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To Be Equal: One Nation, One Flag

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By Marc H. Morial
NNPA Columnist

 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand…I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” – President Abraham Lincoln, House Divided Speech, June 1858

During a South Carolina gubernatorial debate last year, when the topic of the Confederate battle flag on the State Capitol grounds came up, Gov. Haley insisted there was no need to remove the flag. Eight months later, in the aftermath of last week’s racism-fueled, shooting massacre of nine innocent people at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston by a White supremacist seen in pictures posing with the same flag that flies at full-staff on statehouse grounds, Governor Haley finally called the for flag’s removal:

“We know that bringing down the confederate flag will not bring back the nine kind souls that were taken from us, nor rid us of the hate and bigotry that drove a monster through the doors of Mother Emanuel that night. Some divisions are bigger than a flag…But we      are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something that we cannot stand. The fact that it causes pain to so many is enough to move it from the Capitol grounds. It is, after all, a Capitol that belongs to all of us.”

I applaud Gov. Haley’s swiftness and resoluteness in calling to remove the flag—a powerful symbol and reminder of a dark time in our shared American history—from Capitol grounds.  Already, South Carolina lawmakers have agreed in large numbers, and across the aisle, to debate the removal of the flag this summer. This is an important step, but it is only a first step.

We know that our work on this pressing issue will not be done until the flag comes down. That is why the National Urban League and its South Carolina affiliates have launched the “One Nation, One Flag” campaign. The campaign will support the efforts of South Carolina’s legislators to end public displays of the Confederate flag in its state; it will advocate for the removal of the Confederate flag from all public spaces around our nation; and it will promote the United States flag as a symbol of unity, tolerance and justice. Our campaign has adopted the social media hashtag #OneNationOneFlag as a companion to #TakeItDown, and we are also urging like-minded people to sign the petition for the flag’s removal at IAmEmpowered.com.

National debate and division over this flag is nothing new and it has been re-ignited in the wake of this shocking and tragic hate-crime. The flag—born from the violence of division as southern states fought to secede from the United States—was first raised atop South Carolina’s Capitol dome in 1962, ostensibly as commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.  But many historians agree that the flag was raised in to demonstrate South Carolina’s defiance of desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement.

Still, there are those who revere the flag as a symbol of the unique heritage of the southern states and a symbol of the battle for states’ rights, but for many others—the flag flown as a preeminent symbol for slave-holding states—it is a vestige of human bondage, brutal oppression, racial hostility and the ideology and violence of white supremacy. The public sanction of any symbol of hatred and torture will serve only one purpose: to keep our nation—our house—divided. Now is the time for reconciliation. Now is the time for the flag, and all flags that do not promote unity, to come down.

Public officials and lawmakers across the South are adding their voices to the growing chorus of those calling for the removal of these Civil War vestiges from their capitals and public spaces. In Alabama, the governor has ordered Confederate flags to be taken down from the state Capitol grounds. In Mississippi, a Republican legislator has publicly called for the removal of the Confederate emblem from the state flag. Major retailers across the country (Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears) have announced bans of the sale of any merchandise displaying the confederate flag. An eBay spokesperson explained it was banning the sale of the Confederate flag and items with its image because the flag has “become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.”

If you believe symbols of hate and division have no place in our public spaces: take action. If you believe that right now—through horrible circumstances— we have a meaningful opportunity to make those nine lost lives matter and to unite our divided house and form that elusive “more perfect union:” take action, join our campaign. The National Urban League will not rest until the final vote is taken in South Carolina’s statehouse. We will not rest until these vestiges of slavery become our nation’s past and stop dividing us in the future.

 

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: After Jan. 6, An MLK Day Deadline for Voting Rights and Democracy

This is a dangerous thing that goes beyond mere policy matters. First the Cruzes fall in line. Then the people. Republicans are not shy about what’s next. They want to own our democracy. And they’re willing to get it by going state by state to limit our voting rights and take away our votes.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

We all know the images of Jan. 6, 2021. Lawless rioters ransacking the Capitol. Police being tortured and beaten. Members of Congress hiding in fear in the House gallery. The gallows and a noose meant for former Vice President Mike Pence.

We all saw the video images one year after and astonishingly they did nothing to pull our nation together.

