Wishing Us All a Mindful and Restorative #ReclaimMLK Weekend

ellabaker

Rather than pen another diary about the unsanitized, radical version of Dr. King such as ‘Restoring Socialist Visionary Radical Martin Luther King, or that he may have caused even an apatheist like myself to believe in God as we listened to him, I’ve chosen to feature a lesser known, but glorious, civil rights leader who shared none of the ‘honors’ her male counterparts had.

A portion of her brief bio from americanswhotellthetruth.org:

“The granddaughter of a slave who was beaten for refusing to marry a man her master chose for her, Ella Baker spent her life working behind the scenes to organize the Civil Rights Movement. If she could have changed anything about the movement, it might have been to persuade the men leading it that they, too, should do more work behind the scenes. Baker was a staunch believer in helping ordinary people to work together and lead themselves, and she objected to centralized authority. In her worldview, “strong people don’t need strong leaders.”

Baker was one of the visionaries who created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, and she recruited the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. into it. She served two terms as the SCLC’s acting executive director but clashed with King, feeling that he controlled too much and empowered others too little.
In 1960, when four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, were refused service in a university cafeteria, setting off sympathetic sit-ins across the country, Baker seized the day. Starting with student activists at her alma mater, she founded the nationwide Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which gave young blacks, including women and the poor, a major role in the Civil Rights Movement.”

For those of you who don’t have sound  mebbe Santa forgot to bring ya a sound chip), I’ve transcribed most of the end of her speech, although I wish you could hear Howard Zinn’s delicate, almost reverent,  introduction, and the way he describes just how much those who loved and were inspired by her tireless dedication and selflessness did truly honor her.  You’ll sadly miss the great humor Baker evidences, as well as her self-effacing jibes at other movemental figures’ descriptions of her, such as: ‘Ella is the work horse’.

“The future of our country depends not so much on what black people do, but on what white people do.  Now this is a hard lesson for some of us…that the choice for whether or not we will rid the country of racism is a choice that white America has to make.  But you say when blacks called for separatism, they are guilty for racism in reverse.  In my etimation, the most radical statements that you can’t expect anything from whitey is really saying is “Show me”.  He is begging to be shown.  How?  I don’t know; but one thing I do know is that if you sit back an wait and say, ‘Well, if the blacks aren’t going to work with me, I don’t want to be bothered with them, and I don’t want to interfere with their proceeding.  When someone asks me what to do, I say that you must do something in terms of what you believe…and if your conviction, and if you’re not going to be motivated by your own convictions, and wait for blacks to tell you where to move…then we are doomed.

This is a news clipping that concerns a report by Dr. Robert Shello (sp?) prepared by the National Institute of Mental Health that was prepared for the report on urban disorders, but it wasn’t included in there.  To the extent that [H. Rap] Brown encouraged anybody to engage in precipitous or disorderly acts, the city officials are clearly the ones he influenced most.  Indeed, the existence of a riot existed in the most part…in the minds of city officials, and to the extent that Negro disorders occurred, it can best be interpreted as a response to actions of city officials.  Brown was more a catalyst of white fears than of Negro antagonism, the disturbance more a product of white expectations than of Negro initiative.  The twenty-four-year-old Negro leader was indicted on charges of inciting to arson and riot.  I think the burning at the school took place about four hours after he was shot in the arm by a deputy and had left, and that the people in the community came out and tried to put out the blaze.  But it’s a possibility that the chief of police had decided that he was ready for a riot, and so help him, there had to be one.  Those of us who aren’t ready for the fires…will go to our city halls and elected officials and question why so much artillery is being bought and stacked and stocked to deal with people who are fighting against an oppressive system that they have become victim to.  The voice of those who believe that life is more sacred than property…must be heard now…at no other time.  [snip]

What I’m suggesting is that the trend toward repressive measures against those who are resisting the war, those who are resisting the racist repressions, those who are resisting the poverty that they endure, those who are challenging a system more and more of the repression is stepped up in terms of what?  Eliminating those people…one way or another, containing…Rap Brown was sent to jail not because he had been tried and found guilty of a crime, but because he was an easy target.  And if we take the position that ‘sure, I don’t believe in that kind of imprisonment, but you must remember what he said’.  We must remember that the real issue is oppression, not for whom, but for anyone who is exercising what we say are our Constitutional rights of freedom of speech.”

