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A journal dedicated to truth, freedom of speech and radical spiritual consciousness. Our mission is the liberation of men and women from oppression, violence and abuse of any kind, interpersonal, political, religious, economic, psychosexual. We believe as Fidel Castro said, "The weapon of today is not guns but consciousness."

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    The News Ain't News, Ain't Nothin but the Blues

    The news ain't news
    ain't nothin but the blues
    bang bang
    inflation up
    inflation down
    Now a word from your president
    American people
    prosperity is just around the corner
    soon a chicken in every pot
    bang bang
    the president has been shot
    the president has been shot
    hurry rush him to the hospital
    stay turned
    we'll be right back
    after a word from our sponsor
    stock report
    wall street week in review
    stocks down
    due to budget crisis
    falkland islands
    el salvador
    fillmore harlem liberty city detroit south side
    occupied palestine
    jews shoot five year old boy
    throwing stones at tank
    jim jones takes one thousand negroes to heaven with Kool Aid
    disco gone
    donna summers got the holy ghost
    jeffersons happy negroes
    smiling all the way to the gas chamber
    ha ha ha
    news ain't news
    ain't nothin but the blues
    when I want news
    Bob Marley
    Billie Holiday
    Sonny Stitt
    When I want the news
    News ain't nothing but the4 blues
    10 million unemployed
    they talk about the budget
    the budget the budget
    Will B.A. nigguh revolt
    M.A. nigguh revolt
    PhD nigguh revolt
    preacher revolt
    watch out grass roots
    don't be used by democrats
    don't be their cannon fodder 
    don't be their way back to the white house
    don't be used by communists
    moscow is not your mecca
    take leaders from among yourselves
    protect them
    with guns
    dare anyone to touch them
    you will be successful
    news ain't news
    ain't nothin but the blues
    punk rockers shit on white house lawn
    nixon was drunk after five
    reagan drunk after six
    haig drunk all day long
    barbara walters interviews sada in his tomb
    hey stay tuned
    we'll be right back
    with a special message
    don't change the dial
    get your popcorn and beer
    --Marvin X

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     JANTEENTH,  2017

    Cover of The Movement, JANTEENTH issue (January 19, 2017)
    Maestro Michael Morgan, Oakland Symphony Orchestra
    BAMBD Art by James Gayles

    Because of political sloth, North American Africans in Oakland are just now hearing they have a Black Arts Movement Business District along the 14th Street corridor, downtown Oakland. The district was officially declared by the Oakland City Council almost one year ago, January 19, 2916, but few people know about it and BAMBD has received no support from the City; no funds have been allocated, no technical support has been given, no media blitz, no celebration, no banners, no vendors on the street.

    From time to time we hear tales from the eloquent politician representing our district. We heard she was giving technical support to the Uptown District where the hipsters congregate. We wonder what rite of passage informed her she should totally neglect the BAMBD to assist another district?

    Juneteenth happened because the whites in Texas wanted to continue slavery. We hope our eloquent politician doesn't feel the same, but there is a history of Black slave masters who resisted emancipation.

    In spite of sloth, Janteenth will be celebrated on January 19, 2017. We will have a Marcus Garvey syle parade along the 14th Street corridor with vendors, music and speakers in Oscar Grant Plaza.

    If you are willing to participate  and/or support BAMBD's JANTEENTH Celebration, email:

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    When you have seen the corruption of city hall
    when you have watched it month after month
    year after year
    when you attend city council meetings
    hear the rip off talk
    recycled rhetoric from The Prince
    when you see apathy
    walking streets
    beating tin cans
    when you see destruction of revolution by political perversion
    alcohol crack religion wife beating rape
    when you see the corruption of city hall
    when you see the people's hopes drowned in false contracts
    false wages false loans false  trips false votes
    when you see for my friends only
    for my bankers
    for my developers
    for my brothers in ritual and myth
    let the others eat cheese
    let them starve
    scum don't matter
    City Hall
    Allah came to save the poor
    save the ignorant
    save the blind hungry broken hearted
    whom do you serve
    Who sent you?
    Did you forget the consent of the governed?
    --Marvin X
    from Liberation Poems for North American Africans, Black Bird Press, 1983

    Marvin X/El Muhajir
    Poet, playwright, philosopher, planner, co-founder of the National Black Arts Movement,
    publisher of the The Movement, Newspaper of the BAM/BAMBD 
    Now available for speaking/reading coast to coast:

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    For the Warriors

    I have seen the best warriors of my generation
    starved into submissions
    exiled into loneliness capitulation
    imprisoned assassination
    seeking only the American dream
    not Moscow Peking Havana
    American dream

    lonely warriors of forgotten causes
    who did not enrich themselves
    in the proper bourgeoisie manner
    property stocks bonds
    lonely warriors
    unknown and known
    some filled tv radio newspapers
    night after night
    standing tall against injustice
    standing with honesty sacrifice
    unselfish unconditional love for the people
    naive to the  insincere
    naive to the opportunist
    naive to the pseudo intellectual
    but sacrificing always
    for the cause
    eternal cause
    that in time
    blew their minds.

    Now they see ghosts
    Jesus Christ in the moon
    left thinking right thinking
    gone for sure
    focus shattered
    what can we do in this state
    who will follow who will listen

    you were our hero you were our hope
    now you see ghosts
    Jesus in the moon
    and we are afraid
    for there are no ghosts
    no Jesus in the moon.
    --Marvin X

    Beat Ya Boss African

    Beat ya boss African
    are yr brave enough
    why beat ya woman
    she yo exploiter
    beat kya boss African
    don't beat the field produce yo nation
    beat yo boss African
    don't beat yo wife
    don't beat yo brother
    beat yo boss
    he pimpin ya ta death
    got ya workin
    30 yrs fa gold watch
    don't work
    beat ya boss African
    he's the real motherfucker
    fucked ya moma
    beat ya boss African

    He Was

    He was a rolls royce negro
    without a rolls royce 
    economic negro
    no economic plan
    political negro
    no political machine
    bible toting negro
    didn't read the bible
    phd negro
    couldn't write his name
    international negro
    didn't have a nation
    pan african negro
    wouldn't live in africa
    islamic negro
    refused to jihad
    romantic negro
    hated romance
    negro leader
    refused to lead
    he was negro
    black man
    now he's........
    --Marvin X

    Fleeta Drumgo, San Quentin Brother

    Fletta Fleeta
    died at my doorstep
    San Quentin Brother
    broken warrior
    I heard the shot that brought you low
     I saw them get into their car
    police types
    I saw them from my window
    was  it drugs or revolution Fleeta
    police came to my door
    refused to answer
    didn't know it was you
    they killed that day
    didn't know it was you
    head they'd blown away
    when the police knocked
    I thought it was set up
    more dirty tricks

    I remember the last time you called Fleeta
    you called but never came
    we went to the airport for you
    but you never came
    except the final day
    dreadful day
    at my doorstep.
    --Marvin X

    Progressive Woman

    Come my comrade
    whisper in my ear
    liberation of Pan Africa
    so proud of you
    revolutionary woman
    fight on until victory
    so nice to see
    you haven't given up
    gone back to sleep
    fight on my sister my comrade
    we may not agree on ideology, tactics strategy 
    at least you're alive
    to facades of this world
    you want something new
    a new order for people who won't surrender
    in fear trembling
    fight on my sister my comrade.
    --Marvin X 

     Amina and Amira Baraka. We highly suspect the child in
    Amina's arm is Ras Baraka, now mayor of Newark, NJ.

     Nellie and T. Monk

    Round Midnight

    Monk's gone
    I ain't blue
    Monk's gone
    I ain't blue
    where he's gone
    I'm goin too

    Death is always round
    tryin to steal life
    death is always round
    trying to steal life
    if it don't get the husband
    it'll get the wife.

    Monk's gone
    I ain't blue
    Monk's gone
     I ain't blue.
    --Marvin X

     I'll Walk Alone

    This road
    I'll walk alone
    men of fear 
    cannot walk this road
    I'll walk alone
    there is no gratitude down this road
    no thanks
    I'll walk alone
    men who see mirages
    cannot walk this road
    men whose wives and children 
    are dearer to them than Allah
    cannot walk this road
    men who cry who snibble
    who take evidence to Pharaoh
    cannot walk this road
    I'll walk alone.
    --Marvin X

    Letter to my lover

    You hate me because I am a revolutionary
    I did not ask to be a revolutionary
    revolution chose me
    you say you love me
    because I am a man
    but I am a man because I am a revolutionary
    I want suffering to end
    want the bloodsuckers of the poor to exit!

    It is not my choice to be a revolutionary
    hunted wanted watched betrayed
    I am from a long line of men and women
    who dare to think speak act.
    Love me or leave me
    I am a revolutionary!
    Liberty or death!

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    Syrian poet, novelist, professor Mohja Kahf and poet Marvin X at the  University of Arkansas, Fayettevile where she teaches English and Islamic literature. She considers Marvin X the father of Muslim American literature. 

    Saturday, September 7, 2013

    Two Poems for Syria 

    by Marvin X and Mohja Kahf

    Oh, Mohja
    how much water can run from rivers to sea
    how much blood can soak the earth
    the guns of tyrants know no end
    a people awakened are bigger than bullets
    there is no sleep in their eyes
    no more stunted backs and fear of broken limbs
    even men, women and children are humble with sacrifice
    the old the young play their roles
    with smiles they endure torture chambers
    with laughs they submit to rape and mutilations
    there is no victory for oppressors
    whose days are numbered
    as the clock ticks as the sun rises
    let the people continue til victory
    surely they smell it on their hands
    taste it on lips
    believe it in their hearts
    know it in their minds
    no more backwardness no fear
    let there be resistance til victory.
    --Marvin X/El Muhajir

    Syrian poet/professor Dr. Mohja Kahf

    Oh Marvin, how much blood can soak the earth?

    The angels asked, “will you create a species who will shed blood

    and overrun the earth with evil?” 

    And it turns out “rivers of blood” is no metaphor: 


    see the stones of narrow alleys in Duma

    shiny with blood hissing from humans? Dark

    and dazzling, it keeps pouring and pumping

    from the inexhaustible soft flesh of Syrians,

    and neither regime cluster bombs from the air,

    nor rebel car bombs on the ground,

    ask them their names before they die. 

    They are mowed down like wheat harvested by machine,

    and every stalk has seven ears, and every ear a hundred grains.

    They bleed like irrigation canals into the earth.

    Even one little girl in Idlib with a carotid artery cut

    becomes a river of blood. Who knew she could be a river 

    running all the way over the ocean, to you,

    draining me of my heart? And God said to the angels, 

    “I know what you know not.” But right now,

    the angels seem right. Cut the coyness, God;

    learn the names of all the Syrians.

    See what your species has done.

    --Mohja Kahf    

    Marvin X on Sectarianism 
    Marvin X
    Black Arts Movement poet
    Gene Hazzard
    Sectarianism has been known to spark religious violence throughout history. For many years we saw the ugly head of sectarianism in the struggle between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the constant bombings and killings.
    In Africa violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria has approached genocide. Iraq is the latest hot spot of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims. For decades the Shia had been oppressed by the Sunni minority, especially during the regime of Saddam Hussein. When he was overthrown by the US and the Shia majority took political power, naturally the Sunnis were resentful, no one likes to lose power and privilege. Because many Sunnis look upon Shia as heretics, this justifies their sectarian cleansing, even though there has been Sunni/Shia harmony, including marriages throughout the years, but presently there is migration of Shias from Sunni neighborhoods and towns and visa versa. Very little of the refugee plight has made news. 
    Of course the US is the cause when she installed the Shia majority, even though majority should rule, we are taught in American Democracy 101. But the resulting violence was predictable and much of it could have been prevented if the Americans had not been the "peacemakers."
    Now the violence is being instigated by the insurgents who are directing their wrath against the Shia as well as the Americans. And naturally the Shia are taking revenge since they have political and military power, including their own militias integrated into the army and police but loyal to their sect leaders and imams.
    We must see the Sunni violence against the Shia in the broader picture of regional politics. The Sunni regimes in Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, the Gulf States and elsewhere have no desire to see a Shia government in Iraq, however loosely allied it may be with Shia Iran. The Sunni governments have stated their opposition to a Shia expansion from the Tigris/Euphrates to the Mediterranean, uniting with the populations of Shia in Syria and Lebanon where the Hezbollah fighters are a political and military force supported by Iran.
    Have no doubt that the regional Sunni regimes support the insurgency in Iraq. These regimes would rather have their young men leaving their nations to commit suicide in Iraq rather than be part of the opposition within their authoritarian regimes. Better their sons fight the infidel Americans and heretic Shia. 
    Of course the historical dispute between the Sunni and Shia began in 632AD upon the death of prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Thus this Sunni/Shia conflict is much more outstanding than colonialism, including the neo-colonial Americans. There is no hatred like religious hatred. We can see that violence between Sunnis and Shia has surpassed that between Sunnis and the Christian Americans, supposedly the enemy of all Muslims. For sure, Americans were the catalyst, but the roots of the present sectarian violence began over succession to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 
    The Sunnis said the successor should be selected from among the people, Abu Bakr. The Shia said it should be from the prophet's bloodline, Ali. The Sunnis won out and labeled the Shia heretics, especially when they elevated the status of Imam Ali and future Shia Imams to the level of the Caliphs or rulers after the prophet, including veneration of their tombs in various Shia holy cities such as Qum in Iran, Najaf and Karbala in Iraq. Several Shia imams were assassinated, including Ali and Hussein.
    There are major Shia rituals that celebrate the martyrdom of their imams. The Shia feeling of lost is similar to the feeling of lost among Sunni Muslims in America about Malcolm X allegedly being assassinated by the Nation of Islam. This feeling of lost is shared by much of the African American community. 
    Malcolm's death caused a great division that has yet to heal and may never heal, despite the unifying efforts of Farakhan with his Million Man Marches and other efforts.
    Perhaps we can understand the Sunni/Shia struggle from this perspective. There are some Blacks who hate other Blacks as a result of the Malcolm X affair more than they hate the white man for all his centuries of evil and wickedness against Blacks. For the US government's role in the Malcolm affairand have no doubt about their involvement, they benefited by divide and conquer, that classic Willie Lynch slave master tricknology.
    Sectarian violence in Iraq may continue unabated, for it is beyond civil war, beyond American occupation, but deeply rooted in religiosity, myth and ritual. Even Sunni fear of Shia regional expansion is rooted in Shia eschatology or end time. This is evident in pronouncements from the Shia regime in Iran, boldly determined to pursue a nuclear weapons future and calling for the destruction of Israel, motivated by their belief the time has arrived for Shia geo-political and spiritual domination, and certainly Iraq will play a role in this Shia myth-ritual drama.
    This drama has implications far beyond any American notion of installing democracy in Iraq or anywhere else in the region, for people are motivated by mythology and prophecy, political aspirations being secondary. It is their spiritual aspirations that are primary. Shia Iran appears prepared to commit mass suicide challenging the Americans and Europeans over nuclear technology, even though the Iranians have every right to posses the Islamic bomb, just as we have the Jewish bomb and the Christian bomb. I say get rid of all the nuclear weapons or level the playing field as in the wild wild west: let everybody pack.
    As per Iraq, it doesn't matter whether the Americans stay or go, they have opened Pandora's box and mean spirits are blowing in the desert winds. Only Allah knows how these issues will be resolved. Perhaps the Sunnis and Shias shall fight until they tire of killing, then reconcile in the manner of Isaiah, "Let us reason together."
    Source: Beyond Religion, Toward Spirituality, Black Bird Press, 2007  (c) 2006 by Marvin X (El Muhajir)
    *   *   *   *   *
    Marvin X has given permission to Harvard University to publish his poem "For El Haji Rasul Taifa" from Love and War: Poems by Marvin X (1995). The poem will appear in The Encyclopedia of Islam in America Volume II, Greenwood Press, edited by Dr. Jocelyne Cesari of Harvard's Islam in the West Program. Mr. X is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Muslim American Literature, University of Arkansas Press, edited by Dr. Mojah Khaf. He is also in the forthcoming Muslim American Drama, Temple University.
    from Chickenbones, posted 19 June 2006

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    Introduction by Marvin X

    "Marvin X is  the most free Black man in non-free America!"
    --James Sweeney, Oakland CA

    "Marvin X is still the undisputed king of Black Consciousness!"
    --Dr. Nathan Hare, Clinical Psychologist, Sociologist,
    Father of Black and Ethnic Studies 

    "Marvin X has always been in the forefront of Pan African writing. Indeed, he is one of the founders and innovators of the revolutionary school of African writing."
    --Amiri Baraka, RIP

    Marvin X sporting Fedora
    photo Kamau Amen Ra, RIP

    Because of a visual disability, we have not read the following essay by Brother Ta Nehisi Coates, yet we wish to comment on his title My President Was Black from our perspective. In spite of being told repeatedly by my revolutionary comrades that Obama was and would be an imperialist, aka globalist, sellout in the tradition of imperalist sellouts around the world, I confess I was swept up into the uphoria of the historical moment lost my bearings of rationality and common sense. I did give my critical views as I enjoyed his political progress and should I say regressions or more properly reactionary steps into the sellout tradition. We found his initial capitulations to the Republican Party discusting and shameful. And we had written in my collection of political/historical essays Pull You Pants Up for the President,that we hoped Mechelle would put her foot in his ass when he got weak, simply   a very necessary step to strengthen his little yellow ass. Since we learned she was a  Gullah woman steeped in African culture, traditions and consciousness.

    Well, we were greatly disappointed, especially as time progressed and his imperialist/globalist ideology and practice evolved into full blown addiction to global white supremacy. We wondered did he turn from black to white or was he white alll the time in the tradition of his Africanity that disposed him to be a traditional African leader in black face whose practice was “in the tradition,” i.e., as a boot licker for imperialism/globalism. Kwame Nkrumah told us “every black state is a military state.” Indeed, we watched Obama turn America into a military state, advancing th. e mass killing of pseudo terrorist opposition around the world. We learned to our grand dismay that he had a weekly check off list of people to kill around the world, and this list included American citizens who were eliminated without charges and trial. We wondered how a constitutional lawyer could bypass the US Constitution with such arrogance and defiance of the rule of law. How could a man flip and flop about ending the war in Iraq and Afghanistan yet restart these wars after realizing his political and military stupidity. And yet continuing such wars only increases the tragic hubris of such tragedy.

    And yet, what is the endgame of his  meanderings and murderous actions? We knew from the beginning Iraq was a quagmire, a conundrum of the worst kind, a cauldron of political chicanery and duplicity putting America in bed with Supper Sunni Saudi Arabia, Zionist Israel and sycophant  the Gulf States, along with Egypt and other US running dogs, pitted against Iran , i.e., the Persian Empire resurgent, and her Shite associates who have every right to unite for their sectarian interests, ideological and mythological aspirations to rule from the Tigris and Euphrates to the Mediterranean. 
    Yes,  this is the resurgence of the Persian Empire and so damn what? Who can prevent nation states from realizing their mythological aspirations? Can you stop Israel? No. Can stop the rise of China. And one day soon African will raise her hand of power and authority. Even as we speak, Africa has one of the highest growth rates in the world, even while our Motherland is inundated with neo-imperialists from China, Europe, Middle East and elsewhere, there to steal the natural resources from the richest continent in the world. Oh, Marcus Garvey, you cried, “Africa for the Africans, those at home and those abroad.” 