Nothing.

They simply confirmed the only thing everyone can agree on.

Our democracy’s in trouble. Real trouble.

We already sensed that after the Civil Rights battles of the 1960s such things as race, policing, and income inequality are still major issues in 2022.

But we’ve got trouble in a different key.

C Major. No sharps or flats. This trouble goes right to the core of our democracy. They’re coming after your vote.

That is, after all, what the Jan. 6 rioters were attempting when they tried to stop the certification of the election.

But now the GOP politicians who may have been behind the Jan. 6 rioters all along, are going legit.

The majority of Republicans, notably California’s Kevin McCarthy, continue to sing the fictional tune “The 2016 Election Was Stolen.”

As if in a song battle, the Democrats counter with the loud truth, “The Election Was Fair. Trump Lost.”

But enough people keep singing the lie as if it’s their battle hymn.

And now they are looking for the ultimate control of any election. Legally. In plain view.

Republicans are taking over or running for top election official posts in key states. State legislatures are proposing laws to limit absentee ballots, mail-in voting and other conveniences. They are putting up obstacles to make voting harder with the hopes of suppressing your vote.

This is why Biden spoke in Georgia this week, saying “I will not yield, I will not flinch in protecting voting rights.”

Let’s hope he’s serious, starting with new voting rights legislation to make election days federal holidays and require federal approval of any state and local election changes.

It may take changing the filibuster law to make sure Republicans can’t block any Democratic reforms, but it must be done. And done now.

That’s why even the family of Martin Luther King Jr. is calling for “no celebration” of MLK Day without the passage of voting rights legislation.

This is how Democrats are talking to Biden.

The Republicans’ post-Jan.6 strategy is simply Orwellian. Where truth and lies are indistinguishable. And Republicans loyal to Trump are dead set on forcing their lies on everyone.

Witness Sen. Ted Cruz last week caught in a moment of truth calling the Jan. 6 rioters “domestic terrorists.” But how quickly he recanted when called on the carpet by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, the Trump Confessor, for all the Republican congregants to see.

Like a loyal Trumper, Cruz knelt, confessed, and did his penance.

It used to be called hypocrisy. Now it’s just called Modern Day Republicanism.

This is a dangerous thing that goes beyond mere policy matters. First the Cruzes fall in line. Then the people. Republicans are not shy about what’s next. They want to own our democracy. And they’re willing to get it by going state by state to limit our voting rights and take away our votes.

That’s even worse than the Jan. 6 rioters’ wildest dreams.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter @emilamok at 2pm Pacific M-F. Or on www.amok.com

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Schools and streets have been named after Martin Luther King Jr. 

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

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Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)
Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)

By Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. | Baptist News Global

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Churches and libraries are named after him. He is the only African American and the only American clergy honored with a national holiday. In many countries around the world, he is numbered with global heroes like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Some discredited him by calling him a communist, a detractor and troublemaker. Sophisticated ideological historians are deconstructing his history in order to distort the powerful truth of his ministry. Those who pass laws against teaching Critical Race Theory are making sure that present and coming generations will not learn as Professor Cornel West said, that King’s universal religious commitments led him to internationalize the American ideals of democracy, freedom and equality.

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

“There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached non-violence and love.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance

Forgive us, Lord, for reducing Martin Luther King to being only a civil rights leader. Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance. All many people know about him is that he had a dream. He was more than a dreamer. Forgive us for ignoring your calling of Martin Luther King as a minister with good news for a bad news world.

In keeping with Luke 4:18-19, King — like Jesus — had a deep commitment to the poor, pushed down, left out, disrespected Black sanitation workers of Memphis. He addressed, to the displeasure of the white power structure, the basic constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Black population — equitable education, decent housing, jobs that paid living wages, and equal justice in the courts. The sanitation workers had lost their lives working long hours for dirt-poor pay with unsafe trucks that had taken the lives of several workers.

The workers had a strike with the support of many in the community. They carried signs that said, “I AM A MAN!” Some critics of King did not understand his identification with the cause of sanitation workers.

