Wednesday, April 30, 2008

James Cone Weighs in on Rev. Jeremiah Wright Controversy

Dear Friends,

Dr. James Cone is rightfully considered the dean of Black Liberation Theology. Along with his seminal works on the subject mentioned below, he also wrote Martin & Malcolm & America, the best book I've read about my two favorite Americans, and one of the best books I've ever read on any topic. Dr. Cone's thoughts on the political firestorm surrounding Sen. Barack Obama and his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are instructive.

Peace,
Paul B

Forbes.com
Q & A

A Paradoxical Feeling

Hana R. Alberts 03-24-08

Last week, Sen. Barack Obama addressed the recent imbroglio over incendiary comments from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Obama's church in Chicago.

In a speech he gave in Philadelphia, Obama spoke of the emotional and historical baggage carried by the black community and the overwhelming resentment familiar to anyone who has faced injustice.

Obama denounced Wright's harshest statements--the pastor has said, "God damn America"--while urging all Americans to join in discussions about race and history in an attempt to bridge divisions in society.

Wright's sermons are rooted in the tenets of black liberation theology, the life's work of James H. Cone, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, whose books both informed and inspired Wright.

According to Cone, who wrote two of the seminal texts on black liberation theology--Black Theology & Black Power in 1969 and A Black Theory of Liberation a year later--the black community is constantly experiencing conflicts that are virtually irreconcilable.

In a Q&A with Hana R. Alberts, Cone discusses why Wright said what he did, where Obama's emphasis on shared history comes from and the inevitability of anger in the black community.

Forbes: What don't people understand about black liberation theology?

Cone: I don't think people have done much reading about black liberation theology, and I think what they think--what they've heard--of what's been in the media is often only a sort of--how can I say it?--kind of a distortion of it.

Black liberation theory emerged out of the ministers: out of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in the late 1960s.

What we were trying to do is to show that one can be black and Christian at the same time. That one can love oneself as a black person. And also, in fact, that that's the only way you can learn how to love other people.

And one of the problems in a racist society is that blacks who are the victims of that white supremacy often develop self-hatred. To see that self-hatred is to see what violence we do against each other. …

The violence that blacks do to each other is a violence that is the result of not liking who you are.
Now, Martin King was certainly aware of that, but he was addressing the social and political things in the society that made blacks feel less human. … He changed the laws of the society so that blacks could be more effectively functional in that society.

Now, Malcolm X. He was a cultural revolutionary. He changed the way black people thought about themselves. He helped black people to love themselves.

So black liberation theology is an attempt to bring Martin and Malcolm together. The "black" in black theology stands for Malcolm X. The "theology" in that phrase stands for Martin Luther King. …

King taught us how to be a Christian, to love everybody. And it's important. But Malcolm taught us that you can't love everybody else until you love yourself first.

And so black theology wanted to interpret the Christian gospel in such a way that black people will know that their political and social liberation is identical to the gospel and also identical to them loving themselves. That is, we are a part of God's creation.

God created us black. And because of that, that blackness is good. So in a world in which values are defined by white domination and white supremacy--in that kind of world--then God sides with those who are the victims in it.

And so black liberation theology was an attempt to make the gospel accountable to the black community, who were struggling for a more just society in America.

What you have in Jeremiah Wright is someone trying to bring together Martin and Malcolm. He's a Christian preacher in a white church, by the way. He is speaking to the hurt in the African-American community. The suffering.

You know, when King spoke to the black community, he spoke with language very similar to Jeremiah Wright. …

When King spoke out against the war in Vietnam, he said, and this is a quote, he said America[n government] is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." This was in 1967 at Riverside Church. And the media came down hard on him.

King said [he] gets [his] credentials from the gospel, and not from the government. He was speaking out against the war in Vietnam. Wright was speaking of the war in Iraq and all that. He was speaking to the same kind of reality. The language gets extreme.

Are Wright or Obama examples of these theories?

I think Rev. Wright is a perfect example and expression of black liberation theology. He's part of a progressive black ministerial community. …

I'm not sure how much Barack Obama knows about the subject of black liberation theology. … I wouldn't expect him to have read as widely as Rev. Wright. I've read both of Barack Obama's books, and I heard the speech. I don't see anything in the books or in the speech that contradicts black liberation theology. If he had it explained to him, I think he would [understand it].

In his speech, Obama said, "But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races." Is the anger about which Wright and Obama speak inevitable?