    Yet, I am sad because I am an old man who is addicted to the Nigguh tribe, considering myself a Nigguh for life! Once I tried to vend at an African event and the person in charge told me I couldn’t vend because I wasn’t a “real African”! And today we are being told we are not “African Americans” because immigrant Africans are “real” Africans, thus we are just Nigguhs or simply “American slaves” as a CIA agent friend who attended San Francisco State University told me he was referred to when he walked the streets of Africa. He said Africans made it crystal clear to him he could never marry into the royal family of Africa because his blood was tainted with the white man’s blood. Ironically, in all my decades of association with Africans since the 1960s, only one African brother said to me, a dear brother from Ghana, “Marvin, my people sold your people into slavery and I am sorry. I am sorry.” This meant so much to me, for sure, the American white man has not apologized, even though his European brothers in France and Australia have done so, and nor have other African nations who benefited from African victims of the Euro-American slave system (Ed Howard term: Elder Ed Howard asked us not to refer to African slaves rather African victims of the American slave system). More precisely, should not we call it the Euro-African Slave Trade since Africans benefited as well and some families still enjoy the accumulated capital of the slave trade. 

    We suggest readers read Dr. Walter Rodney’s Europe and the Underdevelopment of Africa, but even better his classic monograph West Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade in which he delineated the pre-slavery social-political-economic conditions in West Africa that lead directly into the slave trade, e.g., political, economic, military, judicial and religious corruption, even mock battles between tribes and nations wherein the warring parties in these mock battles shared the profits which were derived from such mock battles between warring tribes for the benefit of the ruling classes. In one of his great poems, ancestor Amiri Baraka says:

    The king sold the farmer to the ghost
    In the Atlantic ocean is a railroad of human bones….

    In my personal life, we are so honored my children and grandchildren are already in Africa or on the way. My daughters are begging me to join them in the Motherland. Yet we are filled with joy and pain. Joy my children have enough consciousness to return to our Motherland not out of failure but after achieving all they could in the glass ceiling of American white supremacy. My children achieved the very best America had to offer, yet discovered they knew there was more and they wanted more for their children. If my children continue to press me to come to Africa, surely I will be forced to go, even though I am an old man and am of the Nigguh tribe, i.e., North American Africans. As a young man I departed American and briefly lived in exile. Although I enjoyed the internationalism of Che and the Pan Africanists, I was an American Nigguh no matter where I went and I missed my Nigguhs on the corner, in the hood, in the alley. These are the people I know and love, these are the people I have worked my life to resurrect from being deaf, dumb and blind.

    And so we return to Obama, now departing the White House. In spite of being warned by my more astute revolutionary brothers of his duplicity, I, like many of my Nigguhs for Life, refuse to take off our rose colored glasses and see the devil came appear in white, black, brown, yellow and multicolored appearance. We must have forgotten a rose is a rose by any name, for sure, we clearly forgot the Bible told us to guard against being deceived. As my dad told me, “Boy, you so smart you outsmarted yourself!”  

    Oh, God have mercy, the endgame is that we clearly did not perceive the fundamental lesson of Phyics 101: for every action there is a reaction. Additionally, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time! Therefore, we did not anticipate the “whitelash” as Van Jones so aptly put it. Why could you not anticipate the reaction to eight years of a Nigguh in the White House?
    For surel, the whites never thought the Nigguh could be even worse than the white man, though those of us steeped in Nation of Islam mythology know the Black scientist Yacub genetically engineered the White man or Yacub’s grafted devil. Those of us who live in the Bay Area are well aware of the bio-tech labs in Berkeley and Emeryville.

    Thus the Donald Trump victory is a natural reaction to the eight years of Obamism and globalism, thus the rise of white nationalism. White people just want to be white, and have every right to be white, even if whiteness is an antiquated mythology that must and will be discarded into the dustbin of history. We should take a breath of fresh air with the full knowledge the era of Donald Trump is ephemeral at best. For sure, this is the last hurrah for Whitey. No offense to the globalists and the white nationalists. They both suffer myopia that approaches jaundice, complicated by hubris in the most pervasive Shakespearean tragic manner. But note Diop taught us there is no African tragedy, only comedy, therefore, the annual inundation of the Nile or Hapi River is the symbolic resurrection of the dead, the original Osirian drama of transcendence and ascendance. But let us conclude with Eliot's Love Song of J. Afred Profrock:

    Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
    Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
    Let us go and make our visit.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
    Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
    Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
    And seeing that it was a soft October night,
    Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

    And indeed there will be time
    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands
    That lift and drop a question on your plate;
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    And indeed there will be time
    To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
    Time to turn back and descend the stair,
    With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
    (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
    My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
    My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
    (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
    Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

    For I have known them all already, known them all:
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    I know the voices dying with a dying fall
    Beneath the music from a farther room.
                   So how should I presume?

    My President Was Black


    Ta Nehisi Coates 



    “They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
    — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    “Love Will Make You Do Wrong”

    In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, he and his wife, Michelle, hosted a farewell party, the full import of which no one could then grasp. It was late October, Friday the 21st, and the president had spent many of the previous weeks, as he would spend the two subsequent weeks, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Things were looking up. Polls in the crucial states of Virginia and Pennsylvania showed Clinton with solid advantages. The formidable GOP strongholds of Georgia and Texas were said to be under threat. The moment seemed to buoy Obama. He had been light on his feet in these last few weeks, cracking jokes at the expense of Republican opponents and laughing off hecklers. At a rally in Orlando on October 28, he greeted a student who would be introducing him by dancing toward her and then noting that the song playing over the loudspeakers—the Gap Band’s “Outstanding”—was older than she was. “This is classic!” he said. Then he flashed the smile that had launched America’s first black presidency, and started dancing again. Three months still remained before Inauguration Day, but staffers had already begun to count down the days. They did this with a mix of pride and longing—like college seniors in early May. They had no sense of the world they were graduating into. None of us did.
    The farewell party, presented by BET (Black Entertainment Television), was the last in a series of concerts the first couple had hosted at the White House. Guests were asked to arrive at 5:30 p.m. By 6, two long lines stretched behind the Treasury Building, where the Secret Service was checking names. The people in these lines were, in the main, black, and their humor reflected it. The brisker queue was dubbed the “good-hair line” by one guest, and there was laughter at the prospect of the Secret Service subjecting us all to a “brown-paper-bag test.” This did not come to pass, but security was tight. Several guests were told to stand in a makeshift pen and wait to have their backgrounds checked a second time.

    Dave Chappelle was there. He coolly explained the peril and promise of comedy in what was then still only a remotely potential Donald Trump presidency: “I mean, we never had a guy have his own pussygate scandal.” Everyone laughed. A few weeks later, he would be roundly criticized for telling a crowd at the Cutting Room, in New York, that he had voted for Clinton but did not feel good about it. “She’s going to be on a coin someday,” Chappelle said. “And her behavior has not been coinworthy.” But on this crisp October night, everything felt inevitable and grand. There was a slight wind. It had been in the 80s for much of that week. Now, as the sun set, the season remembered its name. Women shivered in their cocktail dresses. Gentlemen chivalrously handed over their suit coats. But when Naomi Campbell strolled past the security pen in a sleeveless number, she seemed as invulnerable as ever.

    Cellphones were confiscated to prevent surreptitious recordings from leaking out. (This effort was unsuccessful. The next day, a partygoer would tweet a video of the leader of the free world dancing to Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”) After withstanding the barrage of security, guests were welcomed into the East Wing of the White House, and then ushered back out into the night, where they boarded a succession of orange-and-green trolleys. The singer and actress Janelle Monáe, her famous and fantastic pompadour preceding her, stepped on board and joked with a companion about the historical import of “sitting in the back of the bus.” She took a seat three rows from the front and hummed into the night. The trolley dropped the guests on the South Lawn, in front of a giant tent. The South Lawn’s fountain was lit up with blue lights. The White House proper loomed like a ghost in the distance. I heard the band, inside, beginning to play Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”

    “Well, you can tell what type of night this is,” Obama said from the stage, opening the event. “Not the usual ruffles and flourishes!”
    The crowd roared.
    “This must be a BET event!”
    The crowd roared louder still.
    Obama placed the concert in the White House’s musical tradition, noting that guests of the Kennedys had once done the twist at the residence—“the twerking of their time,” he said, before adding, “There will be no twerking tonight. At least not by me.”

    The Obamas are fervent and eclectic music fans. In the past eight years, they have hosted performances at the White House by everyone from Mavis Staples to Bob Dylan to Tony Bennett to the Blind Boys of Alabama. After the rapper Common was invited to perform in 2011, a small fracas ensued in the right-wing media. He performed anyway—and was invited back again this glorious fall evening and almost stole the show. The crowd sang along to the hook for his hit ballad “The Light.” And when he brought on the gospel singer Yolanda Adams to fill in for John Legend on the Oscar-winning song “Glory,” glee turned to rapture.
    De La Soul was there. The hip-hop trio had come of age as boyish B-boys with Gumby-style high-top fades. Now they moved across the stage with a lovely mix of lethargy and grace, like your favorite uncle making his way down the Soul Train line, wary of throwing out a hip. I felt a sense of victory watching them rock the crowd, all while keeping it in the pocket. The victory belonged to hip-hop—an art form birthed in the burning Bronx and now standing full grown, at the White House, unbroken and unedited. Usher led the crowd in a call-and-response: “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.” Jill Scott showed off her operatic chops. Bell Biv DeVoe, contemporaries of De La, made history with their performance by surely becoming the first group to suggest to a presidential audience that one should “never trust a big butt and a smile.”
    President Obama onstage at BET’s “Love & Happiness” event in October 2016, the last in a series of concerts the first couple hosted at the White House  

    The ties between the Obama White House and the hip-hop community are genuine. The Obamas are social with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. They hosted Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean at a state dinner, and last year invited Swizz Beatz, Busta Rhymes, and Ludacris, among others, to discuss criminal-justice reform and other initiatives. Obama once stood in the Rose Garden passing large flash cards to the Hamilton creator and rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, who then freestyled using each word on the cards. “Drop the beat,” Obama said, inaugurating the session. At 55, Obama is younger than pioneering hip-hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, and Kurtis Blow. If Obama’s enormous symbolic power draws primarily from being the country’s first black president, it also draws from his membership in hip-hop’s foundational generation.

    That night, the men were sharp in their gray or black suits and optional ties. Those who were not in suits had chosen to make a statement, like the dark-skinned young man who strolled in, sockless, with blue jeans cuffed so as to accentuate his gorgeous black-suede loafers. Everything in his ensemble seemed to say, “My fellow Americans, do not try this at home.” There were women in fur jackets and high heels; others with sculpted naturals, the sides shaved close, the tops blooming into curls; others still in gold bamboo earrings and long blond dreads. When the actor Jesse Williams took the stage, seemingly awed before such black excellence, before such black opulence, assembled just feet from where slaves had once toiled, he simply said, “Look where we are. Look where we are right now.”

    Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were dismissed by some of his critics as merely symbolic for African Americans. But there is nothing “mere” about symbols.This would not happen again, and everyone knew it. It was not just that there might never be another African American president of the United States. It was the feeling that this particular black family, the Obamas, represented the best of black people, the ultimate credit to the race, incomparable in elegance and bearing. “There are no more,” the comedian Sinbad joked back in 2010. “There are no black men raised in Kansas and Hawaii. That’s the last one. Y’all better treat this one right. The next one gonna be from Cleveland. He gonna wear a perm. Then you gonna see what it’s really like.” Throughout their residency, the Obamas had refrained from showing America “what it’s really like,” and had instead followed the first lady’s motto, “When they go low, we go high.” This was the ideal—black and graceful under fire—saluted that evening. The president was lionized as “our crown jewel.” The first lady was praised as the woman “who put the O in Obama.”

    Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were dismissed by some of his critics as merely symbolic for African Americans. But there is nothing “mere” about symbols. The power embedded in the word nigger is also symbolic. Burning crosses do not literally raise the black poverty rate, and the Confederate flag does not directly expand the wealth gap.

    Much as the unbroken ranks of 43 white male presidents communicated that the highest office of government in the country—indeed, the most powerful political offices in the world—was off-limits to black individuals, the election of Barack Obama communicated that the prohibition had been lifted. It communicated much more. Before Obama triumphed in 2008, the most-famous depictions of black success tended to be entertainers or athletes. But Obama had shown that it was “possible to be smart and cool at the same damn time,” as Jesse Williams put it at the BET party. Moreover, he had not embarrassed his people with a string of scandals. Against the specter of black pathology, against the narrow images of welfare moms and deadbeat dads, his time in the White House had been an eight-year showcase of a healthy and successful black family spanning three generations, with two dogs to boot. In short, he became a symbol of black people’s everyday, extraordinary Americanness.

    Whiteness in America is a different symbol—a badge of advantage. In a country of professed meritocratic competition, this badge has long ensured an unerring privilege, represented in a 220-year monopoly on the highest office in the land. For some not-insubstantial sector of the country, the elevation of Barack Obama communicated that the power of the badge had diminished. For eight long years, the badge-holders watched him. They saw footage of the president throwing bounce passes and shooting jumpers. They saw him enter a locker room, give a businesslike handshake to a white staffer, and then greet Kevin Durant with something more soulful. They saw his wife dancing with Jimmy Fallon and posing, resplendent, on the covers of magazines that had, only a decade earlier, been almost exclusively, if unofficially, reserved for ladies imbued with the great power of the badge.

    For the preservation of the badge, insidious rumors were concocted to denigrate the first black White House. Obama gave free cellphones to disheveled welfare recipients. Obama went to Europe and complained that “ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs.” Obama had inscribed an Arabic saying on his wedding ring, then stopped wearing the ring, in observance of Ramadan. He canceled the National Day of Prayer; refused to sign certificates for Eagle Scouts; faked his attendance at Columbia University; and used a teleprompter to address a group of elementary-school students. The badge-holders fumed. They wanted their country back. And, though no one at the farewell party knew it, in a couple of weeks they would have it.

    On this October night, though, the stage belonged to another America. At the end of the party, Obama looked out into the crowd, searching for Dave Chappelle. “Where’s Dave?” he cried. And then, finding him, the president referenced Chappelle’s legendary Brooklyn concert. “You got your block party. I got my block party.” Then the band struck up Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”—the evening’s theme. The president danced in a line next to Ronnie DeVoe. Together they mouthed the lyrics: “Make you do right. Love will make you do wrong.”

    He Walked on Ice but Never Fell

    Last spring, I went to the White House to meet the president for lunch. I arrived slightly early and sat in the waiting area. I was introduced to a deaf woman who worked as the president’s receptionist, a black woman who worked in the press office, a Muslim woman in a head scarf who worked on the National Security Council, and an Iranian American woman who worked as a personal aide to the president. This receiving party represented a healthy cross section of the people Donald Trump had been mocking, and would continue to spend his campaign mocking. At the time, the president seemed untroubled by Trump. When I told Obama that I thought Trump’s candidacy was an explicit reaction to the fact of a black president, he said he could see that, but then enumerated other explanations. When assessing Trump’s chances, he was direct: He couldn’t win.
    This assessment was born out of the president’s innate optimism and unwavering faith in the ultimate wisdom of the American people—the same traits that had propelled his unlikely five-year ascent from Illinois state senator to U.S. senator to leader of the free world.* The speech that launched his rise, the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, emerged right from this logic. He addressed himself to his “fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents,” all of whom, he insisted, were more united than they had been led to believe. America was home to devout worshippers and Little League coaches in blue states, civil libertarians and “gay friends” in red states. The presumably white “counties around Chicago” did not want their taxes burned on welfare, but they didn’t want them wasted on a bloated Pentagon budget either. Inner-city black families, no matter their perils, understood “that government alone can’t teach our kids to learn … that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

    Perceived differences were the work of “spinmasters and negative-ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’ ” Real America had no use for such categorizations. By Obama’s lights, there was no liberal America, no conservative America, no black America, no white America, no Latino America, no Asian America, only “the United States of America.” All these disparate strands of the American experience were bound together by a common hope:

    It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a mill worker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.
    This speech ran counter to the history of the people it sought to address. Some of those same immigrants had firebombed the homes of the children of those same slaves. That young naval lieutenant was an imperial agent for a failed, immoral war. American division was real. In 2004, John Kerry did not win a single southern state. But Obama appealed to a belief in innocence—in particular a white innocence—that ascribed the country’s historical errors more to misunderstanding and the work of a small cabal than to any deliberate malevolence or widespread racism. America was good. America was great.

    Over the next 12 years, I came to regard Obama as a skilled politician, a deeply moral human being, and one of the greatest presidents in American history. He was phenomenal—the most agile interpreter and navigator of the color line I had ever seen. He had an ability to emote a deep and sincere connection to the hearts of black people, while never doubting the hearts of white people. This was the core of his 2004 keynote, and it marked his historic race speech during the 2008 campaign at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center—and blinded him to the appeal of Trump. (“As a general proposition, it’s hard to run for president by telling people how terrible things are,” Obama once said to me.)

    But if the president’s inability to cement his legacy in the form of Hillary Clinton proved the limits of his optimism, it also revealed the exceptional nature of his presidential victories. For eight years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell. Nothing in that time suggested that straight talk on the facts of racism in American life would have given him surer footing.

    altObama’s keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention launched his rise from Illinois state senator to president of the United States. 
    I had met the president a few times before. In his second term, I’d written articles criticizing him for his overriding trust in color-blind policy and his embrace of “personal responsibility” rhetoric when speaking to African Americans. I saw him as playing both sides. He would invoke his identity as a president of all people to decline to advocate for black policy—and then invoke his black identity to lecture black people for continuing to “make bad choices.” In response, Obama had invited me, along with other journalists, to the White House for off-the-record conversations. I attempted to press my points in these sessions. My efforts were laughable and ineffective. I was always inappropriately dressed, and inappropriately calibrated in tone: In one instance, I was too deferential; in another, too bellicose. I was discombobulated by fear—not by fear of the power of his office (though that is a fearsome and impressive thing) but by fear of his obvious brilliance. It is said that Obama speaks “professorially,” a fact that understates the quickness and agility of his mind. These were not like press conferences—the president would speak in depth and with great familiarity about a range of subjects. Once, I watched him effortlessly reply to queries covering everything from electoral politics to the American economy to environmental policy. And then he turned to me. I thought of George Foreman, who once booked an exhibition with multiple opponents in which he pounded five straight journeymen—and I suddenly had some idea of how it felt to be the last of them.
    Last spring, we had a light lunch. We talked casually and candidly. He talked about the brilliance of LeBron James and Stephen Curry—not as basketball talents but as grounded individuals. I asked him whether he was angry at his father, who had abandoned him at a young age to move back to Kenya, and whether that motivated any of his rhetoric. He said it did not, and he credited the attitude of his mother and grandparents for this. Then it was my turn to be autobiographical. I told him that I had heard the kind of “straighten up” talk he had been giving to black youth, for instance in his 2013 Morehouse commencement address, all my life. I told him that I thought it was not sensitive to the inner turmoil that can be obscured by the hardness kids often evince. I told him I thought this because I had once been one of those kids. He seemed to concede this point, but I couldn’t tell whether it mattered to him. Nonetheless, he agreed to a series of more formal conversations on this and other topics.