Does that sound overly familiar?  Small wonder.

She was the inspiration behind ‘Ella’s Song’ , written by fellow civil rights traveler Bernice Johnson Reagon, birther of Sweet Honey in the Rock; the rest of the lyrics are here. 

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons
That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me “
To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale
The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm

Ella Taught Me: Shattering the Myth of the Leaderless Movement’ by Baker biographer Barbara Ransby.  One portion:

“Baker represented a different leadership tradition altogether. She combined the generic concept of leadership—”A process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”—and a confidence in the wisdom of ordinary people to define their problems and imagine solution. Baker helped everyday people channel and congeal their collective power to resist oppression and fight for sustainable, transformative change. Her method is not often recognized, celebrated or even seen except by many who are steeped in the muck of movement-building work. Yet Baker and her hardworking political progenies were essential.”

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights website is here.

Related: R.L. Stephens II, writing at Orchestrated Impulse: ‘Dear #BlackLivesMatter: We Don’t Need Black Leadership’

And also: ‘Here’s How White People Can End Racism Forever’; What can white people do to end racism in the wake of the Charleston massacre? Two editors at Orchestrated Pulse sat down to discuss one of the hottest topics in think piecing’, by Drew Franklin & R.L. Stephens, including these provocative paragraphs, but I do hope you read all of it:

Drew: “No matter how prevalent these discussions become in the media’s gaze, the mainstream will never articulate that white supremacism is fundamental to the health of the American empire, whose continued existence is maintained through widespread violence and death. This is hard for many people to appreciate, especially with the emerging popularity of abstractions like “epistemic violence.” At the point of physical confrontation, there’s nothing abstract about it. All people, especially so-called allies, need to understand that when you really struggle against power systems, you expose yourself to deadly harm. Your enemies–the pigs, flanked by the Cliven Bundy’s and the Dylan Roofs of the world–have guns. And they have demonstrated their willingness to use them.

With that in mind, I think it borders on recklessness to tell white people there are a few simple things they can do to change the situation. If you follow that advice, you’ll either be completely ineffectual, or you’ll get fucked up. Either way, you’ve failed. Struggling for abolition requires that you first accept the inevitability of violent reaction, and then prepare yourself for it. As things stand, very few of us are in any position to deal with that reality.

R.L.: What should organizing that effectively reaches White people look like? Capitalist exploitation is perhaps the single most significant potential point of unity we have. Yet, none of these “talk to White people” articles mention White poverty even once. Dylann Roof wasn’t some college educated White guy making an off-color remark in your social justice non-profit. He’s a poor, unemployed, White kid who spent numerous nights sleeping in his car. White nationalists recognize the physical and psychological toll economic deprivation takes on people, the feelings of inferiority it engenders. They take advantage of that desperation, and they offer plausible yet false racist theories to explain that pain. That’s how you get a Dylan Roof.

Drew: And of course we can’t talk about poverty without talking about property. That’s why an integrated class analysis is not allowed. The narrative has been completely sanitized in the interests of the people who own the media platforms that have produced this commodification of analysis in the form of think pieces. We would all do well to study the propaganda model and think twice before taking news and pop discourse at face value.

Drew, earlier: I live this shit. We all do. We are all affected one way or another by the master-slave dialectic. Resolving that contradiction doesn’t come about from privilege-checking, or heart-to-heart conversations among white people, or from the uncritical sloganeering that pervades the progressive Left. You have to bleed for it.”

(I’ve meant to comment at the site about the fact that some of our geezer conditions can’t comply with our desires…)Ferguson Action’s #ReclaimMLK page, with locations, plans, proposed calendar, and so forth.

@BYP_100    Black Youth Project 100 is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.