I think it's inevitable. But that's why King said he had to keep marching. Because the marches were an outlet for the anger that black people felt. So the anger is deep, and I think what you saw expressed in Rev. Wright's sermon is that anger.

Black people are the one people in this society who have not been unpatriotic. We have never attacked the government with guns or anything like that. We have been so committed to this country. …

We are super-American because no matter what this nation has done to us, we still love America. We still are committed. We are the last people to do anything to bring this country down. But that doesn't mean that you're not upset about what the country has done to you. But yet, in spite of that, we are still very patriotic.

Yes, that anger is deep. Very, very deep. But at the same time, the patriotism is deep too. And that's what people--when they hear Rev. Wright, they don't know that part of the anger is saying, "This is my country too." And so it's both patriotism and also anger. They are kind of dialectical. They feed on each other.

In his speech, Obama emphasized that Wright--and, really, all people--are products of historical consequences, these universal experiences of defeat and discrimination. In other words, we are the result of a succession of people who were reacting to their historical circumstances and what was handed to them. Is this an important concept to remember?

It is a concept to keep in mind. Because we are the product of our pasts. It isn't really past, as Faulkner says, it's really present--with us. What happened before is very much present with us today.

I think most whites often find it difficult to appreciate and to identify with what has happened to African-Americans in this country.

I think understanding a people is very important. You know, to be understood is very important to people, whether you can do anything about it or not. To be understood is important. …
You get can a Ph.D. in history in this country and never learn about black people. It's not taught in our schools, so people can't be well aware that black people have a different history.
We didn't come here on the Mayflower. We came on slave ships, and that runs in our blood, and it's a part of America's history. It's not something we want to forget.

And so I just hope that we can, you know, talk about very difficult things, like about race, without, you know, demonizing each other. It's one thing to see the system as bad, but there's no reason to demonize individuals.

And so sometimes I think whites take it personally when we talk about the institution of slavery. We talk about lynching. We talk about segregation. It is not an individual white that is the object of our critique; it is the nation.

In his speech, Obama said, "The church contains in full the kindness and the cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and, yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America." Do you agree with this characterization of the black community?

One way you can see it is that there are black people who also oppose Rev. Wright. And there are blacks who support [him]. Well, those blacks will be in the same worship service. And they will learn from each other. They will check against each other. They will keep each other from going too far one way or the other.

That's the thing about the black community. We don't all think alike. We try to mutually respect each other and take each other seriously … because I can't refuse to listen to someone who disagrees with me when they've been through the same experience I've been through. I have to listen to them.

What we have in the African-American community is the bitterness and the love, is the Martin and the Malcolm. …

[W.E.B.] DuBois calls it a double consciousness. It is like--we are American, yes. And we are also black. And they don't treat us right, so it's a double feeling. It's a paradoxical feeling. And I think Barack Obama caught it well with that statement--the paradox that exists, even in the church itself, even in the homes of black people.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Edwards Backers Team Up With Obama

The Caucus -- New York Times Political Blog
April 23, 2008, 2:32 pm
By Julie Bosman

No, John Edwards has not yet endorsed a candidate.

But nearly 50 of his most prominent backers lined up behind Senator Barack Obama today, in a gesture designed to give Mr. Obama a heavy boost of support less than two weeks before the North Carolina primary on May 6.

The group includes Ed Turlington, Mr. Edwards’s former national general campaign chairman; three North Carolina members of Congress; and 46 local activists, philanthropists and business leaders, among others. (Not surprisingly, given Mr. Edwards’s background, the list holds the names of 20 lawyers.)

Mr. Turlington, speaking from his law office in Raleigh, said that he had not expected to endorse a candidate after Mr. Edwards dropped out of the race on Jan. 30.

“I thought I was going to be on the sidelines,” Mr. Turlington said, adding that he made the decision about 10 days ago, after speaking to Mr. Obama. “I think his candidacy is doing a lot of important things that are similar to themes that John Edwards ran on.”

Among those things, he said, were Mr. Obama’s pledges to change the culture of Washington and fight for issues that are important to working people.

Throughout his second bid for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Edwards clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Clinton, particularly in debates. He criticized Mrs. Clinton for accepting campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists, a practice that he fiercely opposed.

And much of his campaign pitch centered on the notion that establishment Washington politicians have become corrupted by the influence of lobbyists for drug companies, oil companies and other corporate interests.