    The improbability of a black president had once been so strong that its most vivid representations were comedic. Witness Dave Chappelle’s profane Black Bush from the early 2000s (“This nigger very possibly has weapons of mass destruction! I can’t sleep on that!”) or Richard Pryor’s black president in the 1970s promising black astronauts and black quarterbacks (“Ever since the Rams got rid of James Harris, my jaw’s been uptight!”). In this model, so potent is the force of blackness that the presidency is forced to conform to it. But once the notion advanced out of comedy and into reality, the opposite proved to be true.

    Obama’s 2004 keynote address conflated the slave and the nation of immigrants who profited from him.Obama’s DNC speech is the key. It does not belong to the literature of “the struggle”; it belongs to the literature of prospective presidents—men (as it turns out) who speak not to gravity and reality, but to aspirations and dreams. When Lincoln invoked the dream of a nation “conceived in liberty” and pledged to the ideal that “all men are created equal,” he erased the near-extermination of one people and the enslavement of another. When Roosevelt told the country that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he invoked the dream of American omnipotence and boundless capability. But black people, then living under a campaign of terror for more than half a century, had quite a bit to fear, and Roosevelt could not save them. The dream Ronald Reagan invoked in 1984—that “it’s morning again in America”—meant nothing to the inner cities, besieged as they were by decades of redlining policies, not to mention crack and Saturday-night specials. Likewise, Obama’s keynote address conflated the slave and the nation of immigrants who profited from him. To reinforce the majoritarian dream, the nightmare endured by the minority is erased. That is the tradition to which the “skinny kid with a funny name” who would be president belonged. It is also the only tradition in existence that could have possibly put a black person in the White House.

    Obama’s embrace of white innocence was demonstrably necessary as a matter of political survival. Whenever he attempted to buck this directive, he was disciplined. His mild objection to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. in 2009 contributed to his declining favorability numbers among whites—still a majority of voters. His comments after the killing of Trayvon Martin—“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”—helped make that tragedy a rallying point for people who did not care about Martin’s killer as much as they cared about finding ways to oppose the president. Michael Tesler, a political-science professor at UC Irvine, has studied the effect of Obama’s race on the American electorate. “No other factor, in fact, came close to dividing the Democratic primary electorate as powerfully as their feelings about African Americans,” he and his co-author, David O. Sears, concluded in their book, Obama’s Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America. “The impact of racial attitudes on individual vote decisions … was so strong that it appears to have even outstripped the substantive impact of racial attitudes on Jesse Jackson’s more racially charged campaign for the nomination in 1988.” 

    When Tesler looked at the 2012 campaign in his second book, Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era, very little had improved. Analyzing the extent to which racial attitudes affected people associated with Obama during the 2012 election, Tesler concluded that “racial attitudes spilled over from Barack Obama into mass assessments of Mitt Romney, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Charlie Crist, and even the Obama family’s dog Bo.”

    altThis photograph of a 5-year-old boy patting the president’s hair in 2009 became an icon of the Obama White House.  

    Yet despite this entrenched racial resentment, and in the face of complete resistance by congressional Republicans, overtly launched from the moment Obama arrived in the White House, the president accomplished major feats. He remade the nation’s health-care system. He revitalized a Justice Department that vigorously investigated police brutality and discrimination, and he began dismantling the private-prison system for federal inmates. Obama nominated the first Latina justice to the Supreme Court, gave presidential support to marriage equality, and ended the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, thus honoring the civil-rights tradition that had inspired him. And if his very existence inflamed America’s racist conscience, it also expanded the country’s anti-racist imagination. Millions of young people now know their only president to have been an African American. Writing for The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb once noted that “until there was a black Presidency it was impossible to conceive of the limitations of one.” This is just as true of the possibilities. In 2014, the Obama administration committed itself to reversing the War on Drugs through the power of presidential commutation. The administration said that it could commute the sentences of as many as 10,000 prisoners. As of November, the president had commuted only 944 sentences. By any measure, Obama’s effort fell woefully short, except for this small one: the measure of almost every other modern president who preceded him. Obama’s 944 commutations are the most in nearly a century—and more than the past 11 presidents’ combined.

    Obama was born into a country where laws barring his very conception—let alone his ascendancy to the presidency—had long stood in force. A black president would always be a contradiction for a government that, throughout most of its history, had oppressed black people. The attempt to resolve this contradiction through Obama—a black man with deep roots in the white world—was remarkable. The price it exacted, incredible. The world it gave way to, unthinkable.

    “I Decided to Become Part of That World”

    When Barack Obama was 10, his father gave him a basketball, a gift that connected the two directly. Obama was born in 1961 in Hawaii and raised by his mother, Ann Dunham, who was white, and her parents, Stanley and Madelyn. They loved him ferociously, supported him emotionally, and encouraged him intellectually. They also told him he was black. Ann gave him books to read about famous black people. When Obama’s mother had begun dating his father, the news had not been greeted with the threat of lynching (as it might have been in various parts of the continental United States), and Obama’s grandparents always spoke positively of his father. This biography makes Obama nearly unique among black people of his era.
    In the president’s memoir, Dreams From My Father, he says he was not an especially talented basketball player, but he played with a consuming passion. That passion was directed at something more than just the mastering of the pick-and-roll or the perfecting of his jump shot. Obama came of age during the time of the University of Hawaii basketball team’s “Fabulous Five”—a name given to its all-black starting five, two decades before it would be resurrected at the University of Michigan by the likes of Chris Webber and Jalen Rose. In his memoir, Obama writes that he would watch the University of Hawaii players laughing at “some inside joke,” winking “at the girls on the sidelines,” or “casually flipping lay-ups.” What Obama saw in the Fabulous Five was not just game, but a culture he found attractive:
    By the time I reached high school, I was playing on Punahou’s teams, and could take my game to the university courts, where a handful of black men, mostly gym rats and has-beens, would teach me an attitude that didn’t just have to do with the sport. That respect came from what you did and not who your daddy was. That you could talk stuff to rattle an opponent, but that you should shut the hell up if you couldn’t back it up. That you didn’t let anyone sneak up behind you to see emotions—like hurt or fear—you didn’t want them to see.
    These are lessons, particularly the last one, that for black people apply as much on the street as they do on the court. Basketball was a link for Obama, a medium for downloading black culture from the mainland that birthed the Fabulous Five. Assessing his own thought process at the time, Obama writes, “I decided to become part of that world.” This is one of the most incredible sentences ever written in the long, decorated history of black memoir, if only because very few black people have ever enjoyed enough power to write it.
    Historically, in black autobiography, to be remanded into the black race has meant exposure to a myriad of traumas, often commencing in childhood. Frederick Douglass is separated from his grandmother. The enslaved Harriet Ann Jacobs must constantly cope with the threat of rape before she escapes. After telling his teacher he wants to be a lawyer, Malcolm X is told that the job isn’t for “niggers.” Black culture often serves as the balm for such traumas, or even the means to resist them. Douglass finds the courage to face the “slave-breaker” Edward Covey after being given an allegedly enchanted root by “a genuine African” possessing powers from “the eastern nations.” 

    Malcolm X’s dancing connects him to his “long-suppressed African instincts.” If black racial identity speaks to all the things done to people of recent African ancestry, black cultural identity was created in response to them. The division is not neat; the two are linked, and it is incredibly hard to be a full participant in the world of cultural identity without experiencing the trauma of racial identity.

    Obama is somewhat different. He writes of bloodying the nose of a white kid who called him a “coon,” and of chafing at racist remarks from a tennis coach, and of feeling offended after a white woman in his apartment building told the manager that he was following her. But the kinds of traumas that marked African Americans of his generation—beatings at the hands of racist police, being herded into poor schools, grinding out a life in a tenement building—were mostly abstract for him. Moreover, the kind of spatial restriction that most black people feel at an early age—having rocks thrown at you for being on the wrong side of the tracks, for instance—was largely absent from his life. In its place, Obama was gifted with a well-stamped passport and admittance to elite private schools—all of which spoke of other identities, other lives and other worlds where the color line was neither determinative nor especially relevant. Obama could have grown into a raceless cosmopolitan. Surely he would have lived in a world of problems, but problems not embodied by him.
    Instead, he decided to enter this world.

    “I always felt as if being black was cool,” Obama told me while traveling to a campaign event. He was sitting on Air Force One, his tie loosened, his shirtsleeves rolled up. “[Being black] was not something to run away from but something to embrace. Why that is, I think, is complicated. Part of it is I think that my mother thought black folks were cool, and if your mother loves you and is praising you—and says you look good, are smart—as you are, then you don’t kind of think in terms of How can I avoid this? You feel pretty good about it.”

    The first white people Obama ever knew were decent in a way that few black people of that era experienced.As a child, Obama’s embrace of blackness was facilitated, not impeded, by white people. Obama’s mother pointed him toward the history and culture of African Americans. Stanley, his grandfather, who came originally from Kansas, took him to basketball games at the University of Hawaii, as well as to black bars. Stanley introduced him to the black writer Frank Marshall Davis. The facilitation was as much indirect as direct. Obama recalls watching his grandfather at those black bars and understanding that “most of the people in the bar weren’t there out of choice,” and that “our presence there felt forced.” From his mother’s life of extensive travel, he learned to value the significance of having a home.

    That suspicion of rootlessness extends throughout Dreams From My Father. He describes integration as a “one-way street” on which black people are asked to abandon themselves to fully experience America’s benefits. Confronted with a woman named Joyce, a mixed-race, green-eyed college classmate who insists that she is not “black” but “multiracial,” Obama is scornful. “That was the problem with people like Joyce,” he writes. “They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good, until you noticed that they avoided black people.” Later in the memoir, Obama tells the story of falling in love with a white woman. During a visit to her family’s country house, he found himself in the library, which was filled with pictures of the woman’s illustrious relations. But instead of being in awe, Obama realized that he and the woman lived in different worlds. “And I knew that if we stayed together, I’d eventually live in hers,” he writes. “Between the two of us, I was the one who knew how to live as an outsider.”

    After college, Obama found a home, as well as a sense of himself, working on the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer. “When I started doing that work, my story merges with a larger story. That happens naturally for a John Lewis,” he told me, referring to the civil-rights hero and Democratic congressman. “That happens more naturally for you. It was less obvious to me. How do I pull all these different strains together: Kenya and Hawaii and Kansas, and white and black and Asian—how does that fit? And through action, through work, I suddenly see myself as part of the bigger process for, yes, delivering justice for the [African American community] and specifically the South Side community, the low-income people—justice on behalf of the African American community. But also thereby promoting my ideas of justice and equality and empathy that my mother taught me were universal. So I’m in a position to understand those essential parts of me not as separate and apart from any particular community but connected to every community. And I can fit the African American struggle for freedom and justice in the context of the universal aspiration for freedom and justice.”

    Throughout Obama’s 2008 campaign and into his presidency, this attitude proved key to his deep support in the black community. African Americans, weary of high achievers who distanced themselves from their black roots, understood that Obama had paid a price for checking “black” on his census form, and for living black, for hosting Common, for brushing dirt off his shoulder during the primaries, for marrying a woman who looked like Michelle Obama. If women, as a gender, must suffer the constant evaluations and denigrations of men, black women must suffer that, plus a broad dismissal from the realm of what American society deems to be beautiful. But Michelle Obama is beautiful in the way that black people know themselves to be. Her prominence as first lady directly attacks a poison that diminishes black girls from the moment they are capable of opening a magazine or turning on a television.

    The South Side of Chicago, where Obama began his political career, is home to arguably the most prominent and storied black political establishment in the country. In addition to Oscar Stanton De Priest, the first African American elected to Congress in the 20th century, the South Side produced the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington; Jesse Jackson, who twice ran for president; and Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American woman to win a Senate race. These victories helped give rise to Obama’s own. Harold Washington served as an inspiration to Obama and looms heavily over the Chicago section of Dreams From My Father.

    Washington forged the kind of broad coalition that Obama would later assemble nationally. But Washington did this in the mid-1980s in segregated Chicago, and he had not had the luxury, as Obama did, of becoming black with minimal trauma. “There was an edge to Harold that frightened some white voters,” David Axelrod, who worked for both Washington and Obama, told me recently. Axelrod recalled sitting around a conference table with Washington after he had won the Democratic primary for his reelection in 1987, just as the mayor was about to hold a press conference. Washington asked what percentage of Chicago’s white vote he’d received. “And someone said, ‘Well, you got 21 percent. And that’s really good because last time’ ”—in his successful 1983 mayoral campaign—“ ‘you only got 8,’ ” Axelrod recalled. “And he kind of smiled, sadly, and said, ‘You know, I probably spent 70 percent of my time in those white neighborhoods, and I think I’ve been a good mayor for everybody, and I got 21 percent of the white vote and we think it’s good.’ And he just kind of shook his head and said, ‘Ain’t it a bitch to be a black man in the land of the free and the home of the brave?’

    “That was Harold. He felt those things. He had fought in an all-black unit in World War II. He had come up in times—and that and the sort of indignities of what you had to do to come up through the machine really seared him.” During his 1983 mayoral campaign, Washington was loudly booed outside a church in northwest Chicago by middle-class Poles, Italians, and Irish, who feared blacks would uproot them. “It was as vicious and ugly as anything you would have seen in the old South,” Axelrod said.

    Obama’s ties to the South Side tradition that Washington represented were complicated. Like Washington, Obama attempted to forge a coalition between black South Siders and the broader community. But Obama, despite his adherence to black cultural mores, was, with his roots in Kansas and Hawaii, his Ivy League pedigree, and his ties to the University of Chicago, still an exotic out-of-towner. “They were a bit skeptical of him,” says Salim Muwakkil, a journalist who has covered Obama since before his days in the Illinois state Senate. “Chicago is a very insular community, and he came from nowhere, seemingly.”

    Obama compounded people’s suspicions by refusing to humble himself and go along with the political currents of the South Side. “A lot of the politicians, especially the black ones, were just leery of him,” Kaye Wilson, the godmother to Obama’s children and one of the president’s earliest political supporters, told me recently.

    But even as many in the black political community were skeptical of Obama, others encouraged him—sometimes when they voted against him. When Obama lost the 2000 Democratic-primary race against Bobby Rush, the African American incumbent congressman representing Illinois’ First Congressional District, the then-still-obscure future president experienced the defeat as having to do more with his age than his exoticism. “I’d go meet people and I’d knock on doors and stuff, and some of the grandmothers who were the folks I’d been organizing and working with doing community stuff, they weren’t parroting back some notion of ‘You’re too Harvard,’ or ‘You’re too Hyde Park,’ or what have you,” Obama told me. “They’d say, ‘You’re a wonderful young man, you’re going to do great things. You just have to be patient.’ So I didn’t feel the loss as a rejection by black people. I felt the loss as ‘politics anywhere is tough.’ Politics in Chicago is especially tough. And being able to break through in the African American community is difficult because of the enormous loyalty that people feel towards anybody who has been around awhile.”
    There was no one around to compete for loyalty when Obama ran for Senate in 2004, or for president in 2008. He was no longer competing against other African Americans; he was representing them. “He had that hybridity which told the ‘do-gooders’—in Chicago they call the reformers the do-gooders—that he was acceptable,” Muwakkil told me.

    Obama ran for the Senate two decades after the death of Harold Washington. Axelrod checked in on the precinct where Washington had been so loudly booed by white Chicagoans. “Obama carried, against seven candidates for the Senate, almost the entire northwest side and that precinct,” he said. “And I told him, ‘Harold’s smiling down on us tonight.’ ”
    alt  Obama believes that his statewide victory for the Illinois Senate seat held particular portent for the events of 2008. “Illinois is the most demographically representative state in the country,” he told me. “If you took all the percentages of black, white, Latino; rural, urban; agricultural, manufacturing—[if] you took that cross section across the country and you shrank it, it would be Illinois.”

    Illinois effectively allowed Obama to play a scrimmage before the big national game in 2008. “When I ran for the Senate I had to go into southern Illinois, downstate Illinois, farming communities—some with very tough racial histories, some areas where there just were no African Americans of any number,” Obama told me. “And when we won that race, not just an African American from Chicago, but an African American with an exotic history and [the] name Barack Hussein Obama, [it showed that I] could connect with and appeal to a much broader audience.”

    The mix of Obama’s “hybridity” and the changing times allowed him to extend his appeal beyond the white ethnic corners of Chicago, past the downstate portions of Illinois, and out into the country at large. “Ben Nelson, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, from Nebraska, would only bring in one national Democrat to campaign for him,” Obama recalls. “And it was me. And so part of the reason I was willing to run [for president in 2008] was that I had had two years in which we were generating enormous crowds all across the country—and the majority of those crowds were not African American; and they were in pretty remote places, or unlikely places. They weren’t just big cities or they weren’t just liberal enclaves. So what that told me was, it was possible.”

    What those crowds saw was a black candidate unlike any other before him. To simply point to Obama’s white mother, or to his African father, or even to his rearing in Hawaii, is to miss the point. For most African Americans, white people exist either as a direct or an indirect force for bad in their lives. Biraciality is no shield against this; often it just intensifies the problem. What proved key for Barack Obama was not that he was born to a black man and a white woman, but that his white family approved of the union, and approved of the child who came from it. They did this in 1961—a time when sex between black men and white women, in large swaths of the country, was not just illegal but fraught with mortal danger. But that danger is not part of Obama’s story. The first white people he ever knew, the ones who raised him, were decent in a way that very few black people of that era experienced.

    He plopped down in a chair and said, “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before.”I asked Obama what he made of his grandparents’ impressively civilized reception of his father. “It wasn’t Harry Belafonte,” Obama said laughingly of his father. “This was like an African African. And he was like a blue-black brother. Nilotic. And so, yeah, I will always give my grandparents credit for that. I’m not saying they were happy about it. I’m not saying that they were not, after the guy leaves, looking at each other like, ‘What the heck?’ But whatever misgivings they had, they never expressed to me, never spilled over into how they interacted with me.

    “Now, part of it, as I say in my book, was we were in this unique environment in Hawaii where I think it was much easier. I don’t know if it would have been as easy for them if they were living in Chicago at the time, because the lines just weren’t as sharply drawn in Hawaii as they were on the mainland.”