Yes, in Ella’s honor, let’s listen to the young ‘uns. 10:30 a.m. MST, Jan 16:

28 responses to “Wishing Us All a Mindful and Restorative #ReclaimMLK Weekend

  1. love that preston mitchum photo tweet. ugh. i know the secretary of the city in D.C., casually. mayor bowser signed an exec. order to allow cops w/o warning or cause to search the person & abode of ex-felons in the city. but black, female, democrat covers a multitude of sins.

    and the idiotic & frankly offensive paeans one has to endure here in (now much, much whiter) Chocolate City around this time of year. so many faces beaming w/reverential joy at having been deemed worthy to hear the God Emperor’s speech at the MLK monument on MLK’s big 5-0 a couple of years back. the memory of things that happened in some of our own lifetimes (not me in this case) is carefully & deliberately stolen from us thru calculated mis-remembering. and token figures, bowser, obama, booker, etc., are offered up as proof our society has gotten better at embodying mlk’s vision.

    • gadzukes, that MLK statue is ugly, ennit? insulting.as.can.be. on purpose? didn’t know muriel had done dat nastiness, thanks. i reckon deecee will be more active tomorrow.

      i love ‘muriel gotta GoGo’, and ‘wake up libby’ earlier, now same for ‘wakeUpEdLee’. they’re havn’ fun, which is important. black tokenism and memory holes: yes, jason. but then ‘i have a dream’ was the speech that was…permitted to stay in the public weal, wasn’t it?

      did ya listen to any of ella baker? hard not to fall in love a li’l bit with that woman. firebrand Fannie Lou Hamer, as well.

      hope you’re well and not bored witless with work.

      • With a pose borrowed from Conrad Murray #coincidence

        • lol. i’d had to look up murray. in the first set of bing hits was his quote about having held jackson’s penis every night. (thank you for that, doctor.) but it was more hilarious because i’d been planning to say that the pose i similar, except for the thumb…an we can’t see what he’s holding in his left hand.

          • Well…ell… I certainly don’t know… but… there are those that say this is a Masonic hand sign.

            Crossed arms forming an “x” – an ancient sign of change,
            and associated with the coming of the false messiah. [3]

            “on purpose”?
            It’s a contrived posed based on defensive not outreaching body language uncharacteristic of any pose I have seen MLK assume. It looks like a deliberate hand gesture. I’m just guessing but if you would ever be able to pinpoint the individual that chose this pose you will find a Mason.

            Reminds me of this:

            The Masonic symbols too obvious so they stored it away in a basement somewhere.

            Then again; hashtag #coincidence.

            • i have to aggree that the pose is very defensive, coupled with the offense of his facial expression, especially eyes. the design was by the ROMA group, dunno, but one of their designs with sails at the end of a pier was lovely. this is…hideous. as though he’d been cryo-frozen. why such white stone, anyhoo, eh?

              i have zero idea on masons, save that i read a fascinating historical novel about building a cathedral in europe long, long ago. it took generations of masons, and iirc, some of it led to Masons with the capital M. not certain, though; too many decades ago.

              when i put up the seal version recently, i’d mused about ‘playing for change’ not have recorded it. turns out, they did…on dec. 22. i really like the harmony, the staccatos at the end…not so much. but altogether fine, imo. such great musicians.

              • I’d say that the masterminds behind this monument was trying to influence the public, particularly the black public, through the use of symbolism. Notice that they chose the creator of authoritarian monuments as the sculptor ( Chinese, BTW, over competent black competition); which means that is the type of monument that they wanted. An authentic “black aesthetic” was not desired. Interestingly enough the artist at one point had a better likeness of MLK but a decision was made to go with the lesser likeness. (Can’t find the article right now).
                Ed Jackson, the executive architect for the Martin Luther King Foundation apparently made the final decisions. The Ho Chi Mingh (I believe) has in addition used severe geometric lines to construct his figure allowing him to put in at least one suggestive symbol; an inverted triangle. When is the last time you saw someone wear lapels that wide? Certainly King didn’t wear them. But it does make a nice inverted triangle. And, if it is a Masonic handsign that they have foisted upon the dead King, then it is noteworthy that the sign means “false Messiah”. I think the monument makers are sending us, especially black people, a message; and it’s nothing positive. They are terraforming our minds. Replacing the real MLK with a Neo-Black symbol. King remade by the empire.

                • “the Ho Chi Mingh artist” I meant to say.
                  Can’t seem to find my links on this. I saved them somewhere.