“You can’t just trade corporate Republicans for corporate Democrats,” he told audiences frequently, an attack aimed at Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Edwards’s campaign sounded similar themes to Mr. Obama’s – both candidates positioned themselves as change agents who would clean house in Washington.

But despite heavy courting from both candidates, Mr. Edwards has still not made an endorsement. And the former Edwards supporters cautioned today that their announcement should not be viewed as a sign that Mr. Edwards’s endorsement was right behind. Two former campaign aides of Mr. Edwards said today that he has signaled recently that he may not endorse a candidate at all.

Mr. Turlington said he has “no idea” if Mr. Edwards agrees that Mr. Obama is the better choice. “He’ll make up his own mind,” he said.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NYT: The Low Road

April 23, 2008
EDITORIAL
The Low Road to Victory

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.

If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”

By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama is not blameless when it comes to the negative and vapid nature of this campaign. He is increasingly rising to Mrs. Clinton’s bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher more inclusive form of politics. When she criticized his comments about “bitter” voters, Mr. Obama mocked her as an Annie Oakley wannabe. All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience.

No matter what the high-priced political operatives (from both camps) may think, it is not a disadvantage that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton share many of the same essential values and sensible policy prescriptions. It is their strength, and they are doing their best to make voters forget it. And if they think that only Democrats are paying attention to this spectacle, they’re wrong.

After seven years of George W. Bush’s failed with-us-or-against-us presidency, all American voters deserve to hear a nuanced debate — right now and through the general campaign — about how each candidate will combat terrorism, protect civil liberties, address the housing crisis and end the war in Iraq.

It is getting to be time for the superdelegates to do what the Democrats had in mind when they created superdelegates: settle a bloody race that cannot be won at the ballot box. Mrs. Clinton once had a big lead among the party elders, but has been steadily losing it, in large part because of her negative campaign. If she is ever to have a hope of persuading these most loyal of Democrats to come back to her side, let alone win over the larger body of voters, she has to call off the dogs.

New York Times

Doing Elections

Written by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Freedom Road Socialist Organization freedomroad.org
Sunday, 13 April 2008

Some recent controversy in connection with the statement on the US Presidential elections by Jamala Rogers posted on the FRSO website, along with a odd exchange that accompanied a piece that I wrote at The Black Commentator on the now-halted John Edwards campaign, caused me to reflect some more on the radical Left and elections. Is there a point for the radical Left to be thinking in terms of participating in elections, be they national or local? If so, in what capacity?

Contrary to those, such as the Greens, who suggest an immediate third-party run for national (and local) office, I believe that the actual conditions plus the nature of the electoral system do not justify it. To borrow from the remarks offered by long-time writer and activist Frances Fox Piven at the recent Left Forum in New York City, there are those who wish to engage in an electoral politics that does not exist in the USA and wish to avoid the electoral politics that does.

Central to a radical left practice must be a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Among other things this means understanding the nature of the state in a particular social formation, including how it operates, its history and the class forces operating within it. The US state is extremely undemocratic, particularly when it comes to electoral politics, making it difficult for minor or third parties to operate and be considered relevant. This reality has often led many left activists to turn entirely away from electoral politics and focus on non-electoral social movement activity. While this work may at times be exemplary, it is often disconnected from the fight for political power and can be condemned to the realm of resistance-only activity. This is not a criticism of the work, but a criticism of the decision to turn away from electoral politics.

Another view is to engage in symbolic politics, such as the current Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney campaigns for President of the USA. Neither campaign has a chance of winning but both are posed by their supporters as ways of suggesting an alternative to the two-party system. While this is noble, it is not about serious political strategy. It is rooted in justifiable anger, but does very little to build the sort of social-political bloc that we need to combat the empire and introduce significant structural reforms (not to mention, to open discussions on the possibility of an alternative system).

Yet another view suggests that local electoral work may make sense, but that it is unlikely for the radical Left to have any real impact at the national level; therefore, in this case, the presidential elections are of little importance. This view is grounded in a more accurate assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the radical Left and turns away from symbolic political activity. Yet it makes the mistake of missing the opportunity for significant action even within the context of candidacies that may not be left, and in some cases, may not be particularly progressive.

The radical Left can engage in electoral work to raise issues. This can take place at the level of local or statewide initiatives or referenda, or it can take place in the context of battling over the platform of a particular candidate. Initiatives and referenda are very straight to the point. With candidates such as that of Democratic nominee for Congress Donna Edwards (from Maryland), their candidacy can become a means to push a very progressive agenda--in her case, around the war.