    Obama’s early positive interactions with his white family members gave him a fundamentally different outlook toward the wider world than most blacks of the 1960s had. Obama told me he rarely had “the working assumption of discrimination, the working assumption that white people would not treat me right or give me an opportunity or judge me [other than] on the basis of merit.” He continued, “The kind of working assumption” that white people would discriminate against him or treat him poorly “is less embedded in my psyche than it is, say, with Michelle.”

    In this, the first lady is more representative of black America than her husband is. African Americans typically raise their children to protect themselves against a presumed hostility from white teachers, white police officers, white supervisors, and white co-workers. The need for that defense is, more often than not, reinforced either directly by actual encounters or indirectly by observing the vast differences between one’s own experience and those across the color line. Marty Nesbitt, the president’s longtime best friend, who, like Obama, had positive interactions with whites at a relatively early age, told me that when he and his wife went to buy their first car, she was insistent on buying from a black salesperson. “I’m like, ‘We’ve got to find a salesman,’ ” Nesbitt said. “She’s like, ‘No, no, no. We’re waiting for the brother.’ And I’m like, ‘He’s with a customer.’ They were filling out documents and she was like, ‘We’re going to stay around.’ And a white guy came up to us. ‘Can I help you?’ ‘Nope.’ ” Nesbitt was not out to condemn anyone with this story. He was asserting that “the willingness of African Americans [in Chicago] to help lift each other up is powerful.”
    But that willingness to help is also a defense, produced by decades of discrimination. Obama sees race through a different lens, Kaye Wilson told me. “It’s just very different from ours,” she explained. “He’s got buddies that are white, and they’re his buddies, and they love him. And I don’t think they love him just because he’s the president. They love him because they’re his friends from Hawaii, some from college and all.

    “So I think he’s got that, whereas I think growing up in the racist United States, we enter this thing with, you know, ‘I’m looking at you. I’m not trusting you to be one hundred with me.’ And I think he grew up in a way that he had to trust [white people]—how can you live under the roof with people and think that they don’t love you? He needs that frame of reference. He needs that lens. If he didn’t have it, it would be … a Jesse Jackson, you know? Or Al Sharpton. Different lens.”

    That lens, born of literally relating to whites, allowed Obama to imagine that he could be the country’s first black president. “If I walked into a room and it’s a bunch of white farmers, trade unionists, middle age—I’m not walking in thinking, Man, I’ve got to show them that I’m normal,” Obama explained. “I walk in there, I think, with a set of assumptions: like, these people look just like my grandparents. And I see the same Jell‑O mold that my grandmother served, and they’ve got the same, you know, little stuff on their mantelpieces. And so I am maybe disarming them by just assuming that we’re okay.”

    What Obama was able to offer white America is something very few African Americans could—trust. The vast majority of us are, necessarily, too crippled by our defenses to ever consider such a proposition. But Obama, through a mixture of ancestral connections and distance from the poisons of Jim Crow, can credibly and sincerely trust the majority population of this country. That trust is reinforced, not contradicted, by his blackness. Obama isn’t shuffling before white power (Herman Cain’s “shucky ducky” act) or flattering white ego (O. J. Simpson’s listing not being seen as black as a great accomplishment). That, too, is defensive, and deep down, I suspect, white people know it. He stands firm in his own cultural traditions and says to the country something virtually no black person can, but every president must: “I believe you.”

    “You Still Gotta Go Back to the Hood”

    Just after Columbus Day, I accompanied the president and his formidable entourage on a visit to North Carolina A&T State University, in Greensboro. Four days earlier, The Washington Post had published an old audio clip that featured Donald Trump lamenting a failed sexual conquest and exhorting the virtues of sexual assault. The next day, Trump claimed that this was “locker room” talk. As we flew to North Carolina, the president was in a state of bemused disbelief. He plopped down in a chair in the staff cabin of Air Force One and said, “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before.” He was casual and relaxed. A feeling of cautious inevitability emanated from his staff, and why not? Every day seemed to bring a new, more shocking revelation or piece of evidence showing Trump to be unfit for the presidency: He had lost nearly $1 billion in a single year. He had likely not paid taxes in 18 years. He was running a “university,” for which he was under formal legal investigation. He had trampled on his own campaign’s messaging by engaging in a Twitter crusade against a former beauty-pageant contestant. He had been denounced by leadership in his own party, and the trickle of prominent Republicans—both in and out of office—who had publicly repudiated him threatened to become a geyser. At this moment, the idea that a campaign so saturated in open bigotry, misogyny, chaos, and possible corruption could win a national election was ludicrous. This was America.
    The president was going to North Carolina to keynote a campaign rally for Clinton, but first he was scheduled for a conversation about My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative on behalf of disadvantaged youth. Announcing My Brother’s Keeper—or MBK, as it’s come to be called—in 2014, the president had sought to avoid giving the program a partisan valence, noting that it was “not some big new government program.” Instead, it would involve the government in concert with the nonprofit and business sectors to intervene in the lives of young men of color who were “at risk.” MBK serves as a kind of network for those elements of federal, state, and local government that might already have a presence in the lives of these young men. It is a quintessentially Obama program—conservative in scope, with impacts that are measurable.

    “It comes right out of his own life,” Broderick Johnson, the Cabinet secretary and an assistant to the president, who heads MBK, told me recently. “I have heard him say, ‘I don’t want us to have a bunch of forums on race.’ He reminds people, ‘Yeah, we can talk about this. But what are we going to do?’ ” On this afternoon in North Carolina, what Obama did was sit with a group of young men who’d turned their lives around in part because of MBK. They told stories of being in the street, of choosing quick money over school, of their homes being shot up, and—through the help of mentoring or job programs brokered by MBK—transitioning into college or a job. Obama listened solemnly and empathetically to each of them. “It doesn’t take that much,” he told them. “It just takes someone laying hands on you and saying, ‘Hey, man, you count.’ ”

    When he asked the young men whether they had a message he should take back to policy makers in Washington, D.C., one observed that despite their best individual efforts, they still had to go back to the very same deprived neighborhoods that had been the sources of trouble for them. “It’s your environment,” the young man said. “You can do what you want, but you still gotta go back to the hood.”

    He was correct. The ghettos of America are the direct result of decades of public-policy decisions: the redlining of real-estate zoning maps, the expanded authority given to prosecutors, the increased funding given to prisons. And all of this was done on the backs of people still reeling from the 250-year legacy of slavery. The results of this negative investment are clear—African Americans rank at the bottom of nearly every major socioeconomic measure in the country.

    Obama’s formula for closing this chasm between black and white America, like that of many progressive politicians today, proceeded from policy designed for all of America. Blacks disproportionately benefit from this effort, since they are disproportionately in need. The Affordable Care Act, which cut the uninsured rate in the black community by at least a third, was Obama’s most prominent example. Its full benefit has yet to be felt by African Americans, because several states in the South have declined to expand Medicaid. But when the president and I were meeting, the ACA’s advocates believed that pressure on state budgets would force expansion, and there was evidence to support this: Louisiana had expanded Medicaid earlier in 2016, and advocates were gearing up for wars to be waged in Georgia and Virginia.

    Obama also emphasized the need for a strong Justice Department with a deep commitment to nondiscrimination. When Obama moved into the White House in 2009, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division “was in shambles,” former Attorney General Eric Holder told me recently. “I mean, I had been there for 12 years as a line guy. I started out in ’76, so I served under Republicans and Democrats. And what the [George W.] Bush administration, what the Bush DOJ did, was unlike anything that had ever happened before in terms of politicized hiring.” The career civil servants below the political appointees, Holder said, were not even invited to the meetings in which the key hiring and policy decisions were made. After Obama’s inauguration, Holder told me, “I remember going to tell all the folks at the Civil Rights Division, ‘The Civil Rights Division is open for business again.’ The president gave me additional funds to hire people.”
    What Obama was able to offer white America is something very few African Americans could—trust.The political press developed a narrative that because Obama felt he had to modulate his rhetoric on race, Holder was the administration’s true, and thus blacker, conscience. Holder is certainly blunter, and this worried some of the White House staff. Early in Obama’s first term, Holder gave a speech on race in which he said the United States had been a “nation of cowards” on the subject. But positioning the two men as opposites elides an important fact: Holder was appointed by the president, and went only as far as the president allowed. I asked Holder whether he had toned down his rhetoric after that controversial speech. “Nope,” he said. Reflecting on his relationship with the president, Holder said, “We were also kind of different people, you know? He is the Zen guy. And I’m kind of the hot-blooded West Indian. And I thought we made a good team, but there’s nothing that I ever did or said that I don’t think he would have said, ‘I support him 100 percent.’

    “Now, the ‘nation of cowards’ speech, the president might have used a different phrase—maybe, probably. But he and I share a worldview, you know? And when I hear people say, ‘Well, you are blacker than him’ or something like that, I think, What are you all talking about?

    For much of his presidency, a standard portion of Obama’s speeches about race riffed on black people’s need to turn off the television, stop eating junk food, and stop blaming white people for their problems. Obama would deliver this lecture to any black audience, regardless of context. It was bizarre, for instance, to see the president warning young men who’d just graduated from Morehouse College, one of the most storied black colleges in the country, about making “excuses” and blaming whites.

    This part of the Obama formula is the most troubling, and least thought-out. This judgment emerges from my own biography. I am the product of black parents who encouraged me to read, of black teachers who felt my work ethic did not match my potential, of black college professors who taught me intellectual rigor. And they did this in a world that every day insulted their humanity. It was not so much that the black layabouts and deadbeats Obama invoked in his speeches were unrecognizable. I had seen those people too. But I’d also seen the same among white people. If black men were overrepresented among drug dealers and absentee dads of the world, it was directly related to their being underrepresented among the Bernie Madoffs and Kenneth Lays of the world. Power was what mattered, and what characterized the differences between black and white America was not a difference in work ethic, but a system engineered to place one on top of the other.

    The mark of that system is visible at every level of American society, regardless of the quality of one’s choices. For instance, the unemployment rate among black college graduates (4.1 percent) is almost the same as the unemployment rate among white high-school graduates (4.6 percent). But that college degree is generally purchased at a higher price by blacks than by whites. According to research by the Brookings Institution, African Americans tend to carry more student debt four years after graduation ($53,000 versus $28,000) and suffer from a higher default rate on their loans (7.6 percent versus 2.4 percent) than white Americans. This is both the result and the perpetuator of a sprawling wealth gap between the races. White households, on average, hold seven times as much wealth as black households—a difference so large as to make comparing the “black middle class” and “white middle class” meaningless; they’re simply not comparable. According to Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University who studies economic mobility, black families making $100,000 a year or more live in more-disadvantaged neighborhoods than white families making less than $30,000. This gap didn’t just appear by magic; it’s the result of the government’s effort over many decades to create a pigmentocracy—one that will continue without explicit intervention.

    Obama had been on the record as opposing reparations. But now, late in his presidency, he seemed more open to the idea—in theory, at least, if not in practice.

    “Theoretically, you can make obviously a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps,” Obama said, referencing the gulf in education, wealth, and employment that separates black and white America. “That those were wrongs to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment, even if it’s not in the form of individual reparations checks but in the form of a Marshall Plan.”

    The political problems with turning the argument for reparations into reality are manifold, Obama said. “If you look at countries like South Africa, where you had a black majority, there have been efforts to tax and help that black majority, but it hasn’t come in the form of a formal reparations program. You have countries like India that have tried to help untouchables, with essentially affirmative-action programs, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed the structure of their societies. So the bottom line is that it’s hard to find a model in which you can practically administer and sustain political support for those kinds of efforts.”

    Obama went on to say that it would be better, and more realistic, to get the country to rally behind a robust liberal agenda and build on the enormous progress that’s been made toward getting white Americans to accept nondiscrimination as a basic operating premise. But the progress toward nondiscrimination did not appear overnight. It was achieved by people willing to make an unpopular argument and live on the frontier of public opinion. I asked him whether it wasn’t—despite the practical obstacles—worth arguing that the state has a collective responsibility not only for its achievements but for its sins.

    “I want my children—I want Malia and Sasha—to understand that they’ve got responsibilities beyond just what they themselves have done,” Obama said. “That they have a responsibility to the larger community and the larger nation, that they should be sensitive to and extra thoughtful about the plight of people who have been oppressed in the past, are oppressed currently. So that’s a wisdom that I want to transmit to my kids … But I would say that’s a high level of enlightenment that you’re looking to have from a majority of the society. And it may be something that future generations are more open to, but I am pretty confident that for the foreseeable future, using the argument of nondiscrimination, and ‘Let’s get it right for the kids who are here right now,’ and giving them the best chance possible, is going to be a more persuasive argument.”
    Obama is unfailingly optimistic about the empathy and capabilities of the American people. His job necessitates this: “At some level what the people want to feel is that the person leading them sees the best in them,” he told me. But I found it interesting that that optimism does not extend to the possibility of the public’s accepting wisdoms—such as the moral logic of reparations—that the president, by his own account, has accepted for himself and is willing to teach his children. Obama says he always tells his staff that “better is good.” The notion that a president would attempt to achieve change within the boundaries of the accepted consensus is appropriate. But Obama is almost constitutionally skeptical of those who seek to achieve change outside that consensus.
    altObama visited North Carolina A&T State University in early October for a conversation about My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative for disadvantaged youth.
    Early in 2016, Obama invited a group of African American leaders to meet with him at the White House. When some of the activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter refused to attend, Obama began calling them out in speeches. “You can’t refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position,” he said. “The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room, and then start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved. You then have a responsibility to prepare an agenda that is achievable—that can institutionalize the changes you seek—and to engage the other side.”
    Opal Tometi, a Nigerian American community activist who is one of the three founders of Black Lives Matter, explained to me that the group has a more diffuse structure than most civil-rights organizations. One reason for this is to avoid the cult of personality that has plagued black organizations in the past. So the founders asked its membership in Chicago, the president’s hometown, whether they should meet with Obama. “They felt—and I think many of our members felt—there wouldn’t be the depth of discussion that they wanted to have,” Tometi told me. “And if there wasn’t that space to have a real heart-to-heart, and if it was just surface level, that it would be more of a disservice to the movement.”

    Tometi noted that some other activists allied with Black Lives Matter had been planning to attend the meeting, so they felt their views would be represented. Nevertheless, Black Lives Matter sees itself as engaged in a protest against the treatment of black people by the American state, and so Tometi and much of the group’s leadership, concerned about being used for a photo op by the very body they were protesting, opted not to go.

    When I asked Obama about this perspective, he fluctuated between understanding where the activists were coming from and being hurt by such brush-offs. “I think that where I’ve gotten frustrated during the course of my presidency has never been because I was getting pushed too hard by activists to see the justness of a cause or the essence of an issue,” he said. “I think where I got frustrated at times was the belief that the president can do anything if he just decides he wants to do it. And that sort of lack of awareness on the part of an activist about the constraints of our political system and the constraints on this office, I think, sometimes would leave me to mutter under my breath. Very rarely did I lose it publicly. Usually I’d just smile.”

    He laughed, then continued, “The reason I say that is because those are the times where sometimes you feel actually a little bit hurt. Because you feel like saying to these folks, ‘[Don’t] you think if I could do it, I [would] have just done it? Do you think that the only problem is that I don’t care enough about the plight of poor people, or gay people?’ ”

    I asked Obama whether he thought that perhaps protesters’ distrust of the powers that be could ultimately be healthy. “Yes,” he said. “Which is why I don’t get too hurt. I mean, I think there is a benefit to wanting to hold power’s feet to the fire until you actually see the goods. I get that. And I think it is important. And frankly, sometimes it’s useful for activists just to be out there to keep you mindful and not get complacent, even if ultimately you think some of their criticism is misguided.”

    Obama himself was an activist and a community organizer, albeit for only two years—but he is not, by temperament, a protester. He is a consensus-builder; consensus, he believes, ultimately drives what gets done. He understands the emotional power of protest, the need to vent before authority—but that kind of approach does not come naturally to him. Regarding reparations, he said, “Sometimes I wonder how much of these debates have to do with the desire, the legitimate desire, for that history to be recognized. Because there is a psychic power to the recognition that is not satisfied with a universal program; it’s not satisfied by the Affordable Care Act, or an expansion of Pell Grants, or an expansion of the earned-income tax credit.” These kinds of programs, effective and disproportionately beneficial to black people though they may be, don’t “speak to the hurt, and the sense of injustice, and the self-doubt that arises out of the fact that [African Americans] are behind now, and it makes us sometimes feel as if there must be something wrong with us—unless you’re able to see the history and say, ‘It’s amazing we got this far given what we went through.’
    “So in part, I think the argument sometimes that I’ve had with folks who are much more interested in sort of race-specific programs is less an argument about what is practically achievable and sometimes maybe more an argument of ‘We want society to see what’s happened and internalize it and answer it in demonstrable ways.’ And those impulses I very much understand—but my hope would be that as we’re moving through the world right now, we’re able to get that psychological or emotional peace by seeing very concretely our kids doing better and being more hopeful and having greater opportunities.”

    Obama saw—at least at that moment, before the election of Donald Trump—a straight path to that world. “Just play this out as a thought experiment,” he said. “Imagine if you had genuine, high-quality early-childhood education for every child, and suddenly every black child in America—but also every poor white child or Latino [child], but just stick with every black child in America—is getting a really good education. And they’re graduating from high school at the same rates that whites are, and they are going to college at the same rates that whites are, and they are able to afford college at the same rates because the government has universal programs that say that you’re not going to be barred from school just because of how much money your parents have.

    “So now they’re all graduating. And let’s also say that the Justice Department and the courts are making sure, as I’ve said in a speech before, that when Jamal sends his résumé in, he’s getting treated the same as when Johnny sends his résumé in. Now, are we going to have suddenly the same number of CEOs, billionaires, etc., as the white community? In 10 years? Probably not, maybe not even in 20 years.
    “But I guarantee you that we would be thriving, we would be succeeding. We wouldn’t have huge numbers of young African American men in jail. We’d have more family formation as college-graduated girls are meeting boys who are their peers, which then in turn means the next generation of kids are growing up that much better. And suddenly you’ve got a whole generation that’s in a position to start using the incredible creativity that we see in music, and sports, and frankly even on the streets, channeled into starting all kinds of businesses. I feel pretty good about our odds in that situation.”

    The thought experiment doesn’t hold up. The programs Obama favored would advance white America too—and without a specific commitment to equality, there is no guarantee that the programs would eschew discrimination. Obama’s solution relies on a goodwill that his own personal history tells him exists in the larger country. My own history tells me something different. The large numbers of black men in jail, for instance, are not just the result of poor policy, but of not seeing those men as human.

    When President Obama and I had this conversation, the target he was aiming to reach seemed to me to be many generations away, and now—as President-Elect Trump prepares for office—seems even many more generations off. Obama’s accomplishments were real: a $1 billion settlement on behalf of black farmers, a Justice Department that exposed Ferguson’s municipal plunder, the increased availability of Pell Grants (and their availability to some prisoners), and the slashing of the crack/cocaine disparity in sentencing guidelines, to name just a few. Obama was also the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. There was a feeling that he’d erected a foundation upon which further progressive policy could be built. It’s tempting to say that foundation is now endangered. The truth is, it was never safe.

