"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Tuesday, November 29, 2005,2:48 PM
President Chavez's Speech to the United Nations
Your Excellencies, friends, good afternoon:

The original purpose of this meeting has been completely distorted. The imposed center of debate has been a so-called reform process that overshadows the most urgent issues, what the peoples of the world claim with urgency: the adoption of measures that deal with the real problems that block and sabotage the efforts made by our countries for real development and life.

Five years after the Millennium Summit, the harsh reality is that the great majority of estimated goals- which were very modest indeed- will not be met.

We pretended reducing by half the 842 million hungry people by the year 2015. At the current rate that goal will be achieved by the year 2215. Who in this audience will be there to celebrate it? That is only if the human race is able to survive the destruction that threats our natural environment.

We had claimed the aspiration of achieving universal primary education by the year 2015. At the current rate that goal will be reached after the year 2100. Let us prepare, then, to celebrate it.

Friends of the world, this takes us to a sad conclusion: The United Nations has exhausted its model, and it is not all about reform. The XXI century claims deep changes that will only be possible if a new organization is founded. This UN does not work. We have to say it. It is the truth. These transformations – the ones Venezuela is referring to- have, according to us, two phases: The immediate phase and the aspiration phase, a utopia. The first is framed by the agreements that were signed in the old system. We do not run away from them. We even bring concrete proposals in that model for the short term. But the dream of an ever-lasting world peace, the dream of a world not ashamed by hunger, disease, illiteracy, extreme necessity, needs-apart from roots- to spread its wings to fly. We need to spread our wings and fly. We are aware of a frightening neoliberal globalization, but there is also the reality of an interconnected world that we have to face not as a problem but as a challenge. We could, on the basis of national realities, exchange knowledge, integrate markets, interconnect, but at the same time we must understand that there are problems that do not have a national solution: radioactive clouds, world oil prices, diseases, warming of the planet or the hole in the ozone layer. These are not domestic problems. As we stride toward a new United Nations model that includes all of us when they talk about the people, we are bringing four indispensable and urgent reform proposals to this Assembly: the first; the expansion of the Security Council in its permanent categories as well as the non permanent categories, thus allowing new developed and developing countries as new permanent and non permanent categories. The second; we need to assure the necessary improvement of the work methodology in order to increase transparency, not to diminish it. The third; we need to immediately suppress- we have said this repeatedly in Venezuela for the past six years- the veto in the decisions taken by the Security Council, that elitist trace is incompatible with democracy, incompatible with the principles of equality and democracy.
And the fourth; we need to strengthen the role of the Secretary General; his/her political functions regarding preventive diplomacy, that role must be consolidated. The seriousness of all problems calls for deep transformations. Mere reforms are not enough to recover that “we” all the peoples of the world are waiting for. More than just reforms we in Venezuela call for the foundation of a new United Nations, or as the teacher of Simón Bolívar, Simón Rodríguez said: “Either we invent or we err.”

At the Porto Alegre World Social Forum last January different personalities asked for the United Nations to move outside the United States if the repeated violations to international rule of law continue. Today we know that there were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The people of the United States have always been very rigorous in demanding the truth to their leaders; the people of the world demand the same thing. There were never any weapons of mass destruction; however, Iraq was bombed, occupied and it is still occupied. All this happened over the United Nations. That is why we propose this Assembly that the United Nations should leave a country that does not respect the resolutions taken by this same Assembly. Some proposals have pointed out to Jerusalem as an international city as an alternative. The proposal is generous enough to propose an answer to the current conflict affecting Palestine. Nonetheless, it may have some characteristics that could make it very difficult to become a reality. That is why we are bringing a proposal made by Simón Bolívar, the great Liberator of the South, in 1815. Bolívar proposed then the creation of an international city that would host the idea of unity.

We believe it is time to think about the creation of an international city with its own sovereignty, with its own strength and morality to represent all nations of the world. Such international city has to balance five centuries of unbalance. The headquarters of the United Nations must be in the South.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are facing an unprecedented energy crisis in which an unstoppable increase of energy is perilously reaching record highs, as well as the incapacity of increase oil supply and the perspective of a decline in the proven reserves of fuel worldwide. Oil is starting to become exhausted.

For the year 2020 the daily demand for oil will be 120 million barrels. Such demand, even without counting future increments- would consume in 20 years what humanity has used up to now. This means that more carbon dioxide will inevitably be increased, thus warming our planet even more.

Hurricane Katrina has been a painful example of the cost of ignoring such realities. The warming of the oceans is the fundamental factor behind the demolishing increase in the strength of the hurricanes we have witnessed in the last years. Let this occasion be an outlet to send our deepest condolences to the people of the United States. Their people are brothers and sisters of all of us in the Americas and the rest of the world.

It is unpractical and unethical to sacrifice the human race by appealing in an insane manner the validity of a socioeconomic model that has a galloping destructive capacity. It would be suicidal to spread it and impose it as an infallible remedy for the evils which are caused precisely by them.

Not too long ago the President of the United States went to an Organization of American States’ meeting to propose Latin America and the Caribbean to increase market-oriented policies, open market policies-that is neoliberalism- when it is precisely the fundamental cause of the great evils and the great tragedies currently suffered by our people. : The neoliberal capitalism, the Washington Consensus. All this has generated is a high degree of misery, inequality and infinite tragedy for all the peoples on his continent.

What we need now more than ever Mr. President is a new international order. Let us recall the United Nations General assembly in its sixth extraordinary session period in 1974, 31 years ago, where a new International Economic Order action plan was adopted, as well as the States Economic Rights and Duties Charter by an overwhelming majority, 120 votes for the motion, 6 against and 10 abstentions. This was the period when voting was possible at the United Nations. Now it is impossible to vote. Now they approve documents such as this one which I denounce on behalf of Venezuela as null, void and illegitimate. This document was approved violating the current laws of the United Nations. This document is invalid! This document should be discussed; the Venezuelan government will make it public. We cannot accept an open and shameless dictatorship in the United Nations. These matters should be discussed and that is why I petition my colleagues, heads of states and heads of governments, to discuss it.

I just came from a meeting with President Néstor Kirchner and well, I was pulling this document out; this document was handed out five minutes before- and only in English- to our delegation. This document was approved by a dictatorial hammer which I am here denouncing as illegal, null, void and illegitimate.

Hear this, Mr. President: if we accept this, we are indeed lost. Let us turn off the lights, close all doors and windows! That would be unbelievable: us accepting a dictatorship here in this hall.

Now more than ever- we were saying- we need to retake ideas that were left on the road such as the proposal approved at this Assembly in 1974 regarding a New Economic International Order. Article 2 of that text confirms the right of states to nationalizing the property and natural resources that belonged to foreign investors. It also proposed to create cartels of raw material producers. In the Resolution 3021, May, 1974, the Assembly expressed its will to work with utmost urgency in the creation of a New Economic International Order based on- listen carefully, please- “the equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all states regardless of their economic and social systems, correcting the inequalities and repairing the injustices among developed and developing countries, thus assuring present and future generations, peace, justice and a social and economic development that grows at a sustainable rate.”

The main goal of the New Economic International Order was to modify the old economic order conceived at Breton Woods.