At the national level it is certainly trickier, particularly given who is generally running. Yet here is where an assessment of the moment becomes very important. In our situation, for instance, a victory of John McCain would be most dangerous. He makes noises about (and actually sings about) bombing Iran; keeping the USA in Iraq for 100 years; and privatizing Social Security. His social base shares nothing in common with the progressive movement and he owes progressives nothing. He would continue the offensive, albeit with a softer voice, against the bottom 80 percent of this country.

So, one issue, as far as I am concerned, is that McCain needs to be defeated in the election. This is more than about educating people on the issues, though it is not enough, particularly when resource-strapped organizations need to make decisions about the level of involvement in a particular campaign--if any. The question is whether the radical Left and progressives can influence an anti-McCain candidate. My sense is that it is definitely possible but not on all or often most issues. Thus, a Clinton or Obama win might open up the chances of pushing genuine national healthcare, but only if there is a social base that is organized and can demonstrate its organization. If there is anything that can and should be learned from the practice of the Christian Right, it is this point.

An additional factor, which is particularly relevant to the Obama campaign, is the level of energy that it has produced and inspired and the deep desire for change that appears to be inspiring record numbers of voters. This energy, however, is very unfocused and will more than likely dissipate following the election season unless there are vehicles to channel it. It is with this in mind that it is worth considering two initiatives that I proposed in a column at www.blackcommentator.com. One, a "progressives for Obama" initiative that could either be a very loose network or a platform that unites those that wish to find a means to support the Obama candidacy, but do so without reserving their principled criticisms of his policies, e.g., on the Middle East. A second approach, which is more long-term, is the development of locally based mass electoral organizations along the lines of the original conception of Mel King's, and later Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. Specifically, independent political organizations that are not political parties but can engage in locally based legislative and electoral work (inside or outside of the Democratic Party). Work to build such organizations can start now, but with a set of objectives that go way beyond the November 2008 election.

Much can be said about the idea of locally based organizations, but by way of conclusion let me suggest that locally based organizations do not aim to replace non-electoral social movement activity. They are not being suggested as something into which every activist should jump. Rather, this form of organization is suggested as a means of linking together social struggles and giving voice to them in the electoral arena. The aim is to think in terms of building local social-political blocs that can move to win local political power, ultimately aiming to affect a national political realignment. Such formations can be one means to channel those who get motivated by the excitement of a national political campaign, e.g., Obama's, but are unsure how they will continue to operate at the end of the election cycle.

We on the radical Left must be thinking in terms of decades. While urgency is critical, the development of a viable social-political bloc that can win power is a process that is deeply connected to both electoral and non-electoral activism. There is no straight line of stages in moving to electoral politics. We must be building the links from the very beginning because a well-considered and grounded strategy for power is the real source of the hope that millions so desperately desire.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of The Black Commentator and the co-founder of both the Black Radical Congress and the Center for Labor Renewal.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Obama : What bitterness means

Obama Sweeps Newspaper Endorsements
John Nichols. The Nation


Even in this era of "new media," the oldest media matters -- in fact, it may matter more than ever.

In Pennsylvania, a state where most of the political machinery statewide and in the critical vote-generating center of Philadelphia is geared up to provide Hillary Clinton with a Democratic presidential primary win on Tuesday, the state's largest newspapers are urging voters to consider Barack Obama.

As in other primary and caucus states, the senator from Illinois has gained the lion's share of newspaper endorsements. That's important because newspaper editorial pages have long maintained a love affair with Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. The strong editorial support for Obama in the race for the nomination provides one more indication that he will be able to compete with McCain in ways that Clinton cannot.

In Pennsylvania, newspaper endorsements have favored Obama in such a lopsided manner that the senator's campaign is making them a centerpiece of its final push for primary votes.

"There's a reason every major newspaper's endorsed Barack Obama," begins a new television advertisement that is running statewide. "'He knows how to bring people together, he's ready' -- says the (Philadelphia) Inquirer. The (Pittsburgh) Post Gazette calls Hillary Clinton's attacks the 'cynical responses of old politics.' She'd 'further the deep divisiveness' in our country. The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News says 'Barack Obama offers real change in the White House.' 'He isn't tied to lobbyists and special interests' He'll 'listen to and represent all Americans,' says the (Allentown) Morning Call."