    “They Rode the Tiger”

    Obama’s greatest misstep was born directly out of his greatest insight. Only Obama, a black man who emerged from the best of white America, and thus could sincerely trust white America, could be so certain that he could achieve broad national appeal. And yet only a black man with that same biography could underestimate his opposition’s resolve to destroy him. In some sense an Obama presidency could never have succeeded along the normal presidential lines; he needed a partner, or partners, in Congress who could put governance above party. But he struggled to win over even some of his own allies. Ben Nelson, the Democratic senator from Nebraska whom Obama helped elect, became an obstacle to health-care reform. Joe Lieberman, whom Obama saved from retribution at the hands of Senate Democrats after Lieberman campaigned for Obama’s 2008 opponent, John McCain, similarly obstructed Obamacare. Among Republicans, senators who had seemed amenable to Obama’s agenda—Chuck Grassley, Susan Collins, Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe—rebuffed him repeatedly.
    The obstruction grew out of narrow political incentives. “If Republicans didn’t cooperate,” Obama told me, “and there was not a portrait of bipartisan cooperation and a functional federal government, then the party in power would pay the price and they could win back the Senate and/or the House. That wasn’t an inaccurate political calculation.”

    Obama is not sure of the degree to which individual racism played into this calculation. “I do remember watching Bill Clinton get impeached and Hillary Clinton being accused of killing Vince Foster,” he said. “And if you ask them, I’m sure they would say, ‘No, actually what you’re experiencing is not because you’re black, it’s because you’re a Democrat.’ ”
    But personal animus is just one manifestation of racism;

     arguably the more profound animosity occurs at the level of interests. The most recent Congress boasted 138 members from the states that comprised the old Confederacy. Of the 101 Republicans in that group, 96 are white and one is black. Of the 37 Democrats, 18 are black and 15 are white. There are no white congressional Democrats in the Deep South. Exit polls in Mississippi in 2008 found that 96 percent of voters who described themselves as Republicans were white. The Republican Party is not simply the party of whites, but the preferred party of whites who identify their interest as defending the historical privileges of whiteness. The researchers Josh Pasek, Jon A. Krosnick, and Trevor Tompson found that in 2012, 32 percent of Democrats held antiblack views, while 79 percent of Republicans did. These attitudes could even spill over to white Democratic politicians, because they are seen as representing the party of blacks. Studying the 2016 election, the political scientist Philip Klinkner found that the most predictive question for understanding whether a voter favored Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump was “Is Barack Obama a Muslim?”
    In our conversations, Obama said he didn’t doubt that there was a sincerely nonracist states’-rights contingent of the GOP. And yet he suspected that there might be more to it. “A rudimentary knowledge of American history tells you that the relationship between the federal government and the states was very much mixed up with attitudes towards slavery, attitudes towards Jim Crow, attitudes towards antipoverty programs and who benefited and who didn’t,” he said.

    “And so I’m careful not to attribute any particular resistance or slight or opposition to race. But what I do believe is that if somebody didn’t have a problem with their daddy being employed by the federal government, and didn’t have a problem with the Tennessee Valley Authority electrifying certain communities, and didn’t have a problem with the interstate highway system being built, and didn’t have a problem with the GI Bill, and didn’t have a problem with the [Federal Housing Administration] subsidizing the suburbanization of America, and that all helped you build wealth and create a middle class—and then suddenly as soon as African Americans or Latinos are interested in availing themselves of those same mechanisms as ladders into the middle class, you now have a violent opposition to them—then I think you at least have to ask yourself the question of how consistent you are, and what’s different, and what’s changed.”

    Racism greeted Obama in both his primary and general-election campaigns in 2008. Photos were circulated of him in Somali garb. Rush Limbaugh dubbed him “Barack the Magic Negro.” Roger Stone, who would go on to advise the Trump campaign, claimed that Michelle Obama could be heard on tape yelling “Whitey.” Detractors circulated emails claiming that the future first lady had written a racist senior thesis while at Princeton. A fifth of all West Virginia Democratic-primary voters in 2008 openly admitted that race had influenced their vote. Hillary Clinton trounced him 67 to 26 percent.

    “They rode the tiger. And now the tiger is eating them,” David Axelrod told me, speaking of the Republican Party.After Obama won the presidency in defiance of these racial headwinds, traffic to the white-supremacist website Stormfront increased sixfold. Before the election, in August, just before the Democratic National Convention, the FBI uncovered an assassination plot hatched by white supremacists in Denver. Mainstream conservative publications floated the notion that Obama’s memoir was too “stylish and penetrating” to have been written by the candidate, and found a plausible ghostwriter in the radical (and white) former Weatherman Bill Ayers. A Republican women’s club in California dispensed “Obama Bucks” featuring slices of watermelon, ribs, and fried chicken. At the Values Voter Summit that year, conventioneers hawked “Obama Waffles,” a waffle mix whose box featured a bug-eyed caricature of the candidate. Fake hip-hop lyrics were scrawled on the side (“Barry’s Bling Bling Waffle Ring”) and on the top, the same caricature was granted a turban and tagged with the instructions “Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles.” The display was denounced by the summit’s sponsor, the Family Research Council. One would be forgiven for meeting this denunciation with guffaws: The council’s president, Tony Perkins, had once addressed the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens with a Confederate flag draped behind him. By 2015, Perkins had deemed the debate over Obama’s birth certificate “legitimate” and was saying that it “makes sense” to conclude that Obama was actually a Muslim.

    By then, birtherism—inflamed in large part by a real-estate mogul and reality-TV star named Donald Trump—had overtaken the Republican rank and file. In 2015, one poll found that 54 percent of GOP voters thought Obama was a Muslim. Only 29 percent believed he’d been born in America.
    Still, in 2008, Obama had been elected. His supporters rejoiced. As Jay-Z commemorated the occasion:
    My president is black, in fact he’s half-white,
    So even in a racist mind, he’s half-right.
    Not quite. A month after Obama entered the White House, a CNBC personality named Rick Santelli took to the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and denounced the president’s efforts to help homeowners endangered by the housing crisis. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?,” Santelli asked the assembled traders. He asserted that Obama should “reward people that could carry the water” as opposed to those who “drink the water,” and denounced those in danger of foreclosure as “losers.” Race was implicit in Santelli’s harangue—the housing crisis and predatory lending had devastated black communities and expanded the wealth gap—and it culminated with a call for a “Tea Party” to resist the Obama presidency. In fact, right-wing ideologues had been planning just such a resistance for decades. They would eagerly answer Santelli’s call.
    One of the intellectual forerunners of the Tea Party is said to be Ron Paul, the heterodox two-time Republican presidential candidate, who opposed the war in Iraq and championed civil liberties. On other matters, Paul was more traditional. Throughout the ’90s, he published a series of racist newsletters that referred to New York City as “Welfaria,” called Martin Luther King Jr. Day “Hate Whitey Day,” and asserted that 95 percent of black males in Washington, D.C., were either “semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” Paul’s apologists have claimed that he had no real connection to the newsletters, even though virtually all of them were published in his name (“The Ron Paul Survival Report,” “Ron Paul Political Report,” “Dr. Ron Paul’s Freedom Report”) and written in his voice. Either way, the views of the newsletters have found their expression in his ideological comrades. Throughout Obama’s first term, Tea Party activists voiced their complaints in racist terms. Activists brandished signs warning that Obama would implement “white slavery,” waved the Confederate flag, depicted Obama as a witch doctor, and issued calls for him to “go back to Kenya.” Tea Party supporters wrote “satirical” letters in the name of “We Colored People” and stoked the flames of birtherism. One of the Tea Party’s most prominent sympathizers, the radio host Laura Ingraham, wrote a racist tract depicting Michelle Obama gorging herself on ribs, while Glenn Beck said the president was a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” The Tea Party’s leading exponent, Andrew Breitbart, engineered the smearing of Shirley Sherrod, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s director of rural development for Georgia, publishing egregiously misleading videos that wrongly made her appear to be engaging in antiwhite racist invective, which led to her dismissal. (In a rare act of cowardice, the Obama administration cravenly submitted to this effort.)
    In those rare moments when Obama made any sort of comment attacking racism, firestorms threatened to consume his governing agenda. When, in July 2009, the president objected to the arrest of the eminent Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. while he was trying to get into his own house, pointing out that the officer had “acted stupidly,” a third of whites said the remark made them feel less favorably toward the president, and nearly two-thirds claimed that Obama had “acted stupidly” by commenting. A chastened Obama then determined to make sure his public statements on race were no longer mere riffs but designed to have an achievable effect. This was smart, but still the invective came. During Obama’s 2009 address on health care before a joint session of Congress, Joe Wilson, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, incredibly, and in defiance of precedent and decorum, disrupted the proceedings by crying out “You lie!” A Missouri congressman equated Obama with a monkey. A California GOP official took up the theme and emailed her friends an image depicting Obama as a chimp, with the accompanying text explaining, “Now you know why [there’s] no birth certificate!” Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin assessed the president’s foreign policy as a “shuck and jive shtick.” Newt Gingrich dubbed him the “food-stamp president.” The rhetorical attacks on Obama were matched by a very real attack on his political base—in 2011 and 2012, 19 states enacted voting restrictions that made it harder for African Americans to vote.
    There are no clean victories for black people, nor, perhaps, for any people.
    Yet in 2012, as in 2008, Obama won anyway. Prior to the election, Obama, ever the optimist, had claimed that intransigent Republicans would decide to work with him to advance the country. No such collaboration was in the offing. Instead, legislation ground to a halt and familiar themes resurfaced. An Idaho GOP official posted a photo on Facebook depicting a trap waiting for Obama. The bait was a slice of watermelon. The caption read, “Breaking: The secret service just uncovered a plot to kidnap the president. More details as we get them …” In 2014, conservatives assembled in support of Cliven Bundy’s armed protest against federal grazing fees. As reporters descended on the Bundy ranch in Nevada, Bundy offered his opinions on “the Negro.” “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy explained. “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
    That same year, in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, the Justice Department opened an investigation into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri. It found a city that, through racial profiling, arbitrary fines, and wanton harassment, had exploited law enforcement for the purposes of municipal plunder. The plunder was sanctified by racist humor dispensed via internal emails among the police that later came to light. The president of the United States, who during his first year in office had reportedly received three times the number of death threats of any of his predecessors, was a repeat target.
    Much ink has been spilled in an attempt to understand the Tea Party protests, and the 2016 presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, which ultimately emerged out of them. One theory popular among (primarily) white intellectuals of varying political persuasions held that this response was largely the discontented rumblings of a white working class threatened by the menace of globalization and crony capitalism. Dismissing these rumblings as racism was said to condescend to this proletariat, which had long suffered the slings and arrows of coastal elites, heartless technocrats, and reformist snobs. Racism was not something to be coolly and empirically assessed but a slander upon the working man. Deindustrialization, globalization, and broad income inequality are real. And they have landed with at least as great a force upon black and Latino people in our country as upon white people. And yet these groups were strangely unrepresented in this new populism.
    Christopher S. Parker and Matt A. Barreto, political scientists at the University of Washington and UCLA, respectively, have found a relatively strong relationship between racism and Tea Party membership. “Whites are less likely to be drawn to the Tea Party for material reasons, suggesting that, relative to other groups, it’s really more about social prestige,” they say. The notion that the Tea Party represented the righteous, if unfocused, anger of an aggrieved class allowed everyone from leftists to neoliberals to white nationalists to avoid a horrifying and simple reality: A significant swath of this country did not like the fact that their president was black, and that swath was not composed of those most damaged by an unquestioned faith in the markets. Far better to imagine the grievance put upon the president as the ghost of shambling factories and defunct union halls, as opposed to what it really was—a movement inaugurated by ardent and frightened white capitalists, raging from the commodities-trading floor of one of the great financial centers of the world.
    That movement came into full bloom in the summer of 2015, with the candidacy of Donald Trump, a man who’d risen to political prominence by peddling the racist myth that the president was not American. It was birtherism—not trade, not jobs, not isolationism—that launched Trump’s foray into electoral politics. Having risen unexpectedly on this basis into the stratosphere of Republican politics, Trump spent the campaign freely and liberally trafficking in misogyny, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. And on November 8, 2016, he won election to the presidency. Historians will spend the next century analyzing how a country with such allegedly grand democratic traditions was, so swiftly and so easily, brought to the brink of fascism. But one needn’t stretch too far to conclude that an eight-year campaign of consistent and open racism aimed at the leader of the free world helped clear the way.
    “They rode the tiger. And now the tiger is eating them,” David Axelrod, speaking of the Republican Party, told me. That was in October. His words proved too optimistic. The tiger would devour us all.

    “When You Left, You Took All of Me With You”

    One Saturday morning last May, I joined the presidential motorcade as it slipped out of the southern gate of the White House. A mostly white crowd had assembled. As the motorcade drove by, people cheered, held up their smartphones to record the procession, and waved American flags. To be within feet of the president seemed like the thrill of their lives. I was astounded. An old euphoria, which I could not immediately place, gathered up in me. And then I remembered, it was what I felt through much of 2008, as I watched Barack Obama’s star shoot across the political sky. I had never seen so many white people cheer on a black man who was neither an athlete nor an entertainer. And it seemed that they loved him for this, and I thought in those days, which now feel so long ago, that they might then love me, too, and love my wife, and love my child, and love us all in the manner that the God they so fervently cited had commanded. I had been raised amid a people who wanted badly to believe in the possibility of a Barack Obama, even as their very lives argued against that possibility. So they would praise Martin Luther King Jr. in one breath and curse the white man, “the Great Deceiver,” in the next. Then came Obama and the Obama family, and they were black and beautiful in all the ways we aspired to be, and all that love was showered upon them. But as Obama’s motorcade approached its destination—Howard University, where he would give the commencement address—the complexion of the crowd darkened, and I understood that the love was specific, that even if it allowed Barack Obama, even if it allowed the luckiest of us, to defy the boundaries, then the masses of us, in cities like this one, would still enjoy no such feat.
    These were our fitful, spasmodic years.

    We were launched into the Obama era with no notion of what to expect, if only because a black presidency had seemed such a dubious proposition. There was no preparation, because it would have meant preparing for the impossible. There were few assessments of its potential import, because such assessments were regarded as speculative fiction. In retrospect it all makes sense, and one can see a jagged but real political lineage running through black Chicago. It originates in Oscar Stanton De Priest; continues through Congressman William Dawson, who, under Roosevelt, switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party; crescendos with the legendary Harold Washington; rises still with Jesse Jackson’s 1988 victory in Michigan’s Democratic caucuses; rises again with Carol Moseley Braun’s triumph; and reaches its recent apex with the election of Barack Obama. If the lineage is apparent in hindsight, so are the limits of presidential power. For a century after emancipation, quasi-slavery haunted the South. And more than half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, schools throughout much of this country remain segregated.
    There are no clean victories for black people, nor, perhaps, for any people. The presidency of Barack Obama is no different. One can now say that an African American individual can rise to the same level as a white individual, and yet also say that the number of black individuals who actually qualify for that status will be small. One thinks of Serena Williams, whose dominance and stunning achievements can’t, in and of themselves, ensure equal access to tennis facilities for young black girls. The gate is open and yet so very far away.
    altObama campaigning in central Florida before the unthinkable—Donald Trump’s victory—happened.

     I felt a mix of pride and amazement walking onto Howard’s campus that day. Howard alumni, of which I am one, are an obnoxious fraternity, known for yelling the school chant across city blocks, sneering at other historically black colleges and universities, and condescending to black graduates of predominantly white institutions. I like to think I am more reserved, but I felt an immense satisfaction in being in the library where I had once found my history, and now found myself with the first black president of the United States. It seemed providential that he would give the commencement address here in his last year. The same pride I felt radiated out across the Yard, the large green patch in the main area of the campus where the ceremony would take place. When Obama walked out, the audience exploded, and when the time came for the color guard to present arms, a chant arose: “O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma!”

    He gave a good speech that day, paying heed to Howard’s rituals, calling out its famous alumni, shouting out the university’s various dormitories, and urging young people to vote. (His usual riff on respectability politics was missing.) But I think he could have stood before that crowd, smiled, and said “Good luck,” and they would have loved him anyway. He was their champion, and this was evident in the smallest of things. The national anthem was played first, but then came the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” As the lyrics rang out over the crowd, the students held up the black-power fist—a symbol of defiance before power. And yet here, in the face of a black man in his last year in power, it scanned not as a protest, but as a salute.
    Six months later the awful price of a black presidency would be known to those students, even as the country seemed determined not to acknowledge it. In the days after Donald Trump’s victory, there would be an insistence that something as “simple” as racism could not explain it. As if enslavement had nothing to do with global economics, or as if lynchings said nothing about the idea of women as property. As though the past 400 years could be reduced to the irrational resentment of full lips. No. Racism is never simple. And there was nothing simple about what was coming, or about Obama, the man who had unwittingly summoned this future into being.

    I still want Obama to be right. I still would like to fold myself into the dream. This will not be possible.
    It was said that the Americans who’d supported Trump were victims of liberal condescension. The word racist would be dismissed as a profane slur put upon the common man, as opposed to an accurate description of actual men. “We simply don’t yet know how much racism or misogyny motivated Trump voters,” David Brooks would write in The New York Times. “If you were stuck in a jobless town, watching your friends OD on opiates, scrambling every month to pay the electric bill, and then along came a guy who seemed able to fix your problems and hear your voice, maybe you would stomach some ugliness, too.” This strikes me as perfectly logical. Indeed, it could apply just as well to Louis Farrakhan’s appeal to the black poor and working class. But whereas the followers of an Islamophobic white nationalist enjoy the sympathy that must always greet the salt of the earth, the followers of an anti-Semitic black nationalist endure the scorn that must ever greet the children of the enslaved.
    Much would be made of blue-collar voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan who’d pulled the lever for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then for Trump in 2016. Surely these voters disproved racism as an explanatory force. It’s still not clear how many individual voters actually flipped. But the underlying presumption—that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could be swapped in for each other—exhibited a problem. Clinton was a candidate who’d won one competitive political race in her life, whose political instincts were questioned by her own advisers, who took more than half a million dollars in speaking fees from an investment bank because it was “what they offered,” who proposed to bring back to the White House a former president dogged by allegations of rape and sexual harassment. Obama was a candidate who’d become only the third black senator in the modern era; who’d twice been elected president, each time flipping red and purple states; who’d run one of the most scandal-free administrations in recent memory. Imagine an African American facsimile of Hillary Clinton: She would never be the nominee of a major political party and likely would not be in national politics at all.
    Pointing to citizens who voted for both Obama and Trump does not disprove racism; it evinces it. To secure the White House, Obama needed to be a Harvard-trained lawyer with a decade of political experience and an incredible gift for speaking to cross sections of the country; Donald Trump needed only money and white bluster.