                  • you may mean the sculptor, Lei Yixin, whose wiki may shed some light on even more controversies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lei_Yixin

                    The 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in) tall sculpture at the International Stone Sculpture Conference drew attention to his work,[6] yet Lei has revealed that the sculpture he created at the conference was the first he had ever carved on his own.[7] Ed Jackson, the executive architect at the foundation of MLK Foundation was immediately impressed by Lei’s sculpture “Contemplation”[8] at the Minnesota Rocks! Symposium in June 2006 Mike Xiong,[9] and in 2007, Lei was named head sculptor for the “Stone of Hope”, at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.

                    In April 2008 the U.S. Commission of Fine Art rejected Lei’s design for the King Memorial Sculpture. In a letter dated 28 April, the commission wrote that Lei’s presentation was an inappropriate expression of Dr. King, declaring King too “confrontational” in Lei’s sculpture, and asking for a more “sympathetic” King.[11] Some changes were made to Lei’s design and construction began. There were other controversies on the project which did not involve Lei but were often connected to him, over the Chinese sourcing of granite for his sculpture and the choice of Chinese artisans who were employed to carve the stone, both of which were the decision of lead architect Ed Jackson. In addition, mistakes by the architects on the project forced Lei to make last-minute changes, such as replacing a pen in the hand of King with a scroll, when a photo the architects had used as a model turned out to be reversed.

                    Reviews of the finished sculpture were mixed. Some reviewers criticized the King statue on the basis of Lei’s earlier work making representations of Mao Zedong, of whom they disapproved, including one statement by The Economist that “Mr Lei is a political bullshit artist, and it shows.”[13] Other reviews focused on the way Lei depicted King in particular. The stoic, unsmiling pose of King in Lei’s sculpture has been criticized by some since the initial rejection of Lei’s design, due to perceived severe divergence from a popular media image of King as a unifying, hopeful leader and peace campaigner. However, other critics praised Lei’s more risky depiction. African Americans in particular noted the avoidance of mythology in the “confrontational” expression of King, suggesting Lei showed King facing the challenges of the present rather than dwelling in nostalgia.[14] Lei said, “you can see the hope, but his serious demeanor also indicated that he’s thinking.

                    African americans are monolithic: check. ;-)

              • Ya, those cathedral builders, if not the origin of the Masons, important to the development.
                Conrad Murray, BTW, is a Mason.

      • still digesting the hitherto unknown ella baker. thank you. i was w/o internet for a couple of days too. tortures of the damned. no internet & no cable make jason…something something….as for the MLK memorial, yes the statue is terrible. hectoring school principal disproving of some recess rowdiness. abandon all racism, ye who would enter MLK’s america, or you’ll get a stern look. and didn’t they screw up the quote on the statue?

        • ack, yes. i’ll take back my teasing about the comments not being much about the OP, then. i really feel so disoriented when i don’t have internet.

          one of the most fascinating things i learned on my ella baker (and other female civil rights notables) was how marginalized they were once the males took over, even though they really developed the movement. some historians don’t mince words about the fact, either.

          i’d tried to recall some of the shenanigans over respectability politics before and during the 1963 march on washington, including who got invited, who was permitted onstage, who got their mics taken away precipitously…

          this interview with gloria richardson at amy goodman’s tells some of the tale, although i thought bayard rustin wasn’t asked. but oh, yes, plenty of time for lena horne and josephine baker, and a few white folksingers, yes indeed. ;-)

          no dungarees, please, and no denim skirts, ay yi yi. ;-)

          i looked up the statue, and will bring a few things about that after i take care of…feeding myself breakfast. we are allowed to eat in this here Café, aren’t we?

        • interesting you see the stern, hectoring principal; to me he looks just plain mean. but from the wiki: “The centerpiece for the memorial is based on a line from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”[34] A 30 feet (9.1 m)-high relief of King named the “Stone of Hope” stands past two other pieces of granite that symbolize the “mountain of despair.” shore don’t look like Hope to me.

          but i’d thought i’d seen similar ugly white granite (looking more like cement) statues of mao. turns out that the same sculptor did both men. and that that this was the chosen design of over 900 entries from 52 or so countries. one major mistake may have been that the judges were all architects, not artists.

          turns out you’re also right about the chiseler truncating king’s original quote, but ken salazar swore they’d fix it. but apparently MLK had also referenced that even jesus said ‘drum major leaders’ were required. ;-)

  2. hardball, if they do it. but folks in the SEIU are making $6.75/hr?