It's no wonder that, as the mastheads of the state's best-known publications flash on the screen, the candidate cheerfully announces, "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message."

While Richard Mellon Scaife's extremely right-wing Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is urging Democrats to back Clinton, most of the rest of the newspaper rack favors Obama.

In addition to the Inquirer and the Post-Gazette, the dominant dailies, respectively, in the populous eastern and western regions of the state, Obama also has the endorsement of the scrappy Philadelphia Daily News and key papers across the state. In addition to the Morning Call and the Patriot News, the Wilkes-Barre Citizen's Voice is for the Illinois senator. The Bucks County Courier in suburban Philadelphia says that, "While the Courier Times Editorial Board usually sits out primary elections, we're motivated to get involved this year and offer an endorsement... Barack Obama inspires like no other candidate; indeed, like no other individual on the national stage. He has mobilized new voters and young people in general to get involved in the political process for the first time. And his themes of hope and change, which ring so authentic, have likewise invigorated many who otherwise might have sat out the election."

The Times-Tribune -- which serves the hometown of Clinton's late father, Hugh Rodham -- has emerged as perhaps the state's most passionately pro-Obama newspaper. After Obama said he "had detected bitterness among small-town voters in the Midwest and Pennsylvania, due to the loss of good jobs and resulting poor economic conditions that had made them bitter and caused them to rally around issues concerning guns and religion," the newspaper noted, "Mrs. Clinton and her minions say this is elitism on the part of Mr. Obama -- you know, elitism by the candidate raised by a single mother and his grandparents who excelled at prestigious universities to which he had gained admission on merit. Elitism by the guy who entered politics through the door of social service and civic activism in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago."

In fact, the Scranton paper's response to the whole controversy over Obama's "bitter" comment has been far more pointed -- and far smarter -- than most national news coverage of the dust up.

"Many of the small-town voters to whom he referred are angry that the manufacturing jobs to which they used to have access no longer are available. Many of them are worried because, largely due to the preceding circumstance, they don't have health insurance. Those who do have health insurance are dismayed because the premiums erode more and more of their income. They're angry at the gas pump as they see the dollar meter race ahead as the gallon meter crawls. They're angry at the supermarket as food prices inexorably climb. They're angrier still as the nation borrows hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars for a war that does not have any clear direction, much less a clear end in sight. They're upset because many of their college-age students will have even more trouble financing their education amid the credit crisis. Many of those voters don't have enough income to save anything for retirement beyond what they expect from Social Security, which itself is approaching a crisis," declares a Times-Tribune editorial.

"As amazing as it may seem, Mr. Obama seems to have concluded that things like that can lead to bitterness. His mistake, of course, was saying so. The rules call for him to see only what's right, everywhere he goes, while fixing what's wrong. What candidates are supposed to do, and what they too often do, is declare the genius of the local folk and then go to Harrisburg and Washington to wield the power of the government in favor of narrow interests that work contrary to the interests of those local folk. Sure, my tax bill will result in your job going to Malaysia, but check out my patriotic lapel pin."

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Prophetic Anger of MLK

By Michael Eric Dyson
Los Angeles TimesApril 4, 2008

ON THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, few truths ring louder than this: Barack Obama and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. express in part the fallen leader's split mind on race, a division marked by chronology and color.

Before 1965, King was upbeat and bright, his belief in white America's ability to change by moral suasion resilient and durable. That is the leader we have come to know during annual King commemorations. After 1965, King was darker and angrier; he grew more skeptical about the willingness of America to change without great social coercion.

King's skepticism and anger were often muted when he spoke to white America, but they routinely resonated in black sanctuaries and meeting halls across the land. Nothing highlights that split -- or white America's ignorance of it and the prophetic black church King inspired -- more than recalling King's post-1965 odyssey, as he grappled bravely with poverty, war and entrenched racism. That is the King who emerges as we recall the meaning of his death. After the grand victories of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, King turned his attention to poverty, economic injustice and class inequality. King argued that those "legislative and judicial victories did very little to improve" Northern ghettos or to "penetrate the lower depths of Negro deprivation." In a frank assessment of the civil rights movement, King said the changes that came about from 1955 to 1965 "were at best surface changes" that were "limited mainly to the Negro middle class." In seeking to end black poverty, King told his staff in 1966 that blacks "are now making demands that will cost the nation something. ... You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then.