    In the week after the election, I was a mess. I had not seen my wife in two weeks. I was on deadline for this article. My son was struggling in school. The house was in disarray. I played Marvin Gaye endlessly—“When you left, you took all of me with you.” Friends began to darkly recall the ghosts of post-Reconstruction. The election of Donald Trump confirmed everything I knew of my country and none of what I could accept. The idea that America would follow its first black president with Donald Trump accorded with its history. I was shocked at my own shock. I had wanted Obama to be right.
    I still want Obama to be right. I still would like to fold myself into the dream. This will not be possible.
    By some cosmic coincidence, a week after the election I received a portion of my father’s FBI file. My father had grown up poor in Philadelphia. His father was struck dead on the street. His grandfather was crushed to death in a meatpacking plant. He’d served his country in Vietnam, gotten radicalized there, and joined the Black Panther Party, which brought him to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover. A memo written to the FBI director was “submitted aimed at discrediting WILLIAM PAUL COATES, Acting Captain of the BPP, Baltimore.” The memo proposed that a fake letter be sent to the Panthers’ co-founder Huey P. Newton. The fake letter accused my father of being an informant and concluded, “I want somethin done with this bootlikin facist pig nigger and I want it done now.” The words somethin done need little interpretation. The Panthers were eventually consumed by an internecine war instigated by the FBI, one in which being labeled a police informant was a death sentence.
    A few hours after I saw this file, I had my last conversation with the president. I asked him how his optimism was holding up, given Trump’s victory. He confessed to being surprised at the outcome but said that it was tough to “draw a grand theory from it, because there were some very unusual circumstances.” He pointed to both candidates’ high negatives, the media coverage, and a “dispirited” electorate. But he said that his general optimism about the shape of American history remained unchanged. “To be optimistic about the long-term trends of the United States doesn’t mean that everything is going to go in a smooth, direct, straight line,” he said. “It goes forward sometimes, sometimes it goes back, sometimes it goes sideways, sometimes it zigs and zags.”
    I thought of Hoover’s FBI, which harassed three generations of black activists, from Marcus Garvey’s black nationalists to Martin Luther King Jr.’s integrationists to Huey Newton’s Black Panthers, including my father. And I thought of the enormous power accrued to the presidency in the post-9/11 era—the power to obtain American citizens’ phone records en masse, to access their emails, to detain them indefinitely. I asked the president whether it was all worth it. Whether this generation of black activists and their allies should be afraid.
    “Keep in mind that the capacity of the NSA, or other surveillance tools, are specifically prohibited from being applied to U.S. citizens or U.S. persons without specific evidence of links to terrorist activity or, you know, other foreign-related activity,” he said. “So, you know, I think this whole story line that somehow Big Brother has massively expanded and now that a new president is in place it’s this loaded gun ready to be used on domestic dissent is just not accurate.”
    He counseled vigilance, “because the possibility of abuse by government officials always exists. The issue is not going to be that there are new tools available; the issue is making sure that the incoming administration, like my administration, takes the constraints on how we deal with U.S. citizens and persons seriously.” This answer did not fill me with confidence. The next day, President-Elect Trump offered Lieutenant General Michael Flynn the post of national-security adviser and picked Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as his nominee for attorney general. Last February, Flynn tweeted, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” and linked to a YouTube video that declared followers of Islam want “80 percent of humanity enslaved or exterminated.” Sessions had once been accused of calling a black lawyer “boy,” claiming that a white lawyer who represented black clients was a disgrace to his race, and joking that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” I felt then that I knew what was coming—more Freddie Grays, more Rekia Boyds, more informants and undercover officers sent to infiltrate mosques.  
    And I also knew that the man who could not countenance such a thing in his America had been responsible for the only time in my life when I felt, as the first lady had once said, proud of my country, and I knew that it was his very lack of countenance, his incredible faith, his improbable trust in his countrymen, that had made that feeling possible. The feeling was that little black boy touching the president’s hair. It was watching Obama on the campaign trail, always expecting the worst and amazed that the worst never happened. It was how I’d felt seeing Barack and Michelle during the inauguration, the car slow-dragging down Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowd cheering, and then the two of them rising up out of the limo, rising up from fear, smiling, waving, defying despair, defying history, defying gravity.

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    65th Anniversary of "We Charge Genocide!"
    1951 American report to the United Nations 
    by Heather Gray
    December 17, 2016 

    Sixty-five years ago today, on December 17, 1951, Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson presented to the United Nations a document entitled "We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People". Below please find 2 reports:
    (1) "We Charge Genocide!" from Liberty and Justice for All, that provides details about the document and it's presentation to the  United Nations in the United States and Paris on December 17, 1951; and

    (2) The beginning narrative of  "We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People (1951)" from Black Past. (The entire document is 237 pages that includes examples of genocide in the United States.)
    At the end of these 2 reports are also links to the entire 1951 "We Charge Genocide" petition to the United Nations from the incredibly valuable and resourceful website "Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement".

    This historic document present issues that are relevant today and given the ongoing atrocities in America, many are in agreement that an updated contemporary version of "We Charge Genocide" should presented to the United Nations. Below please find information about youth from Chicago doing precisely that by presenting  information about atrocities in Chicago to the UN during its "Convention Against Torture Committee Review of the U.S." in 2014.
    I am thankful to activists/journalists Marian Douglas-Ungaro and Ernest Dunkley for their advice and support of this call for action regarding presenting an update to the United Nations of "We Charge Genocide". If you are also interested in this please send me an email at Heather Gray -

    We Charge Genocide!
    Liberty and Justice for All

    "We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People" is a paper accusing the United States government of genocide according to the UN Genocide Convention. This work was written by the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) and presented to the United Nations at meetings in Paris in December (17) 1951.
    The document pointed out that the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defined genocide as any acts committed with "intent to destroy" a group, "in whole or in part." To build its case for black genocide, the document cited many instances of lynching in the United States, as well as legal discrimination, disenfranchisement of blacks in the South, a series of incidents of police brutality dating to the present, and systematic inequalities in health and quality of life. The central argument: the US government is both complicit with and responsible for a genocidal situation based on the UN's own definition of genocide.
    The document received international media attention and became caught up in Cold War politics, as the CRC was supported by the American communist party. Its many examples of shocking conditions for African Americans shaped beliefs about the United States in countries across the world. The American government and white press accused the CRC of exaggerating racial inequality in order to advance the cause of Communism. The US State Department forced CRC secretary William L. Patterson to surrender his passport after he presented the petition to a UN meeting in Paris.
    Soon after the United Nations was created in 1945, it began to receive requests for assistance from peoples across the world. These came from the indigenous peoples of European colonies in Africa and Asia, but also from African Americans. The first group to petition the UN regarding African Americans was the National Negro Congress (NNC), which in 1946 delivered a statement on racial discrimination to the Secretary General. Thenext appeal, from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1947, was more than 100 pages in length. W. E. B. Du Bois presented it to the UN on 23 October 1947, over the objections of Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of the late president and an American delegate to the UN. Du Bois, frustrated with the State Department's opposition to the petitions, criticized president Walter White of the NAACP for accepting a position as consultant to the US delegation; White in turn pushed Du Bois out of the NAACP.
    The petitions were praised by the international press and by Black press in the United States. America's mainstream media, however, were ambivalent or hostile. Some agreed that there was some truth to the petitions, but suggested that 'tattling' to the UN would aid the cause of Communism. The Soviet Union did cite these documents as evidence of poor conditions in the United States.
    The Civil Rights Congress (CRC), the successor to the International Labor Defense group and affiliated with the communist party, had begun to gain momentum domestically by defending Blacks sentenced to execution, such as Rosa Lee Ingram and the Trenton Six. The NNC joined forces with the CRC in 1947.
    On 17 December 1951, the petition was presented to the United Nations by two separate venues: Paul Robeson, concert singer and activist, together with people who signed the petition, handed the document to a UN official in New York, while William L. Patterson, executive director of the Civil Rights Congress, delivered copies of the petition to a UN delegation in Paris. W. E. B. Du Bois, also slated to deliver the petition in Paris, had been classified by the US State Department as an "unregistered foreign agent" and was deterred from traveling. Du Bois had previously had an expensive legal battle against the Justice Department.

    The 125 copies Patterson mailed to Paris did not arrive, allegedly intercepted by the US government. But Patterson distributed other copies, which he had shipped separately in small packages to individuals' homes.
    The document was signed by many leading activists and family of blacks who had suffered in the system, including:
    W. E. B. Du Bois, African-American sociologist, historian and Pan-Africanist activist
    George W. Crockett, Jr., African-American lawyer and politician
    Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., African-American lawyer and communist 
    Ferdinand Smith, New York councilman
    Oakley C. Johnson, Communist activist
    Aubrey Grossman, labor and civil rights lawyer
    Claudia Jones, Communist and black nationalist activist
    Rosalie McGee, the widow of Willie McGee, who in 1951 was executed after being controversially convicted of rape by an all-white jury
    Josephine Grayson, the widow of Francis Grayson, one of the "Martinsville Seven", who in 1951 were executed in Virginia after a much-publicized trial and conviction by an all-white jury
    Amy Mallard and Doris Mallard, remaining family of Robert Childs Mallard, lynched in 1948 for voting
    Paul Washington, veteran on death row in Louisiana
    Wesley R. Wells, prisoner in California facing execution for throwing a cuspidor (a spittoon) at a guard
    Horace Wilson, James Thorpe, Collis English, and Ralph Cooper, four of the Trenton Six

    Patterson said he was ignored by US ambassador Ralph Bunche and delegate Channing Tobias, but that Edith Sampson would talk to him.
    Patterson was ordered to surrender his passport at the United States embassy in France. When he refused, US agents said they would seize it at his hotel room. Patterson fled to Budapest, where through the newspaper Szabad Nép, he accused the US government of attempting to stifle the charges. The US government ordered Patterson to be detained when he passed through Britain and seized his passport when he returned to the United States. As Paul Robeson had been unable to obtain a passport at all, the difficulty these two men faced in traveling led some to accuse the American government of censorship.

    "We Charge Genocide" was ignored by much of the mainstream American press, but the Chicago Tribune, which called it "shameful lies" (and evidence against the value of the Genocide Convention itself). I. F. Stone was the only white American journalist to write favorably of the document. The CRC had communist affiliations, and the document attracted international attention through the worldwide communist movement. Raphael Lemkin, who invented the term "genocide" and advocated for the Genocide Convention, disagreed with the petition because the African-American population was increasing in size. He accused its authors of wishing to distract attention from genocide in the Soviet Union, which had resulted in millions of deaths, because of their communist sympathies. Lemkin accused Patterson and Robeson of serving foreign powers. He published an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that Blacks did not experience the "destruction, death, annihilation" that would qualify their treatment as genocide.
    The petition was particularly well received in Europe, where it received abundant press coverage. "We Charge Genocide" was popular almost everywhere in the world except in the United States. One American writer traveling India in 1952 found that many people had become familiar with the cases of the Martinsville Seven and Willie McGee through the document.
    The American delegation heavily criticized the document. Eleanor Roosevelt called it "ridiculous". Black delegates Edith Sampson and Channing Tobias spoke to European audiences about how the situation of African Americans was improving.
    At the request of the State Department, the NAACP drafted a press release repudiating "We Charge Genocide", calling it "a gross and subversive conspiracy". However, upon hearing initial press reports of the petition and the expected NAACP response, Walter White decided against issuing the release. He and the board decided that the petition did reflect many of the NAACP views; for instance, the organization had long been publishing the toll of blacks who had been lynched. "How can we 'blast' a book that uses our records as source material?", asked Roy Wilkins.
    The CRC's power was already declining due to accusations of Communism during the Red Scare, and it disbanded in 1956.
    The United Nations did not acknowledge receiving the petition. Given the strength of US influence, it was not really expected to do so.

    The document has been credited with popularizing the term "genocide" among Black people for their treatment in the US. After renewed interest generated by Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party, We Charge Genocide was republished in 1970 by International Publishers. Allegations of genocide were renewed in relation to the disproportionate effects of crack cocaine and HIV/AIDS in the black communities in the United States. The National Black United Front petitioned the United Nations in 1996-1997, directly citing We Charge Genocide and using the same slogan....
    During the UN Convention Against Torture Committee Review of the U.S. in November 2014, a group of eight young activists from Chicago, Illinois, (Breanna Champion, Page May, Monica Trinidad, Ethan Viets-VanLear, Asha Rosa , Ric Wilson, Todd St. Hill, and Malcolm London) submitted a shadow report using the name, We Charge Genocide. Their report addressed police brutality toward blacks in Chicago, the lack of police accountability, and the misuse of tasers by the Chicago Police Department.
    On December 11th, the We Charge Genocide youth delegation spoke at a public report back on their experiences in Geneva, Switzerland to an audience of over 200 in Chicago The entire event was live-streamed and the video is available here.