  3. NOT Very SEIUrious; “they” ‘endorsed JOB$-Killery* doubtfully democratically (* and Livelihood-Killery, as ILL : http://www.examiner.com/article/radiating-americans-fukushima-rain-clinton-s-secret-food-pact )/

    • let’s see if i can sort through this… seiu has endorsed hillary for prez? okay, although i did finally twig to the fact that they are likely just *advising* the airport workers in the way that they’ve been advising walmart workers on ways to be able to form a union.

      now that piece is from 2011, is the u.s. still not testing seafood? i vaguely remember claims some agency started, but gave it all their official okey-dokeys.

      i’ve watched a number of videos with helen caldicott and gundersen, and he seems to be rightfully exercised about the cover-ups from what i can tell.
      but oy, this methane disaster just gets worse and worse.

      as an aside, it strikes me funny that the few comments here have had little to do with the OP. it seems i must need to put up a new Open Menu. ;-)

  4. 1 p.m. MST:

    and also, a well-written, well-thought essay and treatise: Jan. 18, 2016: ‘Refusing to Choose Between Martin and Malcolm: Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, and a New Nonviolent Revolution

    is this self-parody satire? today:

  5. “ESPN celebrates the legacy of Dr. MLK. Next, Dwayne Wade on how Dr. K influenced his choice of careers.” lol. NBA championship winner, if you don’t know. “Dr. King’s work is not done, but me being point guard for the Miami Heat is a step in the right direction.” next up, a Pepsi commercial. bitter laughter is a poor tonic for the nausea i generally feel on this day.

    why does Ella Baker sound like she’s talking about Ferguson or Baltimore? plus ca change. it’s like The Thing from that J. Carpenter flick: whatever the Beast, the Alien, devours, it can then mimic. Authority in black face is trotted out to say the broken bodies in the streets are themselves the evidence & proof of that person’s criminality, for inciting a riot or whatever. The police don’t come out in riot gear unless people are rioting, right?

    The Drew Franklin & R.L. Stephens dialogue…I was trying to think of something similar to what’s going on in Flint & I immediately tho’t of what the US did in Iraq: destroy the country’s ability to purify its water. It’s hard to admit that the US is at war with its own people, too. “Struggling for abolition requires that you first accept the inevitability of violent reaction, and then prepare yourself for it. As things stand, very few of us are in any position to deal with that reality.” very true. yet, like the methane leak in CA, it’s only a matter of time, short time, before something like Flint, or worse, happens again. or already is happening. how much toxic shit is being spread round the Mississip right now from all the flooding? ditto from the flooding in Texas over the summer? will N & S. Dakota be uninhabitable after the frackers are through?

    • aye, gawd, you made me laugh, jason. spit-take-worthy opening! yeah, folks really wanted le bron james (he play round-ball for cleveland?) to make some noise about the tamir rice verdict. but…no, he might just signal the same as above. privilege comes in all colors, doesn’t it?

      yes, thanks for getting exactly why i put up ella baker’s speech, and drew and r.l.’s to compare and contrast a bit. i also liked that she contextualized h. rap brown for us. and iirc, fannie lou hamer was a staunch friend of malcolm x’s; very kewl.

      yeah, water will be the single most important commodity soon, at least semi-drinkable. (I hate the word potable, somehow.) and phooey, the gold king mine spill right here in western colorado. so far only NM is suing the epa, but i reckon it will grow.

      the thing with fracking is even more obscene when ya hear that O, then congress, changed the rulez to allow the US to export oil, and of course bitumen sludge oil will go first. goddam. i get a few global newsletters about indigenous protests to eco-ruination, but at least there’ve been a few victories…for the moment.

  6. good night, dream of a better and more just world. the night’s lullaby, at least for some of us. ;-)

  7. my.stars.

    not quite as creepy as james comey speaking at the MLK Memorial statue, but…

    there were actions at some of the airports, but most of the tweets are vines, which are always in motion, hard to see in this sort of format.

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