We the people now claim- this is the case of Venezuela- a new international economic order. But it is also urgent a new international political order. Let us not permit that a few countries try to reinterpret the principles of International Law in order to impose new doctrines such as “pre-emptive warfare.” Oh do they threaten us with that pre-emptive war! And what about the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine? We need to ask ourselves. Who is going to protect us? How are they going to protect us?

I believe one of the countries that require protection is precisely the United States. That was shown painfully with the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina; they do not have a government that protects them from the announced nature disasters, if we are going to talk about protecting each other; these are very dangerous concepts that shape imperialism, interventionism as they try to legalize the violation of the national sovereignty. The full respect towards the principles of International Law and the United Nations Charter must be, Mr. President, the keystone for international relations in today’s world and the base for the new order we are currently proposing.

It is urgent to fight, in an efficient manner, international terrorism. Nonetheless, we must not use it as an excuse to launch unjustified military aggressions which violate international law. Such has been the doctrine following September 11. Only a true and close cooperation and the end of the double discourse that some countries of the North apply regarding terrorism, could end this terrible calamity.

In just seven years of Bolivarian Revolution, the people of Venezuela can claim important social and economic advances.

One million four hundred and six thousand Venezuelans learned to read and write. We are 25 million total. And the country will-in a few days- be declared illiteracy-free territory. And three million Venezuelans, who had always been excluded because of poverty, are now part of primary, secondary and higher studies.

Seventeen million Venezuelans-almost 70% of the population- are receiving, and for the first time, universal healthcare, including the medicine, and in a few years, all Venezuelans will have free access to an excellent healthcare service. More thatn a million seven hundred tons of food are channeled to over 12 million people at subsidized prices, almost half the population. One million gets them completely free, as they are in a transition period. More than 700 thousand new jobs have been created, thus reducing unemployment by 9 points. All of this amid internal and external aggressions, including a coup d’etat and an oil industry shutdown organized by Washington. Regardless of the conspiracies, the lies spread by powerful media outlets, and the permanent threat of the empire and its allies, they even call for the assassination of a president. The only country where a person is able to call for the assassination of a head of state is the United States. Such was the case of a Reverend called Pat Robertson, very close to the White House: He called for my assassination and he is a free person. That is international terrorism!

We will fight for Venezuela, for Latin American integration and the world. We reaffirm our infinite faith in humankind. We are thirsty for peace and justice in order to survive as species. Simón Bolívar, founding father of our country and guide of our revolution swore to never allow his hands to be idle or his soul to rest until he had broken the shackles which bound us to the empire. Now is the time to not allow our hands to be idle or our souls to rest until we save humanity.

Translated by Néstor Sánchez
 
posted by R J Noriega
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,2:34 PM
“The Dream: A Call for the Moral Imperatives”
Address to Venezuela’s National Assembly in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King

Let me express my sincere thanks to President Hugo Chavez, democratically elected leader of Venezuela, whose vision of inclusion and commitment to lifting the poor addresses the moral imperative of our time. I want to thank the religious leaders who likewise extended the invitation and met us so graciously at the airport last night.

I want to thank the members of the National Assembly for inviting me to this special session, and the government ministers.

And to the religious leaders and representatives of the Afro Venezuelan community with whom we share so much as people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere.

It is good to be in the land of Simon Bolivar, one of the great liberators of this hemisphere. He was presented with a gift – a portrait of George Washington – from General Lafayette, as an expression of the long standing US-Venezuelan/South American ties.

The roots of the revolution, led by Bolivar, were rooted hunger and poverty. The great battleground for the defense and expansion of freedom today, in the whole southern half of the globe, is that of the rising peoples’ seeking an end to tyranny and justice, exploitation, more than an end they seek a new beginning.

Today the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Coretta Scott King is in the hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. She suffered a mild heart attack and stroke last week. For all that she stands for, let us pray for her recovery. Let us stand together for a moment, and bow our heads in silent prayer.

This is a critical moment in the history of our hemisphere. North America and its relationship with its neighbors, nations emerging from the shackles of centuries of exploitation and tyranny.

Let me hasten to congratulate you on your Commission on the Prevention and Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In South Africa, under Nelson Mandela, they set up a Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. In America, former President Clinton set up a commission on race. All of these efforts, facing the pain of racial and religious scars, seeking reconciliation, have value.

Your focus on foreign debt, debt relief, free-trade and fair trade to overcome years of structural disorder, unnecessary military spending, land reform…these are some of the great themes of our time. They can change our world condition.

This date has particular meaning for us as I seek to share some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s world view, and hopefully its avocation, can be of value to you, as you assume your position in the world’s leadership and your rightful place in the family of nations.

On this date August 28, 1955, Emmett Till – a young African American male – was lynched in Mississippi. He was accused of having whistled at a white woman. For that he had to pay for his life.

He was one in the long legacy of 5000 lynchings, most of which were faith based lynchings, conducted after church on Sundays with some twisted theological notion that God had blessed this demonic action. It was religion at its worst that conformed to the worst in the culture. It had no transformative power. It was not informed by Love, the commitment to justice tempered by mercy. This heinous act occurred a year after the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down legal apartheid, or racial segregation, established by our Courts in 1896, 31 years after the end of slavery, after 246 years of legal slavery.

A few months later, on December 1, 1955, reacting to the laws of apartheid and humiliation, Rosa Parks – an African American female – refused to obey the apartheid laws and go to the “back of the bus.” Her act of civil disobedience, for which she was willing to pay the price to end the rein of terror, she was arrested.

Out of that struggle Dr. Martin Luther King emerged and led an effective boycott that began to undermine the cost benefits of the U.S. apartheid system. That struggle began to bring down the walls and bring the oppressed self-confidence. It invigorated the struggle to end legal race supremacy. After mass mobilization, legal action, litigation, massive non-violent direct action, and martyrdom of courageous souls, two laws were passed to change the course of America and the world.

1) In 1964, an end to apartheid in public accommodations;

2) The right to vote signed August 6, 1965.

It was the turning point of three centuries of struggle, from 1619 to 1865, when African Americans were denied citizenship. You in Venezuela ended the system of slavery in 1854, eleven years before we in the U.S. We worked without wages; we were enslaved. We were the foundation of the nation’s wealth, an asset more valuable than land.

Then there was the Civil War. The Southern region – the Confederates – sought to establish an independent nation with the help of Britain and France. But they lost that war, but even so, today they remain in the battle of ideas.

Dr. King said,

“In the past in the civil rights movement we have been dealing with segregation and all of its humiliation. We’ve been dealing with a political problem of the denial of the right to vote. I think it is absolutely necessary now to deal massively and militantly with the economic problem. If this isn’t dealt with, we will continue to move as the Kerner Commission said, toward two societies: one white and one black, separate an unequal. So the grave problem facing us is the problem of economic deprivation, with the syndrome of bad housing and poor education and improper health facilities are all surrounding this basic problem.

“We are going to Washington to engage in non-violent direct action in order to call attention to this great problem of poverty and to demand that the government do something more than a token, something in a large manner to grapple with the economic problem.”

He was killed on that journey as he sought to help garbage workers in their quest for their right to organize and have livable wages and job security. It’s what I call the 4th stage of our struggle.

The first stage was to end slavery or colonialism. The second stage was to end apartheid or schemes of separation by race. The third stage was the right to vote. The fourth stage is access to capital, industry and technology, and a fair distribution of land.