    We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People (1951)
    Out of the inhuman black ghettos of American cities, out of the cotton plantations of the South, comes this record of mass slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and disease.,  It is a record that calls aloud for condemnation, for an end to these terrible injustices that constitute a daily and ever-increasing violation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
    It is sometimes incorrectly thought that genocide means the complete and definitive destruction of a race or people.  The Genocide Convention, however, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948, defines genocide as any killings on the basis of race, or, in it specific words, as "killing members of the group."  Any intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, ethnic or religious group is genocide, according to the Convention.  Thus, the Convention states, "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group," is genocide as well as "killing members of the group."
    We maintain, therefore, that the oppressed Negro citizens of the United States, segregated, discriminated against and long the target of violence, suffer from genocide as the result of the consistent, conscious, unified policies of every branch of government.
    The Civil Rights Congress has prepared and submits this petition to the General Assembly of the United Nations on behalf of the Negro people in the interest of peace and democracy, charging the Government of the United States of America with violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
    We believe that in issuing this document we are discharging an historic responsibility to the American people, as well as rendering a service of inestimable value to progressive mankind.  We speak of the American people because millions of white Americans in the ranks of labor and the middle class, and particularly those who live in the southern states and are often contemptuously called poor whites, are themselves suffering to an ever-greater degree from the consequences of the Jim Crow segregation policy of government in its relations with Negro citrines.  We speak of progressive mankind because a policy of discrimination at home must inevitably create racist commodities for export abroad-must inevitably tend toward war.
    We have not dealt here with the cruel and inhuman policy of this government toward the people of Puerto Rico.  Impoverished and reduced to a semi-literate state through the wanton exploitation and oppression by gigantic American concerns, through the merciless frame-up and imprisonment of hundred of its sons and daughter, this colony of the  rulers of the United States reveals in all its stark nakedness the moral bankruptcy of this government and those who control its home and foreign policies.
    History has shown that the racist theory of government of the U.S.A. is not the private affair of Americans, but the concern of mankind everywhere.
    It is our hope, and we fervently believe that it was the hope and aspiration of every black American whose voice was silenced forever through premature death at the hands of racist-minded hooligans or Klan terrorists, that the truth recorded here will be made known to the world; that it will speak with a tongue of fire loosing an unquenchable moral crusade, the universal response to which will sound the death knell of all racist theories.
    We have scrupulously kept within the purview of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which is held to embrace those "acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such."
    We particularly pray for the most careful reading of this material by those who have always regarded genocide as a term to be used only where the acts of terror evinced an intent to destroy a whole nation.  We further submit that this Convention on Genocide is, by virtue of our avowed acceptance of the Covenant of the United Nations, an inseparable part of the law of the United States of America.
    According to international law, and according to our own law, the Genocide Convention, as well as the provisions of the United Nations Charter, supersedes, negates and displaces all discriminatory racist law on the books of the United States and the several states.
    The Hitler crimes, of awful magnitude, beginning as they did against the heroic Jewish people, finally drenched the world in blood, and left a record of maimed and tortured bodies, and devastated areas such as mankind had never seen before.  Justice Robert H. Jackson, who now sits upon the United States Supreme Court bench, described this holocaust to the world in the powerful language with which he opened the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders.  Every word he voiced against the monstrous Nazi beast applies with equal weight, we believe, to those who are guilty of the crimes herein set forth.
    Here we present the documented crimes of federal, state and municipal governments in the United States of America, the dominant nation in the United Nations, against 15,000,000 of its own nationals-the Negro people of the United States.  These crimes are of the gravest concern to mankind.  The General Assembly of the United Nations, by reason of the United Nations Charter and the Genocide Convention, itself is invested with power to receive this indictment and act on it.
    The proof of this face is its action upon the similar complaint of the Government of India against South Africa.
    We call upon the United Nations to act and to call the government of the United States to account.
    We believe that the test of the basic goals of a foreign policy is inherent in the manner in which a government treats its own nationals and is not to be found in the lofty platitudes that pervade so many treaties or constitutions.  The essence lies not in the form, but rather, in the substance.
    The Civil Rights Congress is a defender of constitutional liberties, human rights, and of peace.  It is the implacable enemy of every creed, philosophy, social system or way of life that denies democratic rights or one iota of human dignity to any human being because of color, creed, nationality or political belief.
    We ask all men and women of good will to unite to realize the objective set forth in the summary and prayer concluding this petition.  We believe that this program can go far toward ending the threat of a third world war.  We believe it can contribute to the establishment of a people's democracy on a universal scale.
    But may we add as a final note that the Negro people desire equality of opportunity in this land where their contributions to the economic, political and social developments have been of splendid proportions and in quality second to none.  They will accept nothing less, and continued efforts to force them into the category of second-class citizens through force and violence, through segregation, racist law and an institutionalized oppression, can only end in disaster for those responsible.
    Respectfully submitted by the Civil Rights Congress as a service to the peoples of the world, and particularly to the lovers of peace and democracy in the United States of America
    William L. Patterson
    National Executive Secretary Civil Rights Congress
    To the General Assembly of the United Nations:
    The responsibility of being the first in history to charge the government of the United States of America with the crime of genocide is not one your petitioners take lightly.  The responsibility is particularly grave when citizens must charge their own government with mass murder of its own nationals, with institutionalized oppression and persistent slaughter of the Negro people in the United States on a basis of "race," a crime abhorred by mankind and prohibited by the conscience of the world as expressed in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948.
    Genocide Leads to Fascism and to War
    If our duty is unpleasant it is historically necessary both for the welfare of the American people and for the peace of the world.  We petition as American patriots, sufficiently anxious to save our countrymen and all mankind from the horrors of war to shoulder a task as painful as it is important.  We cannot forget Hitler's demonstration that genocide at home can become wider massacre abroad, that domestic genocide develops into the larger genocide that is predatory war.  The wrongs of which we complain are so much the expression of predatory American reaction and its government that civilization cannot ignore them nor risk their continuance without courting its own destruction.  We agree with those members of the General Assembly who declared that genocide is a matter of world concern because its practice imperils world safety.
    But if the responsibility of your petitioners is great, it is dwarfed by the responsibility of those guilty of the crime we charge.  Seldom in human annals has so iniquitous a conspiracy been so gilded with the trappings of respectability.  Seldom has mass murder on the score of "race" been so sanctified by law, so justified by those who demand free elections abroad even as they kill their fellow citizens who demand free elections at home.  Never have so many individuals been so ruthlessly destroyed amid many tributes to the sacredness of the individual.  The distinctive trait of this genocide is a cant that mouths aphorisms of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence even as it kills.
    The genocide of which we complain is as much a fact as gravity.  The whole world knows of it.  The proof is in every day's newspapers, in every one's sight and hearing in these United States.  In one form or another it has been practiced for more than three hundred years although never with such sinister implications for the welfare and peace of the world as at present.  Its very familiarity disguises its horror.  It is a crime so embedded in law, so explained away by specious rationale, so hidden by talk of liberty, that even the conscience of the tender minded is sometimes dulled.  Yet the conscience of mankind cannot be beguiled from its duty by the pious phrases and the deadly legal euphemisms with which its perpetrators seek to transform their guilt into high moral purpose.
    Killing Members of the Group
    Your petitioners will prove that the crime of which we complain is in fact genocide within the terms and meaning of the United Nations Convention providing for the prevention and punishment of this crime.  We shall submit evidence, tragically voluminous, of "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such," - in this case the 15,000,000 Negro people of the United States.
    We shall submit evidence proving "killing members of the group," in violation of Article II of the Convention.  We cite killings by police, killings by incited gangs, killings at night by masked men, killings always on the basis of "race," killings by the Ku Klux Klan, that organization which is charted by the several states as a semi-official arm of government and even granted the tax exemptions of a benevolent society.
    Our evidence concerns the thousands of Negroes who over the years have been beaten to death on chain gangs and in the back rooms of sheriff's offices, in the cells of county jails, in precinct police stations  and on city streets, who have been framed and murdered by sham legal forms and by a legal bureaucracy.  It concerns those Negroes who have been killed, allegedly for failure to say "sir" or tip their hats or move aside quickly enough, or, more often, on trumped up charges of "rape,'" but in reality for trying to vote or otherwise demanding the legal and inalienable rights and privileges of United States citizenship formally guaranteed them by the Constitution of the United States, rights denied them on the basis of "race," in violation of the Constitution of the United States, the United Nations Charter, and the Genocide Convention.
    Economic Genocide
    We shall offer proof of economic genocide, or in the words of the Convention, proof of "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part."  We shall prove that such conditions so swell the infant and maternal death rate and the death rate from disease, that the American Negro is deprived, when compared with the remainder of the population of the United States, of eight years of life on the average.
    Further we shall show a deliberate national oppression of these 15,000,000 Negro Americans on the basis of "race" to perpetuate these "conditions of life."  Negroes are the last hired and the first fired.  They are forced into city ghettos or their rural equivalents.  They are segregated legally or through sanctioned violence into filthy, disease-bearing housing, and deprived by law of adequate medical care and education.  From birth to death, Negro Americans are humiliated and persecuted, in violation of the Charter and Convention.  They are forced by threat of violence and imprisonment into inferior, segregated accommodations, into jim crow busses, jim crow trains, jim crow hospitals, jim crow schools, jim crow theaters, jim crow restaurants, jim crow housing, and finally into jim crow cemeteries.
    We shall prove that the object of this genocide, as of all genocide, is the perpetuation of economic and political power by the few through the destruction of political protest by the many.  Its method is to demoralize and divide an entire nation; its end is to increase the profits and unchallenged control by a reactionary clique.  We shall show that those responsible for this crime are not the humble but the so-called great, not the American people but their misleaders, not the convict but the robed judge, not the criminal but the police, not the spontaneous mob but organized terrorists licensed and approved by the state to incite to a Roman holiday.
    We shall offer evidence that this genocide is not plotted in the dark but incited over the radio into the ears of millions, urged in the glare of public forums by Senators and Governors.  It is offered as an article of faith by powerful political organizations, such as the Dixiecrats, and defended by influential newspapers, all in violation of the Untied Nations charter and the Convention forbidding genocide.
    This proof does not come from the enemies of the white supremacists but from their own mouths, their own writings, their political resolutions, their racist laws, and from photographs of their handiwork.  Neither Hitler nor Goebbels wrote obscurantist racial incitements more voluminously or viciously than do their American counterparts, nor did such incitements circulate in Nazi mails any more than they do in the mails of the United States.
    Through this and other evidence we shall prove this crime of genocide is the result of a massive conspiracy, more deadly in that it is sometimes "understood" rather than expressed, a part of the mores of the ruling class often concealed by euphemisms, but always directed to oppressing the Negro people.  Its members are so well-drilled, so rehearsed over the generations, that they can carry out their parts automatically and with a minimum of spoken direction.  They have inherited their plot and their business is but to implement it daily so that it works daily.  This implementation is sufficiently expressed in decision and statute, in depressed wages, in robbing millions of the vote and millions more of the land, and in countless other political and economic facts, as to reveal definitively the existence of a conspiracy backed by reactionary interests in which are meshed all the organs of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government.  It is manifest that a people cannot be consistently killed over the years on the basis of "race" - and more than 10,000 Negroes have so suffered death - cannot be uniformly segregated, despoiled, impoverished, and denied equal protection before the law, unless it is the result of the deliberate, all-pervasive policy of government and those who control it.
    Emasculation of Democracy
    We shall show, more particularly, how terror, how "killing members of the group," in violation of Article II of the Genocide Convention, has been used to prevent the Negro people from voting in huge and decisive areas of the United States in which they are the preponderant population, thus dividing the whole American people, emasculating mass movements for democracy and securing the grip of predatory reaction on the federal, state, county and city governments.  We shall prove that the crimes of genocide offered for your action and the world's attention have in fact been incited, a punishable crime under Article III of the Convention, often by such officials as Governors, Senators, Judges and peace officers whose phrases about white supremacy and the necessity of maintaining inviolate a white electorate resulted in bloodshed as surely as more direct incitement.
    We shall submit evidence showing the existence of a mass of American law, written as was Hitler's law solely on the basis of "race," providing for segregation and otherwise penalizing the Negro people, in violation not only of Articles II and III of the Convention but also in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.  Finally we shall offer proof that a conspiracy exists in which the Government of the United States, its Supreme Court, its Congress, it Executive branch, as well as the various state, county and municipal governments, consciously effectuate policies which result in the crime of genocide being consistently and constantly practiced against the Negro people of the United States.
    The Negro Petitioners
    Many of your petitioners are Negro citizens to whom the charges herein described are not mere words.  They are facts felt on our bodies, crimes inflicted on our dignity.  We struggle for deliverance, not without pride in our valor, but we warn mankind that our fate is theirs.  We solemnly declare that continuance of this American crime against the Negro people of the United States will strengthen those reactionary American forces driving towards World War III as certainly as the unrebuked Nazi genocide against the Jewish people strengthened Hitler in his successful drive to World War II.
    We, Negro petitioners whose communities have been laid waste, whose homes have been burned and looted, whose children have been killed, whose women have been raped, have noted with peculiar horror that the genocidal doctrines and actions of the American white supremacists have already been exported to the colored peoples of Asia.  We solemnly warn that a nation which practices genocide against its own nationals may not be long deterred, if it has the power, from genocide elsewhere.  White supremacy at home makes for colored massacres abroad. Both reveal contempt for human life in a colored skin.  Jellied gasoline in Korea and the lynchers' faggot at home are connected in more ways than that both result in death by fire.  The lyncher and the atom bomber are related.  The first cannot murder unpunished and unrebuked without so encouraging the latter that the peace of the world and the lives of millions are endangered.  Nor is this metaphysics.  The tie binding both is economic profit and political control.  It was not without significance that it was President Truman who spoke of the possibility of using the atom bomb on the colored peoples of Asia, that it is American statesmen who prate constantly of "Asiatic hordes."
    "Our Humanity Denied and Mocked"
    We Negro petitioners protest this genocide as Negroes and we protest it as Americans, as patriots.  We know that no American can be truly free while 15,000,000 other Americans are persecuted on the grounds of "race," that few Americans can be prosperous while 15,000,000 are deliberately pauperized.  Our country can never know true democracy while millions of its citizens are denied the vote on the basis of their color.
    But above all we protest this genocide as human beings whose very humanity is denied and mocked.  We cannot forget that after Congressman Henderson Lovelace Lanham, of Rome, Georgia, speaking in the halls of Congress, called William L. Paterson, one of the leaders of the Negro people, "a God-damned black son-of-bitch," he added, "We gotta keep the black apes down."  We cannot forget it because this is the animating sentiment of the white supremacists, of a powerful segment of American life.  We cannot forget that in many American states it is a crime for a white person to marry a Negro on the racist theory that Negroes are "inherently inferior as an immutable fact of Nature."  The whole institution of segregation, which is training for killing, education for genocide, is based on the Hitler-like theory of the "inherent inferiority of the Negro."  The tragic fact of segregation is the basis for the statement, too often heard after murder, particularly in the South, "Why I think no more of killing a n----r, than of killing a dog."
    We petition in the first instance because we are compelled to speak by the unending slaughter of Negroes.  The fact of our ethnic origin, of which we are proud-our ancestors were building the world's first civilizations 3,000 years before our oppressors emerged from barbarism in the forests of western Europe-is daily made the signal for segregation and murder.  There is infinite variety in the cruelty we will catalogue, but each case has the common denominator of racism.  This opening statement is not the place to present our evidence in detail.  Still, in this summary of what is to be proved, we believe it necessary to show something of the crux of our case, something of the pattern of genocidal murder, the technique of incitement to genocide, and the methods of mass terror.
    Our evidence begins with 1945 and continues to the present.  It gains in deadliness and in number of cases almost in direct ratio to the surge towards war.  We are compelled to hold to this six years span if this document is to be brought into manageable proportions.
    The Evidence
    There was a time when racist violence had its center in the South.  But as the Negro people spread to the north, east and west seeking to escape the southern hell, the violence, impelled in the first instance by economic motives, followed them, its cause also economic.  Once most of the violence against Negroes occurred in the countryside, but that was before the Negro emigrations of the twenties and thirties.  Now there is not a great American city from New York to Cleveland or Detroit, from Washington, the nation's capital, to Chicago, from Memphis to Atlanta or Birmingham, from New Orleans to Los Angeles, that is not disgraced by the wanton killing of innocent Negroes.  It is no longer a sectional phenomenon.
    Once the classic method of lynching was the rope. Now it is the policeman's bullet.  To many an American the police are the government, certainly its most visible representative.  We submit that the evidence suggests that the killing of Negroes has become police policy in the United States and that police policy is the most practical expression of government policy.
    Our evidence is admittedly incomplete.  It is our hope that the United Nations will complete it.  Much of the evidence, particularly of violence, was gained from the files of Negro newspapers, from the labor press, from the annual reports of Negro societies and established Negro year books.  A list is appended.
    But by far the majority of Negro murders are never recorded, never known except to the perpetrators and the bereaved survivors of the victim.  Negro men and women leave their homes and are never seen alive again.  Sometimes weeks later their bodies, or bodies thought to be theirs and often horribly mutilated, are found in the woods or washed up on the shore of a river or lake.  This is a well known pattern of American culture. In many sections of the country police do not even bother to record the murder of Negroes.  Most white newspapers have a policy of not publishing anything concerning murders of Negroes or assaults upon them.  These unrecorded deaths are the rule rather than the exception-thus our evidence, though voluminous, is scanty when compared to the actuality.
    Causes Celèbres
    We Negro petitioners are anxious that the General Assembly know of our tragic causes celèbres, ignored by the American white press but known nevertheless the world over,  but we also wish to inform it of the virtually unknown killed almost casually, as an almost incidental aspect of institutionalized murder.
    We want the General Assembly to know of Willie McGee, framed on perjured testimony and murdered in Mississippi because the Supreme Court of the United States refused even to examine vital new evidence proving his innocence.  But we also want it to know of the two Negro children, James Lewis, Jr., fourteen years old, and Charles Trudell, fifteen, of Natchez, Mississippi who were electrocuted in 1947, after the Supreme Court of the United States refused to intervene.
    We want the General Assembly to know of the martyred Martinsville Seven, who died in Virginia's electric chair for a rape they never committed, in a state that has never executed a white man for that offense.  But we want it to know, too, of the eight Negro prisoners who were shot down and murdered on July 11, 1947 at Brunswick, Georgia, because they refused to work in a snake-infested swamp without boots.
    We shall inform the Assembly of the Trenton Six, of Paul Washington, the Daniels cousins, Jerry Newsom, Wesley Robert Wells, of Rosalee Ingram, of John Derrick, of Lieutenant Gilbert, of the Columbia, Tennessee destruction, the Freeport slaughter, the Monroe killings-all important cases I which Negroes have been framed on capital charges or have actually been killed.  But we want it also to know of the typical and less known-of William Brown, Louisiana farmer, shot in the back and killed when he was out hunting on July 19, 1947 by a white game warden who casually announced his unprovoked crime by saying, "I just shot a n---r.  Let his folks know."  The game warden, one Charles Ventrill, was not even charged with the crime.
    (1) "Civil Rights Congress, We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People (New York: Civil Rights Congress, 1951), pp xi-xiii, 3-10.
    (2) Full text of "We Charge Genocide" petition from the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement website listed below:

    Copyright © Civil Rights Congress, 1951
    Full Text (note that some of these PDF files are large):

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    World Views

    The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere

    The most infamous episodes include the ousting of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953— whose government was replaced by an authoritarian monarchy favorable to Washington — the removal and assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961, and the violent toppling of socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende, whose government was swept aside in 1973 by a military coup led by the ruthless Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

    Marvin X recruited Nadar Ali for the Nation of Islam. He became Director of Imports
    and traveled the world importing fish, especially Whiting, for the NOI. He happened to
    be in Chile on business when the US instigated the overthrow of the democratically elected President Allende. Nadar watched the coup from the balcony of his hotel room. 

    Marvin X interviewing Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham at his Georgetown residence. The US allowed his Black Power government to reign as the alternative to the opposition Communist leader Cheddi Jagen. The US did not want a Cuban style government in South America. Burnham and the US are implicated in the assassination of Black scholar Dr. Walter Rodney. Of  course the Jonestown massacre occurred on PM Burnham's watch. Marvin X's interview appeared in Muhammad Speaks and The Black Scholar Magazine, February, 1973.

    One of the more alarming narratives of the 2016 U.S. election campaign is that of the Kremlin's apparent meddling. Last week, the United States formally accused the Russian government of stealing and disclosing emails from the Democratic National Committee and the individual accounts of prominent Washington insiders.

    The hacks, in part leaked by WikiLeaks, have led to loud declarations that Moscow is eager for the victory of Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose rhetoric has unsettled Washington's traditional European allies and even thrown the future of NATO — Russia's bête noire — into doubt.

    Leading Russian officials have balked at the Obama administration's claim. In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the suggestion of interference as “ridiculous,” though he said it was “flattering” that Washington would point the finger at Moscow. At a time of pronounced regional tensions in the Middle East and elsewhere, there's no love lost between Kremlin officials and their American counterparts.

    To be sure, there's a much larger context behind today's bluster. As my colleague Andrew Roth notes, whatever their government's alleged actions in 2016, Russia's leaders enjoy casting aspersions on the American democratic process. And, in recent years, they have also bristled at perceived U.S. meddling in the politics of countries on Russia's borders, most notably in Ukraine.

    While the days of its worst behavior are long behind it, the United States does have a well-documented history of interfering and sometimes interrupting the workings of democracies elsewhere. It has occupied and intervened militarily in a whole swath of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and fomented coups against democratically elected populists.

    The most infamous episodes include the ousting of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953— whose government was replaced by an authoritarian monarchy favorable to Washington — the removal and assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961, and the violent toppling of socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende, whose government was swept aside in 1973 by a military coup led by the ruthless Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

    For decades, these actions were considered imperatives of the Cold War, part of a global struggle against the Soviet Union and its supposed leftist proxies. Its key participants included scheming diplomats like John Foster Dulles and Henry Kissinger, who advocated aggressive, covert policies to stanch the supposedly expanding threat of communism. Sometimes that agenda also explicitly converged with the interests of U.S. business: In 1954, Washington unseated Guatemala's left-wing president, Jacobo Arbenz, who had had the temerity to challenge the vast control of the United Fruit Co., a U.S. corporation, with agrarian laws that would be fairer to Guatemalan farmers. The CIA went on to install and back a series of right-wing dictatorships that brutalized the impoverished nation for almost half a century.

    A young Che Guevara, who happened to be traveling through Guatemala in 1954, was deeply affected by Arbenz's overthrow. He later wrote to his mother that the events prompted him to leave “the path of reason” and would ground his conviction in the need for radical revolution over gradual political reform.

    Aside from its instigation of coups and alliances with right-wing juntas, Washington sought to more subtly influence elections in all corners of the world. And so did Moscow. Political scientist Dov Levin calculates that the “two powers intervened in 117 elections around the world from 1946 to 2000 — an average of once in every nine competitive elections.”

    In the late 1940s, the newly established CIA cut its teeth in Western Europe, pushing back against some of the continent's most influential leftist parties and labor unions. In 1948, the United States propped up Italy's centrist Christian Democrats and helped ensure their electoral victory against a leftist coalition, anchored by one of the most powerful communist parties in Europe. CIA operatives gave millions of dollars to their Italian allies and helped orchestrate what was then an unprecedented, clandestine propaganda campaign: This included forging documents to besmirch communist leaders via fabricated sex scandals, starting a mass letter-writing campaign from Italian Americans to their compatriots, and spreading hysteria about a Russian takeover and the undermining of the Catholic Church.

    “We had bags of money that we delivered to selected politicians, to defray their political expenses, their campaign expenses, for posters, for pamphlets,” recounted F. Mark Wyatt, the CIA officer who handled the mission and later participated in more than 2½ decades of direct support to the Christian Democrats.
    This template spread everywhere: CIA operative Edward G. Lansdale, notorious for his efforts to bring down the North Vietnamese government, is said to have run the successful 1953 campaign of Philippines President Ramon Magsaysay. Japan's center-right Liberal Democratic Party was backed with secret American funds through the 1950s and the 1960s. The U.S. government and American oil corporations helped Christian parties in Lebanon win crucial elections in 1957 with briefcases full of cash.

    In Chile, the United States prevented Allende from winning an election in 1964. “A total of nearly four million dollars was spent on some fifteen covert action projects, ranging from organizing slum dwellers to passing funds to political parties,” detailed a Senate inquiry in the mid-1970s that started to expose the role of the CIA in overseas elections. When it couldn't defeat Allende at the ballot box in 1970, Washington decided to remove him anyway.

    “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people,” Kissinger is said to have quipped. Pinochet's regime presided over years of torture, disappearances and targeted assassinations. (In a recent op-ed, Chilean-American novelist Ariel Dorfman called on Hillary Clinton to repudiate Kissinger if she wins the presidential election.)

    After the end of the Cold War, the United States has largely brought its covert actions into the open with organizations like the more benign National Endowment for Democracy, which seeks to bolster civil society and democratic institutions around the world through grants and other assistance. Still, U.S. critics see the American hand in a range of more recent elections, from Honduras to Venezuela to Ukraine.