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

Professor Luther D. Ivory states in Toward a Theology of Radical Involvement that King used the teaching of Imago Dei to counter the notion of Black inferiority. Everyone irrespective of race, gender, education or economic status is to be valued and treated with respect and dignity. Blacks needed this message to overcome feelings of shame, inferiority and self-hatred caused by the absurdities of racism.

With this understanding, the foundation is built for Blacks and whites to live together in the beloved community. Living in the beloved community calls for Blacks and whites to work together to transform existing injustices in institutions and public life.

Forgive us, Lord, for our distorted gospel

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Lord, forgive American Christians — Black and white — for their middle-class captivity with a distorted view of the gospel. This understanding of the gospel was concerned about life after death and not life after birth, addressing only the sweet by and by while ignoring the nasty now and now. This gospel condemns the personal sins of the individuals while ignoring corporate and institutional evils. This gospel refused to oppose chemical and nuclear waste dumps that are built on the edge of communities where the poor and politically powerless live.

In his book Stride Toward Freedom, King corrects the distorted view of the gospel saying: “The gospel deals with the whole man, not only his soul, but his body; not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. … Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the conditions that scar the soul is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our white nationalism

Forgive America, Lord, for her ethnocentrism and white nationalism that justifies her behavior whether it is right or wrong. American arrogance has been promoted by persons who have held the highest leadership positions in the nation. America has promoted herself as being No. 1 among the wealthy nations of the world.

In “A Lament for Humanity” on Humans Rights Day 2021, pastor, author and judge Wendell Griffen wrote, “The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. Nearly half the world’s population of 3.4 billion people lives on less than $5.50 per day. Every year, 100 million people are pushed into poverty because they must pay out-of-pocket for health care. Currently 258 million children (one out of five) will not be allowed to attend school.”

Pastor Griffen adds: “And it came to pass that humanity appears to have cursed itself and the world by that greed, lust for power, inequality and bigotry that make community seem like a global fantasy instead of a human imperative.”

The inequality is not accidental; it is deliberative, calculated and purposeful.

Forgive us, Lord, for we were warned by King in his last book, Where Do We Go from Here? He wrote, “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to learn to live together, Black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu. A family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never live apart, must somehow learn to live with each other in peace.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our violence

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Forgive us, Lord, for our worship of guns. There are more guns in America than people. Our money says “In God We Trust” but there are 121 firearms for every 100 residents. And 75% of homicides are related to guns. America leads all other nations in gun deaths. Our children have fears of being killed in school by a student. Black Christians in churches and Jews in synagogues have been killed while worshipping. Our shopping centers have had mass killings.

On Jan. 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol was invaded by persons with guns attempting to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes. The reports say the lives of the vice president and the Speaker of the House were marked for death.

Guns are used to settle differences. The United States is the No. 1 seller of arms to the countries of the world. Forgive us, Lord, for giving deaf ears to the apostle of nonviolence. He preached against what he called the triplets of evil: war, poverty and racism. It was he who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

A prayer for hope

May those of us who have become discouraged because racism seems to be on the increase find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because white supremacy and white nationalism are boldly obtaining a stronger foothold in state and national governments find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because voting rights for which people shed their blood so we could vote are now being stolen, placing democracy in jeopardy find hope.

Forgive us, Lord, if we forget how Martin Luther King told us in his very last speech that we would face difficult days. Those days are here.

Two months before his assassination on April 4, 1968, he spoke powerful words of hope. We must not forget them. He said, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

Yes, the immediate future may not look promising. Negative news about climate change may haunt us. Young college graduates are uncertain about career opportunities. The COVID-19 virus and its mutations trouble us. These finite disappointments multiply geometrically, but we must not lose infinite hope.

I am not speaking of blind hope but an infinite hope that presses forward believing that if we do our part, our way-maker God, who brought us through the Middle Passage, the horror of runaway slaves chased by bloodhounds and beaten with many stripes if caught, the sexual abuse of the slave woman bearing a mulatto child for the slave owner, and the way-maker God of liberation who helped us survive the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and inspired our preachers to preach on after their churches were burned and to rebuild them back bigger — that this God will inspire us and create in us the power to keep the dream alive.

Not the God of the slave master’s preacher who told us not to steal the master’s chickens when our babies were crying from hunger, but the God of infinite hope, the God who creates ex nihilo, who makes a way out of no way. The way-maker God inspires us and creates in us the power to keep the dream of Martin Luther King alive.

