I wanted to start my blog on MLK day 2007. Almost 50 years since Dr. King founded SCLC. It was supposed to be a day on and not a day off for America. I marched down Auburn Ave. with Mrs. Evelyn Lowery, wife of Dr. Joseph Lowery, she is 80 years old and marched the whole way. Mayor Shirley Frankin was also in the front row along with dignitary from Ghana (they celebrate 50 years of independence this year). There were speeches all morning connecting Iraq and Vietnam. I am against the war but I don't see how we can just pull out. The US blew up the country, hung its leader and now that there is a civil war we want out. We have made such a mess that I think we are stuck no matter what we might want to do and no matter what we can't win. You cannot defeat people willing to die for their cause, you can wipe them out but you cannot beat them. So I think we are stuck for a very long time. Everybody is talking about biofuels now but we can't grow enough corn to fill our tanks. If we were serious about peace we would start thinking smaller and sharing more.
Oprah is my hero or should I say shero. I admire her accomplishments and that is why her comments about Black youth hurt so much. I have been to South Africa twice and I was deeply moved by the poverty that I saw. Alicia Keys is my favorite artist and she encourages her fans to contribute to the HIV/AIDS effort in Africa through Keep A Child Alive. Alicia manages to motivate without tearing us down. I go to a public school that is on the No Child Left Behind list. Nobody brings special resources or spends time trying to provide direction. We are taught to want gadgets and clothes so adults should not blame youth, they should check themselves. What Oprah said may be true but in some ways that makes the problems here worse than in Africa. They have to deal with physical poverty but here it is mental. Oprah is lucky when she found urban schools depressing she could just go away, if we leave it makes us a dropout. I think the least she could do is drop in if it helps to keep a few of us motivated. We may not know what to ask for so don't ask "what do you want?" We are programmed with wants that is the problem. Ask us who we are, what we think, what is wrong, ask us about love, loss, challenges. When I was in Africa I met young people who listened to the same music that we listen to and the best things to trade were sneakers, CD's, and any kind of technology. What I learned is that we are the same only the circumstances are very different. Oprah gave up on us but that does not mean we are hopeless. I am so proud of what she has done in South Africa but why do people always have to tear urban youth down when they do something that makes sense? We are strong and we don't expect any better but it does not make it right.
I know of two girls in high school living on their own because their mothers have been sent to Iraq. It is crazy they are 16 & 17. Most people don't know it but you have to wonder what the military does to check in on people's families. Women should be able to go into the military if they want to and fight anywhere that they want, still somebody should check in on the kids. It is hard to stay focused and not worry if your parent is off fighting a war. It bothers me that people don't think about these things. It is like people are so shallow and self-righteous marching around talking about ending the war but they don't spend any time teaching or learning about the issues. If President Bush went to war over oil then the best way to stop the war is to stop using oil. That would require personal sacrifice and for people who want to end poverty without changing the amount of waste they produce its not likely.
Art & Advocay
My aunt just wrote a new novel called Snitchcraft about how paid informants are used by the government to set people up. The criminal justice system is way out of balance but so is America. Her book combines art and advocacy something that I want to accomplish with my work. She put questions and resources at the end of the novel to promote conversation and thought. She also included some action steps like registering to vote. I work with Black Youth Vote and I talk to young people all the time who don't understand or don't believe that voting can make a difference. At the end of this book there is a page of statistics like "among males 25-29, 12.6% of blacks were in prison or jail, compared to 3.6% of Hispanics and about 1.7% of whites." Somebody needs to deal with this. Black youth need to boycott crime & jail and see what happens. That would be a real movement.
I am just back from the FreeMedia Conference. Lot's of talk about net-neutrality and the need for access. Good points were made about the danger of letting corporations own multiple media outlets. We could end up seeing nothing but Paris Hilton or worse, if there is anything worse. The Internet is wide open and we need to keep it that way. People will find a way to make money like they always have but I like the idea that a raving lunatic can compete side by side with a literary genius. This is true freedom of the press.
Louisiana Winter is taking place this week, not much visibility. Katrina was mentioned a little bit along with the references to Dr. King and poverty. It does make you wonder what we can get done in Iraq if we can't even deal with New Orleans.