Thus our struggle to be a more perfect union and a more perfect world continues.

The real genius of America is not that it is perfect, but rather that is have the perfect right to fight for the right. And that’s the real beauty of democracy at its best. Freedom of speech. The right to dissent. The right to protest. There remains the unfinished business. Having brought down the laws of racial segregation, or class suppression, we must now unlearn the lessons of the past and to learn to live together. To honor the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them to do unto us, and to operate with one set of rules.

The Golden Rule is the key to peace, but a threat to tyrants. They do not want the Golden Rule, they want to with the gold and the stick.

Our message is clear. Dr. King’s message is clear today as it was 40 years ago. Embrace Democracy. Human Rights measured by one yard stick. End Poverty. A Good Neighbor Policy. We are inextricably bound. And a fairer distribution of wealth makes all of us more secure. The right to democratize and vote is a critical first step. We must democratize access to health care, education, and housing. Without an agenda of economic security, democracy is just recycling poverty.

Dr. King thought the triple evils of racism, militarism, and capitalism without checks and balances and transparency, had to be addressed. Such a set of values is counter-cultural. It helped to bring about significant change and by age 39, to the pain of many and the satisfaction of some, he was killed.

But the legacy of his proclamation remains with us.

It was this day, August 28, 1955, when Emmett Till’s body, his water-marked and de-faced body, unleashed shock waves of fear and anguish and anger and pain. Poetically and prophetically, eight years later on the same day in 1963, 43 years ago today, Dr. King led 250,000 people in Washington, D.C., and proclaimed to the world A Dream.

That dream included challenging America to honor the broken promises of the past, a new paradigm of relations, of renewed hope, and a new vision of a new world order, for the poor to be exalted and unshackled. Where racism, sexism, excessive militarism, colonialism, apartheid, would give way to the affirmation of all of humanity. And thus all of God’s children would have their rightful place. A new order where a servant, as the Bible states, would be worthy of his or her hire, and the formula of inter-generational wealth and inter-generational poverty would give way to a new day of shared prosperity.

As the Bible suggests, each to sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none would be afraid.

Dr. King, a minister, a liberation theologian, took Jesus’ mission statement seriously which is central to our faith, “I’ve been anointed to preach the gospel, spread good news to the poor, heal the broken hearted, and set the captives free.”

He went on to say, I separate sheep from goat by your behavior, not by your titles. I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was a prisoner and you visited me. Those were the keys to the Kingdom.

When one of the Pharisees asked Jesus what the core of the law was, Jesus replied,

“You should love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is, like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Such a mission statement made tyrants tremble and the poor celebrate with hope. It was a Gospel for the common people, looking at life from the manger up, that challenged the rich young rulers who saw life from the mansion down. For this vision they plotted to assassinate him. They conspired and killed him. But no grave could hold down the power of his awesome ideas.

Dr. King took seriously the admonition that character is measured not by what you accumulate, but by what you share, and how you treat the least of these. Today, the radical polarization between the very wealthy that lives in the surplus, and the very poor that live in the deficit and abounding poverty, is an unnatural gap. It violates the divine order.

The rich are not getting richer because they are working harder. The poor are not poor because they are working less. Thus Dr. King’s last mission was to organize a Poor People’s Campaign: a multi-racial, multi-cultural coalition, with sons and daughters of former slaves and slave-masters, Blacks and Whites, Jews and Latinos, Asian and Native Americans, workers, who could sit around a common table and create a floor beneath which no human being would fall.

We must not commercialize our faith and reduce it to the whims of the culture. We must remain a challenging transformative Gospel that benefits the poor and those who are in life’s margins.

Dr. King, like Moses and Jesus, was a minority with a majority vision. He saws life through a door for all, not a key hole for some. He saw the big tent vision that made room for all and left none in the margins.

Dr. King had a keen sense of history. He argued that injustice anywhere, was a threat to justice everywhere. And thus Southern segregation, the oppressed in the “Banana Republic” of Central and Latin America, the colonized nations of Africa, the war in Vietnam, politics of assassination of which he was eventually a victim – killed at age 39 – he rejected.

Like Jesus he reached out to the poor and the oppressed. The colonized in Africa. The victims of the greed, the landed gentry of South America. All came under the watchful eye of his prophetic witness. He sought to rally workers to achieve self-worth and dignity, and to change objective conditions under which they live. He was not against the wealthy – he would often say, “If the rich just got richer, slower, there would be enough for all the rest.”

Since 1963, much has changed in America and the world. And much remains the same. The struggle for fairness, equal protection, equal opportunity, self-determination, the struggle to defend the poor and the needy, a fairer distribution of wealth and resources, continues in the face of the hostility of the vested interests, power and domination of the few.

God has distributed the resources in such a way that makes all of us necessary. Venezuela. #1 oil producer in our hemisphere and #5 in the world. Endowed to be necessary. It thus has a place at the world’s table to discuss the destiny of the world. We have the resources to make all of us secure. It is corruption, exploitation, arrogance of power, race and class insecurity that we must address.

The power of Love and a commitment to justice, informed by mercy, can change things. Love is an awesome weapon; in Love we are obligated to care. Within my own country, radical polarization of wealth and poverty is a painful reality. 50 million Americans have no health insurance. The working poor are expanding. The well off go to college. The less well off go to war. All too often we see first class jails for profit, yet second class schools. In a nation of 2.4 million prisoners, with a population 20% African American, they are 60% of the nation’s jails. The stench of injustice abounds.

Though these are painful realities we must remain hopeful and overcome the odds and keep dreaming anyhow. Within my own country, the dream of peace with our neighbors, the dream of reconciliation and negotiation, must be kept alive. Threats and isolation of nations and neighbors, pre-emptive strikes, politics of assassination, wars of choice like the war in Iraq, must be rejected.

The war in Iraq does not address our national security; it is a destabilizing war for the Middle East and the world community. It makes the world less secure. We were told there was an imminent threat against our nation; we were told there were weapons of mass destruction, and there was an Al Qeda connection. None of this proved to be true. All turned out to be lies.

The war is costing lives, and money and honor. It is a moral disgrace. We must dream of a brighter day and go another way.

In 40 years, we’ve witnessed tremendous progress. African colonialism from Ghana to South Africa has been defeated. But too often, neo-colonialism, economic exploitation, poor people living on rich soil and not benefiting from their native resources, has been the result. This is unacceptable.

In this new order of global capital and technology, there is often a low regard for human rights and the plight of the poor and the indigenous people. There is global exploitation, a growing North/South gap, growing gaps between the surplus cultures - those that have more than they need - and the deficit culture - those that do not have bar essentials.

We must use technology, scientific farming and expand communications to wipe out poverty, disease and AIDS, and undrinkable water.

We must lead by being morally right, not by bullying with military might.

Dr. King would say, the arc of the universe is long but it always bends toward justice. The struggles of Africa, Asia, and Latin America to change the face of the earth without dropping a single bomb on a neighbor ought to be admired. We must maintain this momentum to make the world better. We must use power to reduce tensions, and reduce the rhetoric of idle threats. We must stop the acts and language of terrorism wherever they manifest themselves. We must measure terror by one yardstick.

Unfortunately last week in America, a minister of substantial influence used his platform to suggest that a head of state should be assassinated. It was such a repugnant, immoral, illegal statement; it deserves an investigation by our FCC and the Department of Justice, and a swift rejection by our President.