Dante Stewart reminds us how Pastor James Bevel spoke about infinite hope: “There is a false rumor around our leader’s death. Martin Luther King is not our leader. Our leader is the man who led Moses out of Egypt. Our leader is the one who went with Daniel in the lion’s den. Our leader is the man who walked out of the grave on Easter morning. Our leader never sleeps nor slumbers. He cannot be put in jail. Our leader is still on the case. Our leader is not dead. One of the prophets died. We will not stop because of that.”

Alfred Smith served four decades as pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif. Now pastor emeritus, he is a member of the American Baptist Churches in the USA and dually aligned with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, where he served as the organization’s 12th president.

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Activism

OPINION: An Agenda for Jobs and Freedom in Oakland

This struggle is not over, and the work must continue, as today the Black unemployment rate continues to far exceed the white unemployment rate in America. The racial wealth gap is large, and, in Oakland, our local disparity studies continue to document, year after year, the ongoing exclusion of Black-owned businesses from important city opportunities in contracts and economic development.  

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Rebecca Kaplan. Oakland.ca.gov photo.
Rebecca Kaplan. Oakland.ca.gov photo.

By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember-At-Large

In 1963, hundreds of thousands of people marched in what many now refer to as the March on Washington for Civil Rights. But the march organizers called it the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, fighting for justice and equality under law and equal access to economic opportunities and jobs.

This struggle is not over, and the work must continue, as today the Black unemployment rate continues to far exceed the white unemployment rate in America. The racial wealth gap is large, and, in Oakland, our local disparity studies continue to document, year after year, the ongoing exclusion of Black-owned businesses from important city opportunities in contracts and economic development.

That is part of why I and others have been pushing to remedy these problems, and fighting to ensure that jobs, business contracts, and development opportunities in the City of Oakland must, much more significantly, include our Black community.

One of the recommendations that came from conducting the most recent disparity study, was to ensure that Black contractors are ready and able to bid on city contracts.

As a result, and with strong community support, we fought for and won a budget amendment allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a project, in conjunction with the Construction Resource Center, to provide training and technical support to ensure Black contractors have improved access to these opportunities.

And yet, at every turn, there has been opposition and obstruction to these efforts, from an Administration which initially tried not to even conduct the legally mandated disparity study in the first place, to hide the data about the extent of the ongoing inequities and tried to block the release of the study.

Once the study was released, and our budget amendment had passed, they then continued to obstruct these efforts, refusing to issue the funds for the contract. Repeated and ongoing efforts — including demanding follow-up public reports from the Administration on the status of funds — were required to get the support that the Council had approved, issued.

Similar obstruction also took place with workforce investment funds — even as communities in Oakland continue to suffer the economic fallout from both the pandemic and decades of under-investment and inequality.

Monies the Council has approved to support workforce development, job training, and job placement have been delayed and undermined. In fact, this issue of delay of funding of these vital needs has been such an ongoing problem that former Councilmember Desley Brooks authored a law, which Council passed, mandating “prompt payment” — recognizing that crucial organizations doing work to improve quality of life and opportunity are impeded and undermined when payment is not issued promptly.

We have continued to push for full implementation of this law.

This is also why the plan of the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) to develop 30,000 jobs in the revitalization of the Oakland Coliseum site is so important.

This vital development opportunity is one of the most significant in the entire county. It is on a large site that is central to the entire region, with easy access to BART, freeways, the airport and more.

The land has been approved for development through the completion of the Coliseum Area Specific Plan, as well as Oakland having completed California’s required Surplus Lands process.

This large site can provide for housing at all income levels, business, entertainment, hotel, convention, biotech, public services, and much more, and provide for quality jobs for our community, both during construction and in ongoing jobs going forward.

This important effort, too, faced ongoing obstruction from the Administration, and, nevertheless, we persisted, and it was approved in November 2021 by the City Council in a unanimous vote!

In order to ensure that Oakland, and particularly, the Black community in Oakland, will have the opportunity to fully succeed, it is essential that the next mayor of Oakland be someone who not only will stop the obstruction of these important efforts, but also who will actively champion them and help ensure they are brought to fruition.

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