"King's conclusion? "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism." He didn't say this in the mainstream but to his black colleagues.

Similarly, although King spoke famously against the Vietnam War before a largely white audience at Riverside Church in New York in 1967, exactly a year before he died, he reserved some of his strongest antiwar language for his sermons before black congregations. In his own pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, two months before his death, King raged against America's "bitter, colossal contest for supremacy." He argued that God "didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world today," preaching that "we are criminals in that war" and that we "have committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world." King insisted that God "has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, 'Don't play with me, Israel. Don't play with me, Babylon. Be still and know that I'm God. And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power.'

"Perhaps nothing might surprise -- or shock -- white Americans more than to discover that King said in 1967: "I am sorry to have to say that the vast majority of white Americans are racist, either consciously or unconsciously." In a sermon to his congregation in 1968, King openly questioned whether blacks should celebrate the nation's 1976 bicentennial. "You know why?" King asked. "Because it [the Declaration of Independence] has never had any real meaning in terms of implementation in our lives."

In the same year, King bitterly suggested that black folk couldn't trust America, comparing blacks to the Japanese who had been interred in concentration camps during World War II. "And you know what, a nation that put as many Japanese in a concentration camp as they did in the '40s ... will put black people in a concentration camp. And I'm not interested in being in any concentration camp. I been on the reservation too long now." Earlier, King had written that America "was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race."

Such quotes may lead some to wrongly see King as anti-white and anti-American, a minister who allowed politics to trump religion in his pulpit, just as some see Wright now. Or they might say that King 40 years ago had better reason for bitterness than Wright in the enlightened 21st century. But that would put a fine point on arguable gains, and it would reveal a deep unfamiliarity with the history of the black Christian church.

The black prophetic church was born because of the racist politics of the white church. Only when the white church rejected its own theology of love and embraced white supremacy did black folk leave to praise God in their own sanctuaries, on their own terms. Insurgent slave ministers such as Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner hatched revolts against slave masters. Harriet Tubman was inspired by black religious belief to lead hundreds of black souls out of slavery. For many blacks, religion and social rebellion went hand in hand. They still do.

For most of our history, the black pulpit has been the freest place for black people. It is in the black church that blacks gathered to enhance social networks, gain education, wage social struggle -- and express the grief and glory of black existence. The preacher was one of the few black figures not captive to white interests or bound by white money. Because black folk paid his salary, he was free to speak his mind and that of his congregation. The preacher often said things that most black folk believed but were afraid to say. He used his eloquence and erudition to defend the vulnerable and assail the powerful.

King extended that prophetic tradition, which includes vigorous self-criticism as well -- especially sharp words against the otherworldliness that grips some churches. In 1967, King said that too many black churches were "so absorbed in a future good 'over yonder' that they condition their members to adjust to the present evils 'over here.' " Two months before his death, King chided black preachers for standing "in the midst of the poverty of our own members" and mouthing "pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities." King struck fiercely at the ugly, self-serving practices of some black ministers when he claimed that they were "more concerned about the size of the wheelbase on our automobiles, and the amount of money we get in our anniversaries, than ... about the problems of the people who made it possible for us to get these things."

Obama has seized on the early King to remind Americans about what we can achieve when we allow our imaginations to soar high as we dream big. Wright has taken after the later King, who uttered prophetic truths that are easily caricatured when snatched from their religious and racial context. What united King in his early and later periods is the incurable love that fueled his hopefulness and rage. As King's example proves, as we dream, we must remember the poor and vulnerable who live a nightmare. And as we strike out in prophetic anger against injustice, love must cushion even our hardest blows.

Michael Eric Dyson is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University and the author of 16 books, including the just-published "April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How It Changed America."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Delegate selection: Sunday

Delegate Caucuses
This Sunday, April 13th, are the delegate caucuses in each Congressional District. This is the most important event to California voters since the California primary. The purpose of this caucus is to elect the pledged delegates who will represent the way the general public voted at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August.