So far this has not happened.

The good news is that the politics of assassination are part of our sordid past is now illegal. It must be unequivocally clear that such a heinous act is not desirable nor designed nor planned. We must use power to reduce tensions, reduce the rhetoric of our threats.

Secretary Rumsfeld was in the region saying Venezuela is a menace, a threat to regional stability. Rev. Pat Robertson said that is true, therefore, rather than pay the price of war, let us assassinate him. He later modified it to say let us kidnap him. All of those ideas, the politics of isolation and assassination, must give way to reconciliation and reconstruction.

We must pursue good neighbor policies. In a world blinded by greed and drunk with military might, those with the most money and the most guns will not win, but rather the winner will be the one with the clearest vision and humane values.

That is the message of Dr. King and Nelson Mandela, the two tallest global frames of reference in the world today. They are both Pro Democracy and committed to shared responsibility, to a fair court system where justice is transparent and not for sale, nor at the end of a gun. They both believed in human rights for children and women, workers, the environment, and are respectful of different races and religions. They both were against racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.

They both believed that good neighbors ought to use influence to diplomatically resolve conflict and reject killing, invasion, occupation and conquest. In the new world order, there is no place for gun boat diplomacy, pre-emptive strikes or assassination of world leaders.

If in our lifetime, we can see the Berlin Wall come down. If early one Sunday morning we can see Mandela walk out of jail after 27 years. We can see Rabin and Arafat sit on the White House lawn and lay the framework for a new era of diplomacy en route ultimately to a two state solution. One day we can look forward to President Chavez and America’s President to exchange visit. The people deserve it. Leaders with the most courage and vision will take the most initiative.

Though our histories are burdensome with pain and often bitter memories, we must have the strength to get ahead and not just “get even.”

That’s the lesson of Mandela. He turned pain into liberation for all, not retribution for the former oppressed. In this great nation, President Chavez has the mandate and opportunity to create a new paradigm. A nation of Latinos, Africans, Jews, Indians, light skinned, dark skinned, poor and rich. There are abundant resources here to create a one big tent, shared security Democracy.

What a great opportunity to show the world how to live together and spread that joy. Dr. King and Mandela and Bolivar have given us road maps. And so, Venezuela, be strong. You have 75 players playing Major League Baseball, and Ozzie Guillen in Chicago with the most winning record as a manager. Be strong.

Define strength by lifting up, not by pressing down. Be strong.

Wipe out poverty. Be strong.

Provide health care for all who need, not just based on money. Be strong.

Reduce infant morality and extend life expectancy. Be strong.

Help lead the fight against drugs, drugs driven by the thirst for money, greed and violence. It’s the #1 source of terror and hurt in the world today. Help lead the war against drugs that is so destructive to the human family. Be strong.

Master the art of conflict resolution. Be strong.

Lift up those who are down, pulling up those who are out. Build bridges to those with whom we are now disconnected. Let’s move forward by our hopes and dreams, not backwards by our fears.

Let a new hope arise, let a new day dawn.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Monday, November 28, 2005,10:37 AM
Ring Of Fire0
The story of the six time world champion Emile Griffith, which is an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival will premiere on the USA Network on April 20th without any interruption, is a compelling one if not anything else. A young man who came from the Virgin Islands in search of a better life in the United States and in the process of creating greatness by realizing the ‘American Dream’, he finds himself in controversy, wrapped in the harsh political driven agendas that wanted to cease boxing. Directors and producers Dan Klores and Ron Berger let the story unfold before the viewers’ eyes by allowing the participants involved to tell their side of the situation along with the historical footage of the day to paint the picture. The brutal beating in the ring witnessed by the crowd on hand and television viewers around the world and then the highly publicized death ten days later of Benny Paret shocked the world and mortified the nation enough for a ban to be called on the sport by many creditable figures such as Howard Cosell, many politicians, and all the way to the Vatican, they all wanted massive investigations and a permanent ban on boxing.

The story of Emile Alphonse Griffith begins in the fall of 1938 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where Emile was one of eight children. Living in poverty the young lad dreamed of a better life and in the early 1950’s moved to the Big Apple in search of the ‘American Dream’. After working as a delivery boy Emile’s boss became well aware of the teenagers athletic ability so he introduced Griffith to the sport by hooking Emile up with a boxing trainer. Emile was a prodigy, learning quickly and honing his skills through hard work, the young Emile worked his way through the amateur ranks winning the New York Golden Gloves Title. In 1958 Emile took his skills to the pro circuit and with trainer Gil Clancy in his corner he quickly began to make his mark on the sport. Emile won six straight victories his rookie year and continued on to a 13-0 sophomore season until losing his first fight against journeyman Randy Sandy in a ten round split decision. In 1961 Griffith (22-2) challenged the Cuban boxer Benny ‘The Kid’ Paret (35-9-3) for his World Welterweight Title, and in the ‘unlucky’ thirteenth round Emile dethroned the champion and strapped on the belt via knockout, but the forever connection with the two had just begun.

After two successful defenses Griffith and Paret faced one another again but this time Benny ‘The Kid’ would avenge his loss and get his title back with a split decision win. Paret fought once more before stepping in with Griffith – who had won three bouts – taking a beating from Gene Fullmer before being stopped in the tenth round by knockout. Less than three months later Paret and Griffith were in the square ring again but little did they know they would take part in a life ending, life altering experience for all involved.

During the weigh in of the tragic rubber match Benny Paret stood beside Emile Griffith and whispered in Spanish “maricon”, which translates as “faggot” and which promoted the challenger to lunge at his opponent with the shocked onlookers unaware of the verbal taunt. So the championship bout was set. In front of the Madison Square Garden fans and the popular boxing series ‘Friday Night Fights’ the two squared off for a third and final time. They battled it out and in the sixth Griffith tasted the canvas, but the most brutal round was about to come. In the twelfth round Griffith caught Paret in the corner and began an onslaught of punishment that left the champion defenseless, and after twenty-three unanswered blows the limp Paret slipped down the ropes into a coma and this so called ‘brutality’ was witnessed by all. Ten days later after never regaining consciousness the twenty-three year old Benny Paret died with his loving wife endlessly by his side.

In an uproar there were statewide legislation hearings and the district attorney of New York Frank Hogan threatened to criminally investigate the referee Ruby Goldstein who came under much ridicule after the life-ending bout. The networks pulled boxing off the air for many years after this incident but life went on, Griffith continued fighting but was never the same, after one more fight referee Ruby Goldstein retired and the widow Lucy Paret never remarried.

Griffith went on to win more titles including the World Lightweight title, WBA & WBC welterweight and middleweight titles, but for the ones who knew him personally they said he was never the same fighter, he was scarred and afraid to get his opposition in the corner and go for a knockout. After nineteen years as a professional Griffith ended his career in 1977 with a total record of 85-24-2 (23), he went on to train some fighters and to this day is haunted by the memory of that fateful night of 1961.

