while black people continue shutting up so we don’t get in trouble?

How can you tell young people voting is so important and then tell them they’re wrong when they try to hold the person they voted for accountable?

Everyone else is lobbying Obama. Why should black people be left out?

When it came to immigration reform and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the Latino and LGBT communities were out protesting and letting Obama know he wasn’t going to simply inherit their vote. The result was a change in immigration policy (Obama has been harsher than Bush) and a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. No one accused these communities of being Obama haters for fighting for their interests.

Conversely, I was forwarded an email not too long ago blaming Tavis Smiley and Cornel West for MSNBC pundit Mark Halperin calling Obama “kind of a dick” on TV. It said the two men set the tone for such behavior because of their vocal disagreement with the President’s policies, specifically him not fighting hard enough for poor and working class people.

Perhaps I missed this time where no one was saying ridiculous and disparaging things about the President until black people did it.

Difference of opinion is both natural and healthy. It helps ferret out bad ideas and strengthen good ones.

I’m very familiar with Willie Lynch and his divide and conquer strategies to condition slaves but disagreeing with Obama is not pitting us against each other. Just because the media plays up disagreements between Obama and black critics as the rebirth of the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop beef doesn’t mean we have to buy into it.

For example, I don’t agree with the war in Libya. I don’t support bombing civilians (How do you protect civilians by taking sides in a civil war?) for oil we’re securing for our allies (70 percent of the oil is going to Spain, Germany, France and Italy) as a favor for helping us in Iraq. Neither do I support staking out a strategic position in West Africa as a precursor to invading other countries for their resources.

Does that make me an Uncle Tom (Just one of the many terms used to slander Smiley and West)?

In fact, doesn’t putting one black man on a pedestal at the expense of everyone else and condemning all of his black critics sound like divide and conquer to you?

We are not a monolithic people. No race is. There’s a place in the discussion for everyone who is fighting for the betterment of the people. I may not agree with conservatives like Herman Cain or Allen West, but if they’re offering ideas in the name of black empowerment then they have every right to contribute to the discussion.

Obama may be facing more unnecessary heat than any other President from not-so-subtly racist pundits but that doesn’t mean we have to blindly follow him. What reasonable person really cares what Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh thinks?

We cripple our President when we don’t challenge him to make his policies better. Obama, just like any other leader, can’t do it alone.

Even if we unified and gave him the support to be the black crusader many of us wish he would be, chances are the powers that be would just kill him. Then we’d be running around like chickens with our heads cut off for the umpteenth time in history.

It’s never wrong to criticize as long as you keep your eyes on the prize.