You can save yourself some time by pre-registering for the caucus by going to www.cadem.org red button, “sign up online”, on the upper right hand side of the screen. The deadline for pre-registration is Thursday, April 10th at 12:00 Noon. Also, there is a frequently asked questions link on home page. Here is the information on the caucuses in CD’s 1-5:

Congressional District 1 – represented by Mike Thompson
Napa Valley Expo – Cabernet Hall
575 Third Street, Napa, CA 95449
Allocated Delegates: 2 Females, 1 Male, 1 Male alternate

Candidates running for Delegate that we know & have been involved:

· Martha Beetley
· John Chendo
· Andrea Fischer
· Mary Ann Lyons-Tinsley
· Susan Nutter
· Charles Roberson
· M. Kathleen Stewart-Lightner


Congressional District 2 – represented by Wally Herger
Park Tower Pavilion
2030 Park Avenue, Chico, CA 95928
Allocated Delegates: 1 Female, 1 Male

Candidates running for Delegate that we know & have been involved:
· Kimberly Durso
· Ryan McElhinney
· John Rapf

Congressional District 3 – represented by Dan Lundgren
Rio American High School Cafeteria
4540 American River Drive, Sacramento, CA 95864
Allocated Delegates: 1 Female, 1 Male

Candidates running for Delegate that we know & have been involved:
· Celeste Rose
· Bill Slaton
· Mark Taylor

Congressional District 4 – represented by John Doolittle
EV Cain Middle School
150 Palm Avenue, Auburn, CA
Allocated Delegates: 1 Female, 1 Male

Candidates running for Delegate that we know & have been involved:
· Christiana Darlington
· Francesca Loftis
· Curtis Walker

Congressional District 5 – represented by Doris Matsui
Rancho Cordova Senior Center
3480 Routier Road, Sacramento, CA 95827
Allocated Delegates: 2 Females, 1 Male, 1 Male Alternate

Candidates running for Delegate that we know & have been involved:

· Serena Kirk
· Kim Mack
· Nathan Osburn
· Cirian Villavicencio
Rev. Tim Malone


Note: All caucuses are on Sunday, April 13, 2008. Doors open at 2PM, close at 3:15PM – you cannot enter after the doors are closed. All caucuses allow you to come, vote and leave or stay and listen to the candidates who will begin speaking at 3:15PM.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Conference for Teachers

Legislators decide to not discuss teacher testing issues with future teachers.

Students about to graduate in teacher preparation at California State U-Sacramento wanted to discuss the imposed mandate for performance assessment known as PACT with local legislators. They scheduled a forum as a part of the 14th Annual Multicultural Education Conference to be held April 12, 2008 at Sac State, but Senator Darrell Steinberg and Assemblyman Dave Jones declined to participate.

The student led panel discussion will continue. There will be empty chairs for the invited elected officials.

Background:
SB 2042, in 2000, required a major revision of teacher preparation in California based upon a new set of state standards and a set of teacher performance expectations (TPEs) . The universities have responded by revising their programs. In 2042 The legislature created a system where the state must continually train new teachers to replace those driven out by inadequate working conditions. One element of 2042 required the development of high stakes performance assessment of California teachers (TPA), like NCLB, based upon the teacher performance expectations (TPE) developed by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
The problems with this are several. There is no evidence that TPAs are valid measures of good teaching. To the contrary, our experience tells us that one-time all-or-nothing tests like the TPA are among the poorest possible ways to predict the likelihood that a test-taker will be an excellent California teacher. SB 1209 in 2006 required implementation of the TPA throughout the state effective July 1, 2008, imposing a new low quality accountability system on teacher preparation programs in addition to the performance assessments currently in place, without providing the funding needed to pay for the new program. Thus the legislature and CTC have imposed an expensive, redundant accountability system – one the state cannot afford in its current budget crisis.
The new PACT assessments require over 60 hours of test preparation for a future teacher while they are completing their intern teaching and it would cost up to $10 million in this years state budget.
A million here, a million there, pretty soon these items begin to add up.


Other items at the conference:
Candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction to speak.

Dr. Francisco Reveles will be the keynote speaker at the annual Multicultural Education Conference sponsored by the department of Bilingual/Multicultural Education on April 12, 2008, in the university union of the Sacramento State Campus.

8:30 Am - 1:30 PM. in the University Union

The conference is designed for teachers and future teachers to bring them new and interesting approaches to teaching. Dr. Reveles topic will be:
“Closing the Achievement Gap: Building Networks to Success.”

Dr. Reveles is a Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and a graduate of bilingual programs here at CSUS. He is currently exploring a run for the position of California Superintendent of Pubic Instruction in 2010.

Over 45 workshops will offer ideas on teaching strategies, test taking, the current crisis in California education budgets, problems with NCLB, and more.

Conference program at
www.edweb.csus.edu