There is so much more to this story than what I wrote about, but it is best told by the individuals involved, which the documentary completely covers. ‘Ring of Fire’ dives into the surroundings of the life ending incident and the aftermath due to Paret’s death and Griffith’s life now. It is entertaining, informing and heartbreaking all rolled up into one and this writer here gives ‘Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story’ two thumbs up. It’s a story that both boxing enthusiasts and average fans can get into, and I highly recommend that people tune in for this event.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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,10:10 AM
Definition of S.O.U.L
 
posted by R J Noriega
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,10:01 AM
Gangsta, in French
Gangsta, in French

By DAVID BROOKS
Published: November 10, 2005
After 9/11, everyone knew there was going to be a debate about the future of Islam. We just didn't know the debate would be between Osama bin Laden and Tupac Shakur.

Yet those seem to be the lifestyle alternatives that are really on offer for poor young Muslim men in places like France, Britain and maybe even the world beyond. A few highly alienated and fanatical young men commit themselves to the radical Islam of bin Laden. But most find their self-respect by embracing the poses and worldview of American hip-hop and gangsta rap.

One of the striking things about the scenes from France is how thoroughly the rioters have assimilated hip-hop and rap culture. It's not only that they use the same hand gestures as American rappers, wear the same clothes and necklaces, play the same video games, and sit with the same sorts of car stereos at full blast. It's that they seem to have adopted the same poses of exaggerated manhood, the same attitudes about women, money and the police. They seem to have replicated the same sort of gang culture, the same romantic visions of gunslinging drug dealers.

In a globalized age it's perhaps inevitable that the culture of resistance gets globalized, too. What we are seeing is what Mark Lilla of the University of Chicago calls a universal culture of the wretched of the earth. The images, modes and attitudes of hip-hop and gangsta rap are so powerful they are having a hegemonic effect across the globe.

American ghetto life, at least as portrayed in rap videos, now defines for the young, poor and disaffected what it means to be oppressed. Gangsta resistance is the most compelling model for how to rebel against that oppression. If you want to stand up and fight The Man, the Notorious B.I.G. shows the way.

This is a reminder that for all the talk about American cultural hegemony, American countercultural hegemony has always been more powerful. America's rebellious countercultural heroes exert more influence around the world than the clean establishment images from Disney and McDonald's. This is our final insult to the anti-Americans; we define how to be anti-American, and the foreigners who attack us are reduced to borrowing our own clichés.

When rap first came to France, American rappers dominated the scene, but now the suburban immigrant neighborhoods have produced their own stars in their own language. French rap lyrics today are like the American gangsta lyrics of about five or 10 years ago, when it was more common to fantasize about cop killings and gang rape.

Most of the lyrics can't be reprinted in this newspaper, but you can get a sense of them from, say, a snippet from a song from Bitter Ministry: "Another woman takes her beating./This time she's called Brigitte./She's the wife of a cop. " Or this from Mr. R's celebrated album "PolitiKment IncorreKt": "France is a pregnant dog. ... Don't forget to [deleted] her to exhaustion. You have to treat her like a sleeper, man! ... My black persons and my Arabs, our playground is the street with the most guns!"

The French gangsta pose is familiar. It is built around the image of the strong, violent hypermacho male, who loudly asserts his dominance and demands respect. The gangsta is a brave, countercultural criminal. He has nothing but rage for the institutions of society: the state and the schools. He shows his own cruel strength by dominating women. It is perhaps no accident that until the riots, the biggest story coming out of these neighborhoods was the rise of astonishing and horrific gang rapes.

In other words, what we are seeing in France will be familiar to anyone who watched gangsta culture rise in this country. You take a population of young men who are oppressed by racism and who face limited opportunities, and you present them with a culture that encourages them to become exactly the sort of people the bigots think they are - and you call this proud self-assertion and empowerment. You take men who are already suspected by the police because of their color, and you romanticize and encourage criminality so they will be really despised and mistreated. You tell them to defy oppression by embracing self-destruction.

In America, at least, gangsta rap is sort of a game. The gangsta fan ends up in college or law school. But in France, the barriers to ascent are higher. The prejudice is more impermeable, and the labor markets are more rigid. There really is no escape.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005,10:20 AM
Dead for nothing
Members of Paris’s African community have been rioting in the streets of Paris for the past 9 days. The riots were triggered by the death of two youths of African decent, Bouna Traore, aged 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, were electrocuted at an electricity sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois as they ran from the police. A third youth who escaped death, said they panicked and ran because they found themselves near the scene of a break-in incident where police began to arrive. The police of course deny any involvement in the boys death. It should be noted that these young people are not immigrants. Their grandparents and possibly their parents are but they are born in France and are French citizens. Constantly referring to them as "immigrants" is a problem in itself and reinforces their exclusion from mainstream French society.

The boys did not have criminal records nor were they known to the police so why did they run. The explanation given in Indymedia Paris by Laurent Levy is very plausible given the appalling racist record of the French police. They knew what would happen to them if they were stopped for an ID check. They would risk being detained and spending several hours being humiliated at the police station - you do not have to have much of an imagination to know the kind of taunts the boys would be subjected to. It was late and they wanted to get home where they were expected by their families. Levy also asks why the Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy had to say that this drama took place after a burglary attempt implying the boys were invovled or boys "like them" ie Africans and Arabs.

Following the death of the boys on Thursday there were two days of riots. On the Saturday community members in an attempt to calm the situation organised a silent march in memory of the teenagers. In the evening, some 150 young Africans met with the Mayor to discuss the events. The mayor talked about the cost of the damage but did not make any reference to the heavy handed policing. The youths became very angry at the police, the repression, the abusive language directed at their mothers, calling them sluts. The police began to arrive with flashballs (for shooting rubber bullets) and riot gear provoking the crowds. They then told the brother of one of the dead youths to go home. He took three steps towards the police who then began to fire tear gas at the crowd. The following day, about 8.30pm on Sunday evening there was another incident which took place around the local Mosque. By this time according to Netlex things had calmed down but it seems the police presence was heavy in the area. It is not clear what exactly happened but the police released tear gas grenades one of which landed in the local Mosque during prayers which was full of families. A panic followed as the building filled with smoke and people were crying and coughing and running. It is this incident that triggered the riots again and they have continued ever since spreading into a worsening situation and spreading to other French cities.

Tarik parle : «J'aimerais rappeler les faits, dit-il d'une voix posée. Il y a eu énormément de comportements agressifs, d'insultes, vis-à-vis des gens qui habitent ce quartier. Dimanche, il y avait des policiers qui étaient là pour taper du bougnoule, il faut bien le dire. Il y a eu des femmes insultées en sortant d'ici. Les policiers en sont venus à tirer une grenade dans la mosquée. Et la violence est repartie.» Il conclut : «On est dans un Etat, mais on ne sait pas si c'est un Etat de droit. Je demande aussi un message du gouvernement pour nous rassurer. Rassurez-nous. (Liberation)


Tarik Said"I would like to remind you of the facts. There was a lot of aggressive behaviour and insults towards the people who live in this quarter. On Sunday there were police here who came for a fight. There were women who were insulted as they were leaving the mosque. The police came to throw a grenade in the Mosque and the violence started again. We are in a state (government) but I don't know if it is a state of rights. I am also asking the government to reassure us.

The riots are reminiscent of the inner city riots in England during the mid-1980s when racial tensions came to ahead and Black people in a number of inner cities took to the streets in running battles with police following arrests of Black youths. The reasons then are the same as the ones facing North and West Africans in France today; inferior education, lack of job opportunities, appalling housing conditions in run down estates (three arson related fires have taken place this year in properties lived in by West Africans) exclusion from the political process with no representation in government or in the police force; institutionalised racism, racist police who systematically harass young West and North African males; the criminalisation of wearing headscarves.

