Thursday, April 30, 2015
on April 29th (my late father's 83rd birthday) Street Sense did a screening of three short films it made about DC homelessness. There will be a second screening on August 26th (my living mother's 78th birthday). I was in the third film giving my critical view of DC Government's ostensible efforts to end homelessness in the nation's capital. I mentioned the failed 10-year plan as well as the reluctance of mayors Fenty and Gray to assist able-bodied homeless people at acquiring living-wage jobs – the latter point having also been reiterated by others in the film.
During the Q & A that followed, I gave a slightly wordy lead-in before asking my question. I told people that I like to ask the hard, challenging questions and that I have a little bit of a mean streak. Some indiscernible mumbles followed. I'm guessing some people disagreed with my use of the phrase “a little bit”. If so, they have a point. I referenced a DC preacher who quoted Frederick Douglass in the film when he said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will”. I went on to juxtapose the April 27th riot in Baltimore with that night's screening of social justice films. With the executive director of Street Sense having stated his desire to work himself out of a job and to put Street Sense out of business by ending homelessness, I asked how long it would take to do that. I then asked people, “What do you think is a more effective way of ending homelessness and addressing other social ills – showing this type of film or what just happened in Baltimore or some type of happy medium? I didn't receive a satisfactory response. I didn't expect one. My question was actually for the purpose of making a statement to all who were present about the need to be mean and aggressive in order to effect real and lasting change – the change that neither Barack Obama nor Loretta Lynch will bring – than it was about getting an answer from the panel.
That said, I often feel imprisoned by rules that require me to be kind in the face of government's ineffectiveness at stabilizing or decreasing the number of homeless people, let alone ending homelessness. Films that feature the late Mitch Snyder as well as my conversations with those who knew him have led me to believe that he too had a mean streak. Mitch and company got President Reagan to establish the Federal City Shelter which is still in existence almost 30 years later. His mean streak worked. He's been dead for 25 years but people are still benefiting from it.
On March 30th, 2006 I was barred indefinitely by a local non-profit that feeds the homeless because I had a loud argument with a now-former employee who was widely disliked by the homeless community. People have tried repeatedly to have that decision reversed. The non-profit has said that their insurance doesn't allow that. About three months ago an associate of a woman whose husband began working for that non-profit in 2012 told me that he'd heard about me being barred. This leaves me to wonder why the non-profit is still discussing the matter so many years later.
I've also heard from multiple sources that people have had fist fights and even put their fists in the faces of staff members but been allowed to return sometime thereafter. These people believe that it is my outspoken manner coupled with my intelligence which serves as the main reason for them not allowing me to return in spite of the essential non-violent manner of my nine-year old dispute. This non-profit is also a leader in the city's effort to address homelessness for the physically and/or mentally disabled. While supporting this effort, I've been an outspoken critic of the city's failure to effectively connect A-bods to living-wage jobs. I am co-leading efforts to get DC Government to do more for A-bods. Non-profits that make the bulk of their money by housing the disabled while feeding A-bods don't like my employment focus for the obvious reason and they fear my ability to express my views in speeches and in writings.
That said, I believe that it is impossible to achieve a just society while pleading kindly with oppressive forces. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his fight in 1955. Sixty years later the state of Black Americans hasn't improved much. As a matter of fact, many Whites have joined their ranks among the destitute. King and Gandhi both preached non-violence. Both were shot and killed. Go figure. In lieu of these facts, being nice is an idiotic vice when it hasn't effected true social justice for over 50 years and folk continue to employ kindness.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Plan NOW 4 the Next Police Shooting!!!!!
The fact of the matter is that, if we can't have conversation about contentious but important issues, then we can't come to agreement on those issues and they'll always be contentious. So I'll touch on a few of those issues here with a focus on police shootings of unarmed Black men. I hope this blog post gets people talking more productively about these issues and brings us closer to resolving them. I hope that our governments will begin to proactively reverse the damage done to poor people in general and to Blacks in particular or that poor people will start a revolution which ends with them taking more than they would have gotten through civil reparation “RAP-arations”.
Simply put, anyone who tells those who are reacting to the violent police shootings and deadly beatings of unarmed people that they should remain calm and just vent on social media is not only out of touch with reality but also grossly illogical. When the police who have sworn to “serve and protect” become the perpetrators of unwarranted violence, it's akin to a parent abusing a small child insomuch as the only one (or two) whom you look up to for safety and sustenance is now leaving you with no one to look up to. To make matters worse, the police are bound to attack and arrest those who are reacting to the unjustified killing by police. This creates a seemingly unresolvable conundrum which is matched in intensity by government's chipping away of the social safety net – the same social safety which hereto now has done much to keep poor people from revolting.
Much less enigmatic is the reason for why government treats Blacks as they do. It's not a Black vs. White issue; but it IS a color thing. It's a green thing. While police shootings of unarmed Black men have gotten much media attention in recent years, homeless Whites have also been unjustifiably killed by police. It's a war on the poor. Moments before I sat to write this post, I walked in on a loud and passionate debate among several Black men. They were discussing today's supreme court proceedings on gay marriage. Someone asked why the nation and the supreme court were so focused on the rights of gays but not the rights or social uplift of Black Americans. I explained that gays are spending money and not living off of social services while a large percentage of Blacks are dependent on social services – that our capitalist society values those who have money to spend over those who are dependent. The very loud room went silent for several moments as my words set into people's minds. People then stated their agreement, the debate ended and I left to write this post.