Senegalese blogger, SEMEtt ou l'étincelle noire explains how minorities feel in today's France (translated).

France has to get a grip of itself. It is becoming less and less a prized destination because of the increasing racism and the incongruous nationalisms and xenophobia. The bad treatment of Africans and minorities in general such as the fires in the buildings and expulsions from our point of view constitute violations of our human rights. This makes us look at the coup d' Etat of the French National Front at the last elections as the symptom of the social explosion that is lying in wait for France.

In other words the two issues, first the abuse of people and secondly the popularity of Le Pen's Front National, when the two are put together you get what is happening in Paris and other French cities today - explosions of people.

The response of the Government has been to encourage the police's heavy handed methods of control including the use of arms. A video recording shown on Afric.com shows what appears to be plain clothes policeman shooting at civilians on the streets of Paris. Their intransigent refusal to acknowledge the economic and social deprivation that ethnic minority communities face is further proof of France's failing race relations. Nicolas Sarkozy ( minister of the interior) has further inflamed the situation by describing the youths as "racaille" - scum.

"vous en avez, assez, hein! Vous en avez assez de cette bande de racaille. On va vous en debarrasser" (You have had enough eh! You have had enough of these gangs of scum. We are going to get rid of them for you.)

Netlex Blogs adds that by borrowing the language of the extreme right to stigmatise "the Scum" "le ministre ne joue-t-il pas les pompiers pyromanes?" - literally - "isn't the Minister playing at being an arsonist firefighter?"

One interesting factor emerging in the blogosphere and mainstream media is that references are now being made to "terrorists" "Islamists" and "fundamentalists". LittleGreenFootballs, makes reference to a report in an English speaking French paper, Expatica, that claims an "Algerian" group has called France "Enemy no.1".

"The only way to teach France to behave is jihad and the Islamic martyr," the group's leader Abu Mossab Abdelwadoud, also own as Abdelmalek Dourkdal, was quoted as saying in an Internet message earlier this month.



The report goes on to say that nine people arrested by the French police on Monday were supposedly part of this group - the GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat).

Another blog, AndrewSullivan.com, has a report from the New York Post which concludes that

This is still a religious war: of fundamentalism versus secularism. And Chirac is discovering that no amount of appeasement can stave it off.

Palemtto Pundit continues with the references to "terrorists and islam". This kind of language is inflammatory and distracts from the root cause of the disaffection and marginalisation of ethnic communities in France.

One has to ask who benefits from spreading this kind of information when the reality is that the Muslim community leaders have themselves tried to calm the situation.

The Maghreb blogosphere (Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) except for The Moor Next Door is surprisingly quiet on the Paris riots? Why?

There will people out there who will say - nothing justifies the rioting and vandalisation that is taking place. Of course one could say that but I do not think it is particularly helpful or constructive as the rioting is happening and there are reasons why it is happening. What is taking place in France today has been brewing for the past 30 years. People and especially young people who are constantly and incessantly faced with racism and marginalistion in their daily lives whether on the streets of the US, Europe, Palestine, apartheid South Africa, or Bolivia will eventually take to the streets. The riots are the outcome of a culmination of experiences and incidents over a period of time, they are not simply happening in a vacuum of nothingness. France will have to face the reality of this otherwise it and Europe will sink into further violence as communities become even more polarised


black looks is the great website where this was originally written
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005,1:07 PM
Boxing is a brutal sport for a brutal country
This is an excerpt from Dave Zirin's new book, What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books, 2005).

No sport has chewed athletes up and spit them out -- especially black athletes -- quite like boxing. For the very few who "make it," it is never the sport of choice. Boxing has always been for the poor, for people born at the absolute margins of society. The first boxers in the United States were slaves. Southern plantation owners amused themselves by putting together the strongest slaves and having them fight it out while wearing iron collars.

After the abolition of slavery, boxing was unique among sports because it was desegregated as early as the turn of the last century. This was not because the people who ran boxing were in any way progressive. They make the people who run boxing today resemble gentlemen of great character. Those early promoters simply wanted to make a buck off the rampant racism in American society by pitting black vs. white for public spectacle. Unwittingly, these early fight financiers opened up a space in which the white supremacist ideas of the day could be challenged. This was the era of deeply racist pseudo-science. The attitude of the social Darwinist quacks was that blacks were not only mentally inferior but also physically inferior to whites. Blacks were cast as too lazy and too undisciplined to ever be taken seriously as athletes.

When Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight-boxing champion in 1908, his victory created a serious crisis for these ideas. The media whipped up in a frenzy about the need for a "Great White Hope" to restore order to the world. Former champion Jim Jeffries came out of retirement to restore that order, saying, "I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro."

At the fight, which took place in 1910, the ringside band played, "All Coons Look Alike to Me," and promoters led the nearly all-white crowd in the chant "Kill the nigger." But Johnson was faster, stronger, and smarter than Jeffries, knocking him out with ease. After Johnson's victory, there were race riots around the country -- in Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Most of the riots consisted of white lynch mobs attempting to enter black neighborhoods and blacks fighting back.

This reaction to a boxing match was the most widespread simultaneous racial uprising in the U.S. until the riots that followed the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Right-wing religious groups immediately organized a movement to ban boxing, and Congress actually passed a law that prohibited the showing of boxing films. Black leaders, such as Booker T. Washington, pushed Johnson to condemn the African-American uprising. But Johnson remained defiant. He not only spoke out on all issues of the day, he also broke racist social taboos by marrying white women, and as a result faced harassment and persecution for most of his life. Johnson was forced into exile in 1913 on the trumped-up charge of transporting a white woman across state lines for prostitution.

The "Johnson backlash" meant that it would be 20 years before the rise of another black heavyweight champ -- "the Brown Bomber," Joe Louis. Louis was quiet where Johnson had been outspoken. An all-white management team handled Louis very carefully, and had a set of rules he had to follow, including, "never be photographed with a white woman, never go to a club by yourself, and never speak unless spoken to." But the Brown Bomber's timid public face became fierce in the ring. Louis scored 69 victories in 72 professional fights -- 55 of them knockouts.

Despite the docile image demanded by his handlers, Joe Louis -- and his dominance in the ring -- represented dignity and resistance to Blacks and to the radicalizing working class of the 1930s. This played out most famously during Louis's two fights against German boxer Max Schmeling in 1936 and 1938. German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler promoted Schmeling as the epitome of "Aryan greatness," and in their first bout, Schmeling knocked out Louis. Hitler and Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels had a field day, and the southern press in the United States laughed it up. One columnist for the New Orleans Picayune wrote, "I guess this proves who really is the master race."

The Louis-Schmeling rematch in 1938 was even more politically loaded -- a physical referendum on Hitler, the Jim Crow South, and antiracism. The U.S. Communist Party organized radio listenings of the fight from Harlem to Birmingham that became mass meetings -- complete with armed guards at the door. Hitler closed down movie houses so all of Germany would be compelled to listen to the fight. The cinema doors probably should have been kept open; Louis devastated Schmeling in one round, with lightning combinations that stunned the big German. In a notorious move, Hitler cut all of Germany 's radio power when it was clear that the knockout was coming.

The Brown Bomber held the heavyweight title for 12 years, the longest reign in history. He beat all comers, the overwhelming majority of them white, successfully defending his title a record 25 times. He was, according to poet Maya Angelou, "The one invincible Negro, the one who stood up to the white man and beat him down with his fists. He in a sense carried so many of our hopes, and maybe even our dreams of vengeance." Thirty years after the fight against Schmeling, Martin Luther King Jr. reinforced its significance by reminding readers of Why We Can't Wait that


More than 25 years ago, one of the Southern states adopted a new method of capital punishment. Poison gas supplanted the gallows. In its earliest stages, a microphone was placed inside the sealed death chamber so that scientific observers might hear the words of the dying prisoner to judge how the victim reacted in this novel situation. The first victim was a young Negro. As the pellet dropped into the container, and the gas curled upward, through the microphone came the words, "Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis."
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005,10:42 AM
Double Dutch in a War Zone
On Ghetto Streets, It's Bloodshed and Tears All Over Again

by Adamma Ince with additional research by Christine Lagorio


There is no greater pain for a parent than to have a child die, except perhaps watching that child gunned down in the streets in cold blood. In one breath you could be looking into the eyes of the life you have sworn to protect; in the next, you're wailing over an innocent, lifeless body. On November 17, the parents of eight-year-old Deasean Hill felt that agony when their little boy was shot dead on the streets of East New York as he walked home with his stepfather and siblings. Though devastating in its own right, the murder of Deasean is just one of many, as rampant violence continues to plague Black communities throughout this city—despite assurances by the NYPD, the mayor's office, and the headlines that New York is safer than it's ever been, for everyone.
Just look at the bulletins flashing on the police department's website, boasting of a hard-earned victory in the "war on crime":

"Homicides are at a 40-Year Low"

"Overall Crime is Down Another 6% this Year; 11% Over the last 2 Years"

"NYC Leads the Nation in Crime Fighting"

The messages offer no consolation to mothers like Deasean's, who suffer the reality of the streets. "I was afraid something like this would happen," Kimberly Hill told UPN 9 News the day after her son got caught in the crossfire of drug dealers.

She was afraid, and she was right to be. Overall crime—break-ins, auto theft, loitering—may be down, but several city precincts, from the Bronx to Queens, are experiencing significant increases this year in murder, shootings, and other forms of violence. Last weekend alone, four people died in a wave of six shootings, 10 knifings, and one attack with a baseball bat.

If you live in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York, no one has to tell you what's going on. In the 73rd Precinct, part of Brownsville, overall crime through the end of September was down 8.94 percent—but murder was up 50. In the 81st Precinct, in Brownsville/Bed-Stuy, that same period saw total crime fall by 7.23 percent—but murder rose 62.5.

Meanwhile, in the 77th Precinct, Crown Heights, crime dropped 6 percent—but murder in September alone spiked 400 percent over the same period last year.

The situation has gotten so bad that the city opened a special court this year to handle felony gun cases from the five Brooklyn neighborhoods that account for a quarter of the city's shootings, from Crown Heights to Flatbush.

"How you look at crime depends on which spin you accept," says one African American cop who lives in my Bed-Stuy neighborhood. "You can say that crime is down in New York City and be absolutely right—the statistics back that up.

"But there's another side to the story," he continues, willing to talk but not comfortable being identified. "Crime in minority neighborhoods is not accurately reflected by those stats. There are still too many serious crimes endangering the lives of those residents. So that if you live in Park Slope and your biggest fear is having your car stolen, then you can feel safe because car theft is down, but if you live in a place like Bed-Stuy, where shootings are up, then there is cause for concern."



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The scene after a shooting is always the same: The blaring of what sounds like a hundred sirens saturates the area, shocking all senses into alert. Within seconds, a stampede of NYPD officers stops you in your tracks. Neighbors surface from behind dumpsters and cars, or file out from their homes, asking "What happened this time?" and "Where my kids at?" Within an hour, officers secure the area with yellow tape, keeping bystanders from peeking at the victims lying in the street. At night, the flashing lights from the parked patrol cars and the smoking flares used for lighting cast a soothing red glow, as residents quietly watch the paramedics tend to the wounded. Body heat from the crowd traps a nauseating aroma of fresh blood.

That stench was waiting for me the night of October 6, around the corner at the Gates Avenue housing project. Like most parents who roll up after a shooting in the 'hood, my first instinct was to make sure it wasn't my daughter. As I made my way through the crowd, the story unfolded: A foot was lying perfectly still on the pavement—the shoe didn't look familiar, so I knew my kid was safe. The rest of the body was hidden by cops and ambulance workers and onlookers, but voices from the crowd filled in the blanks. "That girl's in bad shape, son. You see all that blood pouring from her head?" said a man behind me. "Word, she mad young—she can't be no more than 15. She shoulda been in the house," replied another.

Eventually, the victim was removed and people went back to their routines—five little girls jumped double Dutch a few feet from the pool of blood, though it was after 10 p.m. Adolescent males held court in front of the corner bodega, replaying the events as if they'd just watched a bloody Tarantino flick: "Yo, that nigga came out from nowhere and just started blasting, son," one of them said. He pointed to the bloody spot. "One minute love was standing up right there. The next minute she on the ground, shot the fuck up."

Another guy joked about the need for bulletproof vests customized for the head, and they all broke down in laughter—a testament to the way violence becomes normal when ingested over a lifetime. Across the street, where older residents gathered, that normalcy showed its toll. "I'm tired, tired, tired of this bullshit," yelled a woman who appeared to be in her forties. "I been living in this stinking-ass ghetto all my life and it's always the same shit, day in and day out, shootings, stabbings, fighting, all kinds of unnecessary violence. We always talking about how much other people like to kill us, but we don't never talk about how we love to kill each other. It's like a damn hobby with y'all."

This was the third shooting I've come home to since July. It is clear that some streets, mine included, are just not as safe we've been told. "I've been noticing an alarming rise in gunshots around here lately," says Al Martin, assistant principal of a Brooklyn high school and a 15-year resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant. "These kids are acting up again, I don't know why. It could be lack of jobs or no supervision; it could be turf wars, drugs, gangs. Who knows, but there is definitely a rise in gun violence."

Despite the radical policing strategies implemented over the last few years, many Blacks are still living in war zones—in my neighborhood and around the nation. In 1997, this country saw 783 people murdered by juvenile gang members. At the time it was hard to envision an end to the violence. The following year, zero-tolerance strategies designed to tackle young thugs dropped that number to 628. In 1999, when the killings bottomed out at 580, people breathed a sigh of relief as it seemed that the crisis had subsided. But a new upswing in violence suggests yet another change for the community; in 2000, another 653 people were killed by thugs with guns, and by 2001 that count had ballooned to 865, breaking the 1997 record.

Relatively unnoticed by society at large, the violence crept back into the lives of Black folks.



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Recognizing the ease with which the killing could again reach epic proportions, some leaders have taken to the streets with an urgent message for the youth. "Black-on-Black violence, stopping the violence, let's be real about it. The Ku Klux Klan don't have a damn thing on us," Malik Shabazz, leader of the New Black Panther Party, told hundreds of inner-city youth gathered on Fulton Street in September for the Million Youth March.