Though I've found it impossible to draw poor people into regular social theory discussions, we have semi-regular heated debates on the latest atrocities committed against us by the authorities. It stands to reason that, as these atrocities become more regular, so will these debates. During these discussions, I've reminded people that the late drug lord Pablo Escobar didn't wait for the authorities to show up at his front door. He regularly had cops killed wherever they stood. He is credited with killing 500 cops. He identified them as the enemy and took them out in droves before they could organize to come against him. I also regularly remind people of how cops are arresting those who feed the homeless, though they tend to save the doughnuts – failing to invoke a self-proclaimed right to conscientious objecture. While I don't straight-forwardly tell people to kill cops (or NOT to), I DO tell them that when they feed the homeless illegally, they should save the doughnuts for the police and lace them with a laxative. If they also get nearby restaurant to refuse cops the right to use their restrooms, the department may need to buy a lot of new uniforms. You too may find it a useful tactic to inject a handful of highly logical arguments or ideas into as many conversations as possible – especially if you can't get the most oppressed to partake in more intentional social theory or social justice conversations. That said, non-violence is not always the most logical path.
Nonetheless, I will not outrightly tell anyone to break a law (or NOT to). However, I WILL give you logical thoughts and legal ideas which can be used to begin the evolution to revolution. Let's start with the fact that government likes to treat people like mushrooms – to keep them in the dark and feed them a bunch of shit. That makes educating people – like the Black Panthers did – about the nature of and solutions to social injustice a revolutionary thing. Such discussions could begin with the understanding that many unarmed Black men have been gunned down by police and some unarmed homeless Whites have been killed by police with more to come. Yes, there WILL be another one. Add to this the fact that President Obama is not the savior of Black Americans.
The parental metaphor works in yet another way. Not only should parents provide for and protect their children; they should also teach their children, eventually enabling them to provide for themselves and for the next generation. So the conundrum deepens in the sense that the government and police aren't just abusing their figurative children and cutting off their sustenance, but also ensuring that these children won't be able to provide for themselves and will need to return to their abuser. These children need sympathetic adults to teach them, provide for them and guide them to independence.
Just yesterday I was speaking with two French women with whom I'm working on a homeless love project that addresses the ups and downs of being in a relationship while living without a home. We discussed the French revolutions of 1789 and 1848. One of them explained to me that the latter revolution was begun by non-aristocratic rich people who were fed up with the government and the aristocracy. She said that the poor joined the revolution and eventually co-opted it. (She is a registered Socialist, a fact that makes me love her all the more. The other has lived in the U.S. for five years.) This account is an example of how those with resources can assist the oppressed, the unanticipated co-opting notwithstanding.
It is important for those on either side of the issue to realize that productive negotiations and planning become much more difficult once the first shots have been fired and the first rocks have been thrown. But, to borrow from a Sylvester Stallone quote, “[The police] took first blood”. So, governments need to have raparations about how they will repair centuries of damage done to Black Americans and these conversations need to continue even when the violence has subsided and might need to begin even as the violence rages. These conversations need to lead to tangible results – QUICKLY. In the meantime, poor and otherwise oppressed people need to use what little resources they have to organize. ORGANIZING a phone tree would seem to be a feasible option. Then, the poor would be able to mobilize thousands of peaceful protesters from a 100-mile radius within four hours with more to come from further away later. After all, police went from surrounding counties into Baltimore to assist police there; and, we can take a few ideas from their book. Of course, this peaceful protest could do an evolution toward revolution.
I'd be remiss if I didn't express the value in the revolutionary ideas that have already been used. In cities like Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD the protests have already attracted people from over 50 miles away who decided to join the nascent revolution – with these things occurring in fits and starts. People have already begun to record police activity on their mobile devices – with some recordings like the murder of Walter Lamer Scott being so vivid that they effect immediate dismissal or prosecution of the perpetrating officer. (I should acknowledge that some officers are truly committed to serving their communities well.) I'd be interested to see what would happen if police who were responding to a call suddenly found themselves surrounded by 10 times as many people all of whom had recording devices drawn. I'm not sure if surrounding the police like that is legal; so, I won't “tell” you to do that in much the same way that various shows and movies depict intelligently-committed crimes but don't “tell” you to commit them yourself. I was elated but not surprised to find out that several rival gangs in Baltimore were laying aside their differences in order to join forces against a common enemy. This means that there will be a drop in gang rivalry – for a while anyway. When the oppressed show an ability to organize, move with a united front, anticipate the next move of the oppressor and intelligently plan their own moves, that is guaranteed to scare the shit out of the powers that be – effectively making them “the powers that flee”.
So, let's scare the governments of the land. We know that there will be another killing of an unarmed Black man by a police officer in the coming months. We don't know what city the next one will be in (or the one after that). But we know it's coming. To be honest, the current litany of murders by police is enough to evoke a sustained reaction. We don't need to wait for the next one. In any instance, we should begin to plan now so that by the time of the next police murder we'll be able to mobilize quickly to confront this injustice in ways that Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch won't. Plan NOW 4 the Next Police Shooting!!!!!