"As much as we talk about police brutality, we get right back at it. We're killing each other at a rapid rate," he scolded. "You quick to pull a gat from your pocket and say, Nigga, I'll kill you. We're quick to gangbang on each other, quick to kill each other. It has to end."

The inability to stop the bloodshed is mind-boggling, as everyone from Shabazz and Louis Farrakhan to Russell Simmons and Chuck D have spoken out against it. The conversation is never-ending among Blacks, but talk is as far as it goes until a little kid like Deasean dies and all of society is forced to look at Black violence. Then elected officials promise to work diligently until the problem is solved—or until the television cameras go away.

The right to safety should be a national issue. But getting the public to feel patriotic about this latest attempt to end bloodshed in the Black community comes at a time when most city residents couldn't feel safer. Images of Blacks gunned down in the streets no longer dominate the nightly news—out of sight, out of mind. Those thugs who survived the height of the old violence were swept into prison—one in three Black males between the ages of 20 and 39 is under supervision by the criminal justice system in some fashion. Reinforcing the comfort level, headlines claim that the social conditions responsible for the worst of the '80s and '90s—crack, gangs, and the economic hardships of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations—have improved enough that Blacks aren't as angry as before. For many outside these neighborhoods, the only threat to society as we know it are Osama bin Laden and his network of terror.

About the only time we hear of Americans gunned down in the streets, other than in Iraq, is in the resurrected theme of threats, gunshots, and dead bodies in rap music. Far too often those lyrics have jumped off wax and into the streets—the last year has seen the attempted murders of rappers Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and Joe Budden and the murder of Jam Master Jay. Media images of young Blacks dying in the streets have been replaced with those of young Blacks dying in hip-hop.

The hype has eclipsed the community's cry for peace in the streets, and in some cases reduced the issue of Black-on-Black violence to one big moneymaking hoax. Last June, in an article entitled "Keepin' It Unreal," the Voice used artist 50 Cent, who lives in a hail of bullets, as a prime example of gangsta rap in its fakest form. The paper urged readers not to be taken in by the twisted tales of the 'hood as portrayed by the money-hungry rapper and his PR geniuses: "The sobering fact is that the streets as 50 presents them, brimming with shoot-outs and crack fiends, do not exist."

But what appears "unreal" to some is often brutally real for others, and while the Voice was stroking the sensibilities of those who actually live in a safer New York, residents of 50's Jamaica, Queens, neighborhood were drowning in the reality of his lyrics. "It is the worst killing streak in the 103rd since 1994," announced a four-page Newsday spread on September 28. The article laid out a compelling story, complete with photos of residents killed (none white), in one of the smallest yet most dangerous precincts in the city. Murder was up 178 percent there and shootings up 18.

Anyone still confused about what is really going on in the streets need only look at the actions of the NYPD for clarity. In January, Mayor Bloomberg announced that police would "flood" 61 "violent hot spots" throughout the city—neighborhoods, subway stops, and housing projects in predominantly Black and Hispanic communities like Brooklyn's East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville; Morris Heights in the Bronx; and Jamaica with 1,400 rookies fresh out of the academy. The initiative would be called Operation Impact. At the time, the mayor explained that while there was a 5.3 percent drop in crime overall, a 1.3 percent hike in shootings commanded swift attention. The program was slated to cost up to $10 million and last for three months, but has since been extended, twice, to the tune of $20 million in police overtime.

If, as the Voice professed, "gangsta rap today is as about as reflective of reality as, well, a reality show," why, in a time of economic duress, are taxpayers kicking out so much money for this?



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For many residents, the rosy statistics and headlines just don't add up to their reality. "The last time I saw a dead body in the street was '97" says 36-year-old Trevor Moore, an electrician from Bushwick. "But in the last month or so I've seen two and heard about plenty more. Two dead bodies in one month is enough to tell me that something isn't right around here. The police vans that cruise around here every night are always full of criminals, and yet people are still dropping like flies. How you figure that?"

The relationship between crime, its decline, and the rising incarceration of Blacks has always been fuzzy. In the late 1980s, Benjamin Ward, an African American police commissioner, addressed a group of 150 journalists: "Our dirty little secret is out of the box. Most crime in this city is Black-on-Black crime. . . . Most crime in this city is committed by young Blacks under 30 years of age. . . . We are the victims and the perpetrators. . . . We should not try to hide it. We have to speak out about it."

But it's never been a secret that Blacks have been singled out as the main perpetrators of most of the city's crime. No period in history confirmed that more than the era famously dubbed "Giuliani Time." The mayor's notorious Street Crime Unit, unleashed throughout city ghettos in 1997, engaged in what courts have since deemed the illegal stop and frisk of thousands of Blacks. Strong-arm tactics led to a wave of police shootings, severe brutality, and endemic misconduct under the guise of fighting crime. Instead of getting better policing, the neighborhoods got worse—and more oppressive—policing. Crime dropped, but the neighborhoods became police states.

The question remains: How do you protect the people you target? Bloomberg dismantled the Street Crime Unit. Crime came back. Bloomberg created Operation Impact. This year, the Civilian Complaint Review Board says citizen reports are up again, by 21.6 percent. Blacks account for 51.1 percent of the substantiated complaints, compared to 20.4 percent for white residents.

And still, in the safest big city in the country, young Black males are 10 times more likely to be gunned down than white ones. "Shots go off, mothers cry./Death rate rise, homicide, Black-on-Black crime needs to stop./Y'all can't blame it on hip-hop," urges Wyclef Jean on his recently released album The Preacher's Son. " 'Cause what we say is what we see, what we see is reality./The ghetto's the ghetto, you got them living in sorrow,/Soon they won't live to see tomorrow."



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Tomorrow has never come cheap for Black folks, and some say the price is growing. "I have no doubt that we are heading back to a time when violence was a fixture in our lives," says Bakari Kitwana, former executive editor of The Source and author of The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture.

"The tension on the street, in the 'hood, is very much like it was in the early '80s and '90s, and that is largely due not to rap music but to the changing economics—close to 3 million jobs have been lost in the last two years," he adds. "As usual we make up the bulk of the people unemployed. I think that now you have this growing intensification of these conditions. I mean, people are ready to explode. It seems like we're going back down that road, almost with a certain blindness, like people can't see it coming."

But it is predictable, relentlessly predictable. "Unfortunately violence is a part of Black inner-city culture," says S. Eric Blackwell, a professor of urban studies at Long Island University in Downtown Brooklyn. "I hate to say this, but we are almost like trained animals, bred to be volatile; our poverty, our morality, our circumstance—several things collide and it makes for combustible volatile situations at any given moment, and that part of us is expressed through rap music."

And that's where the crowd turns, to the poetry of the streets.

At the crime scene on my block, another shift of officers arrived to guard the scene until daylight. Exhausted, the older residents retired for the night, leaving the young males by the bodega rapping freestyle. The little girls still jumping double Dutch caught hold of the beat and jumped in rhythm—"They call me Superman, cause no other nigga can outrun bullets like I can./Girly over there was chillin' on the block when all of a sudden bullets started to rock./I ain't dumb, a nigga started to run./That's why her mama grieving now and I'm still breathing." The rest of the group made gunshot noises indicating that his lyrics had won the battle—life goes on in the 'hood.

Forty-eight hours later, blood would stain the entrance to another building, two blocks up on the corner of Gates and Nostrand avenues. The crime scene is always the same.


 
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