    Meanwhile, the threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections is not restricted to fears of Russian plots. In the late 1990s, the specter of illicit Chinese funds dominated concerns about Democratic campaign financing. But some observers cautioned others not to be too indignant.

    “If the Chinese indeed tried to influence the election here . . . the United States is only getting a taste of its own medicine,” Peter Kornbluh, director of the National Security Archive, which is affiliated with George Washington University, said in a 1997 interview with the New York Times. “China has done little more than emulate a long pattern of U.S. manipulation, bribery and covert operations to influence the political trajectory of countless countries around the world.”
    Read more:
    100 years ago, the U.S. invaded and occupied this country. Can you name it?
    'This was not an accident. This was a bomb.'
    The story of one of the Cold War's greatest unsolved mysteries

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    Say "Peace in Syria:" A Syrian Response to the UNAC Attack on Terry Burke 
    by Mohja Kahf

    Image may contain: 25 people, text

    Mohja Kahf is Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Arkansas (mentioned by us for identification only)

    August 27, 2016

    [Terry Burke's In These Times' article is here. - Stanley Heller.]

    Two wrongs don't make a right. Being against U.S. military intervention in Syria is no excuse for supporting the brutal Assad regime.

    Want to be for peace? Be for peace. Say, "Stop the killing in Syria." Say it to all parties.

    Oppose bombing? Say, "Stop the bombing in Syria." Say it to Assad. Say it to the rebels and to the Kurds. Say it to ISIS and the Nusra Front. Say it to the U.S. Say it to the Russians and the Iranians. Say it to the Saudis and the Turks. Say it to everyone responsible for bombings. But don't exclude Assad when you say it. Don't exclude anyone. Stand against all the killing in Syria, and you will have found a way to stand for peace in Syria.

    U.S. peace activist, be for peace. Say "break the starvation sieges in Syria." Say it to Assad, who is the besieger of dozens of Syrian towns. Say it to the rebels, who have besieged at least two towns. Say it to anyone and everyone who is starving civilians in my country of origin.

    Peace activist, do you know that the Syrian regime's constitution gives police immunity and the president unchecked power? Do you know that Syrians lived under martial law from 1963 to 2011, when it was replaced by the same law with a new name? Do you know that Bashar and his ruling elite plundered the country for over a decade with neoliberal "social market reform" that lined their pockets and caused poverty to skyrocket? Surely you cannot in good conscience go on junkets sponsored by Assad and paid for by the sweat of the Syrian people, peace activist.

    Do you know that in the spring and summer of 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians marched peacefully in over 400 towns in Syria to demand the release of prisoners of conscience, their sons and daughters? Peace activist, at least support the release of all prisoners of conscience in Syria, no matter who holds them. Surely, peace activist, you do not defend authoritarianism, whether Assadist or Islamist.

    Peace activist, do you understand that masses of Syrians protested in those marches because they want the fall of this regime and their human rights back, independently of any U.S. agenda? Do you know that Hama's square was full of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who were nonviolent and nonsectarian and loudly against the regime, week after week, through July 2011? Call those hundreds of thousands of Syrians proxies of imperialist agendas. Or deny their existence; maybe Syrians imagined it all, those heady days, the hope, the camaraderie. But don't support a dictator, peace activist.

    Deny that Syrians chanted "the people want the fall of the regime" from their hearts. Maybe, in your view, Syrians have no hearts. They have no heads. They have no will. Maybe Syrian crowds can only have roared "the people want the fall of the regime" because they are pawns in a war started by the CIA. Perhaps all over Syria, in the villages, in the cities, among Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, and Shia, anyone in my country of origin who hates the authoritarian regime is an agent of imperialism. Salamiya, a predominantly Ismailia Shia town, was among the first to protest, led by women; deny those women, call them foreign agitators all-but don't support Assad.

    Deny the live ammunition Assad troops fired, killing hundreds of unarmed protesters month after month throughout 2011, beginning with young Husam Ayash in Dara on March 18, 2011. Deny the bombs Assad dropped from helicopters on crowded civilian quarters for nearly a year before the horrors of ISIS surfaced. Deny that barrel bombs are used by the regime to kill civilians indiscriminately. Deny that the same Syrians who protested Assad are also protesting ISIS, now squashed under two layers of authoritarianism. Surely you stand against all authoritarianism, peace activist.

    Let actual Syrians with agency and voice be utterly absent from your gaze, U.S. peace activist. Ignore the activism of four Syrian women, including Catherine Altalli, a Christian Syrian, who organized the peaceful march for the families of prisoners of conscience on March 16, 2011, only to witness those gathered get electrocuted and clubbed by Assad's police. Ignore the minority women's activism which created Syria's Stop the Killing movement that sought to restore nonviolent protest throughout 2012. Ignore this part of our recent history and transform all Syrian protesters into deluded proxies or silent victims for your use, as you put on rallies in the U.S. saying displaying Assad's picture and saying "Hands Off Syria" but not to the main killer in Syria, not to all parties killing in Syria.

    Deny my friend Tayseer Elkarim, who was one of the Syrians protesting. He was 31 years old. He had just struggled to finish a medical degree. He ran to his balcony in Damsacus. He heard the chant "the people want the fall of the regime." He made the decision to join the marchers. He ran into the crowd. He later treated wounded protesters in secret-unarmed protesters wounded by Assad's brutal troops. He belongs to the Syrian Nonviolence Movement, a group that Syrians formed inside Syria which I later joined from diaspora as a Syrian-born woman who holds U.S. citizenship.

    Go ahead, deny that Tayseer was imprisoned by Assad from December 2011 to March 2012. Tayseer was tortured for four months. His teeth were broken in torture. He was tortured for protesting. He was tortured for treating wounded protesters. He later escaped from Syria. My American dentist saw his teeth and gave him a free root canal. "Because I can see what's been deliberately done to his teeth. He's been through enough." Tayseer is not just a Syrian victim; Tayseer is a physician. Now he treats patients in refugee camps. Meanwhile, U.S. activists go on junkets arranged by Assad to come back and deny what Tayseer, and thousands of other Syrians, have experienced.

    Deny Tayseer's pain, then. Deny his broken teeth. Deny every broken tooth of every Syrian tortured by Assad. Maybe it was all a sleight of hand produced by those who want to prop the U.S. war machine. Accuse Tayseer and his fellow protesters of feeding the U.S. war machine, because that's what was on their minds, standing on their balconies in Syria. Just don't support Assad.

    Deny my fellow poet Khawla Dunia, journalist from an Alawite background, who went out to protest with the first protesters. Deny the testimonials she posted from under regime bombing. Deny that our beloved Syrian television star Fadwa Suleiman, who is Alawite, marched and sang with the protesters time and again, sending out her testimonial videos from Homs' mass peaceful protests. Perhaps it was all an illusion produced in a Qatari studio, the masses of Syrians of different sect backgrounds who went out in civic unity against the regime, chanting "Sunnis and Alawites, we all want freedom!"

    Deny the existence of my first cousin, Hanan Lahham, longtime nonviolence teacher. She led protest marchers in Daraya on25 April 2011. Do you know that her small Damascus school teaching children by the principles of nonviolence was closed by the regime for joining the Dignity Strike of December 2011, a strike organized by the peace activists of Syria in a collective called Freedom Days Syria?

    Deny all the lived experiences of Syrians under a brutal police state, and deny the vicious suppression of their peaceful protest movement of 2011, if you must. You can only do this if you stay far away from Syrians-because all Syrians, whether for or against the Syrian protest movement, at least know it happened. All Syrians see other Syrians in their range of vision, but you don't seem to see or know any Syrians close up, U.S. peace activist.

    So, U.S. peace activist, stay in your viewpoint whose beginning and end is a debate over militarism and imperialism in your own society. What we say as Syrians only seems to confuse you, in your dogged focus on your particular pro-war/anti-war debate, so don't notice that our unique struggle does not simply fill a convenient slot in that debate. If we disagree with your position in that debate, you think it means we must want the opposite of what you want. We want for Syria: an end to the killing by all parties and an end to authoritarianism of all kinds. That takes creative thinking. We wish you would join us in creative thinking. But you're adamant about not listening to Syrian peace activists.

    So don't listen to a single Syrian. Don't seek out Syrian peace activists. We forgive you. Only, in your single-mindedness to be anti-war, do not support Assad.

    Peace activist? Be for peace. Say "stop the killing in Syria" to everyone. And then you will have found a way.


    1. Fadwa Suleiman:;
    2. Women of Salamiya:
    3. Husam Ayash:
    4. Hundreds of thousands protest in Syria:
    5. On Taysir Alkarim's imprisonment:
    6. Khawla Dunia:
    7. Catherine Altalli:…/07/world/meast/syrian-revolution-women/
    8. My first cousin Hanan Lahham leading a protest in Daraya:
    9. Freedom Days Syria and the Dignity Strike:
    10. Stop the Killing movement of Syria: 

    Syrian poet, novelist, professor Mohja Kahf and poet Marvin X at the  University of Arkansas, Fayettevile where she teaches English and Islamic literature. She considers Marvin X the father of Muslim American literature. 

    Saturday, September 7, 2013

    Two Poems for Syria 

    by Marvin X and Mohja Kahf

    Oh, Mohja
    how much water can run from rivers to sea
    how much blood can soak the earth
    the guns of tyrants know no end
    a people awakened are bigger than bullets
    there is no sleep in their eyes
    no more stunted backs and fear of broken limbs
    even men, women and children are humble with sacrifice
    the old the young play their roles
    with smiles they endure torture chambers
    with laughs they submit to rape and mutilations
    there is no victory for oppressors
    whose days are numbered
    as the clock ticks as the sun rises
    let the people continue til victory
    surely they smell it on their hands
    taste it on lips
    believe it in their hearts
    know it in their minds
    no more backwardness no fear
    let there be resistance til victory.
    --Marvin X/El Muhajir

    Syrian poet/professor Dr. Mohja Kahf

    Oh Marvin, how much blood can soak the earth?

    The angels asked, “will you create a species who will shed blood

    and overrun the earth with evil?” 

    And it turns out “rivers of blood” is no metaphor: 


    see the stones of narrow alleys in Duma

    shiny with blood hissing from humans? Dark

    and dazzling, it keeps pouring and pumping

    from the inexhaustible soft flesh of Syrians,

    and neither regime cluster bombs from the air,

    nor rebel car bombs on the ground,

    ask them their names before they die. 

    They are mowed down like wheat harvested by machine,

    and every stalk has seven ears, and every ear a hundred grains.

    They bleed like irrigation canals into the earth.

    Even one little girl in Idlib with a carotid artery cut

    becomes a river of blood. Who knew she could be a river 

    running all the way over the ocean, to you,

    draining me of my heart? And God said to the angels, 

    “I know what you know not.” But right now,

    the angels seem right. Cut the coyness, God;

    learn the names of all the Syrians.

    See what your species has done.

    --Mohja Kahf    

    Marvin X on Sectarianism 
    Marvin X
    Black Arts Movement poet
    Gene Hazzard
    Sectarianism has been known to spark religious violence throughout history. For many years we saw the ugly head of sectarianism in the struggle between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the constant bombings and killings.
    In Africa violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria has approached genocide. Iraq is the latest hot spot of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims. For decades the Shia had been oppressed by the Sunni minority, especially during the regime of Saddam Hussein. When he was overthrown by the US and the Shia majority took political power, naturally the Sunnis were resentful, no one likes to lose power and privilege. Because many Sunnis look upon Shia as heretics, this justifies their sectarian cleansing, even though there has been Sunni/Shia harmony, including marriages throughout the years, but presently there is migration of Shias from Sunni neighborhoods and towns and visa versa. Very little of the refugee plight has made news.
    Of course the US is the cause when she installed the Shia majority, even though majority should rule, we are taught in American Democracy 101. But the resulting violence was predictable and much of it could have been prevented if the Americans had not been the "peacemakers."
    Now the violence is being instigated by the insurgents who are directing their wrath against the Shia as well as the Americans. And naturally the Shia are taking revenge since they have political and military power, including their own militias integrated into the army and police but loyal to their sect leaders and imams.
    We must see the Sunni violence against the Shia in the broader picture of regional politics. The Sunni regimes in Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, the Gulf States and elsewhere have no desire to see a Shia government in Iraq, however loosely allied it may be with Shia Iran. The Sunni governments have stated their opposition to a Shia expansion from the Tigris/Euphrates to the Mediterranean, uniting with the populations of Shia in Syria and Lebanon where the Hezbollah fighters are a political and military force supported by Iran.
    Have no doubt that the regional Sunni regimes support the insurgency in Iraq. These regimes would rather have their young men leaving their nations to commit suicide in Iraq rather than be part of the opposition within their authoritarian regimes. Better their sons fight the infidel Americans and heretic Shia.
    Of course the historical dispute between the Sunni and Shia began in 632AD upon the death of prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Thus this Sunni/Shia conflict is much more outstanding than colonialism, including the neo-colonial Americans. There is no hatred like religious hatred. We can see that violence between Sunnis and Shia has surpassed that between Sunnis and the Christian Americans, supposedly the enemy of all Muslims. For sure, Americans were the catalyst, but the roots of the present sectarian violence began over succession to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
    The Sunnis said the successor should be selected from among the people, Abu Bakr. The Shia said it should be from the prophet's bloodline, Ali. The Sunnis won out and labeled the Shia heretics, especially when they elevated the status of Imam Ali and future Shia Imams to the level of the Caliphs or rulers after the prophet, including veneration of their tombs in various Shia holy cities such as Qum in Iran, Najaf and Karbala in Iraq. Several Shia imams were assassinated, including Ali and Hussein.
    There are major Shia rituals that celebrate the martyrdom of their imams. The Shia feeling of lost is similar to the feeling of lost among Sunni Muslims in America about Malcolm X allegedly being assassinated by the Nation of Islam. This feeling of lost is shared by much of the African American community. 
    Malcolm's death caused a great division that has yet to heal and may never heal, despite the unifying efforts of Farakhan with his Million Man Marches and other efforts.
    Perhaps we can understand the Sunni/Shia struggle from this perspective. There are some Blacks who hate other Blacks as a result of the Malcolm X affair more than they hate the white man for all his centuries of evil and wickedness against Blacks. For the US government's role in the Malcolm affairand have no doubt about their involvement, they benefited by divide and conquer, that classic Willie Lynch slave master tricknology.
    Sectarian violence in Iraq may continue unabated, for it is beyond civil war, beyond American occupation, but deeply rooted in religiosity, myth and ritual. Even Sunni fear of Shia regional expansion is rooted in Shia eschatology or end time. This is evident in pronouncements from the Shia regime in Iran, boldly determined to pursue a nuclear weapons future and calling for the destruction of Israel, motivated by their belief the time has arrived for Shia geo-political and spiritual domination, and certainly Iraq will play a role in this Shia myth-ritual drama.
    This drama has implications far beyond any American notion of installing democracy in Iraq or anywhere else in the region, for people are motivated by mythology and prophecy, political aspirations being secondary. It is their spiritual aspirations that are primary. Shia Iran appears prepared to commit mass suicide challenging the Americans and Europeans over nuclear technology, even though the Iranians have every right to posses the Islamic bomb, just as we have the Jewish bomb and the Christian bomb. I say get rid of all the nuclear weapons or level the playing field as in the wild wild west: let everybody pack.
    As per Iraq, it doesn't matter whether the Americans stay or go, they have opened Pandora's box and mean spirits are blowing in the desert winds. Only Allah knows how these issues will be resolved. Perhaps the Sunnis and Shias shall fight until they tire of killing, then reconcile in the manner of Isaiah, "Let us reason together."
    Source: Beyond Religion, Toward Spirituality, Black Bird Press, 2007  (c) 2006 by Marvin X (El Muhajir)
    *   *   *   *   *
    Marvin X has given permission to Harvard University to publish his poem "For El Haji Rasul Taifa" from Love and War: Poems by Marvin X (1995). The poem will appear in The Encyclopedia of Islam in America Volume II, Greenwood Press, edited by Dr. Jocelyne Cesari of Harvard's Islam in the West Program. Mr. X is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Muslim American Literature, University of Arkansas Press, edited by Dr. Mojah Khaf. He is also in the forthcoming Muslim American Drama, Temple University.
    from Chickenbones, posted 19 June 2006

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    Parable of the Rats by Marvin X

    The rats all have the same gait: they scurry about, back broken by an abundance of lies, half-truths and disinformation, defamation and other tactics of rat behavior. Even their facial expressions have a rat like appearance, so you can see them coming a mile away. You can smell a funky rat. We suspect the two legged variety even has a tail hidden inside their pants or underneath their dresses, yes, there are rats of every gender, every color, class. Some are sewer rats, some are wharf rats, some are subway rats, church rats, house rats. But their behavior is the same. They are on the lower level of humankind, these two legged rats. They can do nothing right. They cannot give justice even with the scale in view while they weigh goods. They will lie while you look at them playing with the scale. They will try to convince you the scale doesn't work while it is their minds that have not evolved to work on the human level.

    There is only one thing to do with such rats: set a trap for them or feed them poison cheese and watch them puke and vomit until they die. Better yet, let the cat catch their asses. It is beautiful watching the cat catch a rat, seeing how still the cat will become while stalking his prey. But the cat will lie in wait for the rat as long as it takes, never moving, never batting his eye. And then he leaps upon his prey and devours him. It is a beautiful sight when when the cat and rat game reaches the climax and ends with the consumption of the rat by the cat.
    --Marvin X

    Parable of a Square Bitch by Marvin X

    Re: Good Places For Black Men to Meet Eligible Black Women...

    She was a square bitch, sophisticated Spelman bitch, til Dante turned her out, made her a stripper, climbing up and down poles like a monkey.

    She stripped til her mama and daddy came and got her and took her home for a rest. But she soon returned to college and Dante turned her out again, this time at the dope house, stripping, sucking and fucking  the brothers and sisters in the dope house. Strung out so tough she rented out to the dope man  the BMW her daddy bought for her when she first got to college. She waited outside the dope house all weekend til the dope man returned her car. Square bitch. Know everything dumb ass bitch.

    Took two courses in Black Studies and claimed she knew all of African history, knew who she was and nobody could tell her shit. She was an educated black woman. But when she got a chance to travel abroad, she went to Europe rather than Africa. Said she wasn't ready for Africa. Nor was she interested in that Black Lives Matter bullshit, all lives mattered to her, specially when she met a hipster named Brando. Brando taught her color doesn't matter, so she believed him, until they got drunk one night and he called her his nigger bitch. The real nigguh came out of her and she slapped him, called him a low life peckerwood white trash bastard. When neighbors heard the noise and called the police, they came and saw Brando had bruises on his face, so they took her black ass to jail. Her mama and daddy sent money to bail her out.

    She left Brando and slipped back into the hood looking for Dante. Dante told her, "I don't want yo punk ass, bitch. Go back to that peckerwood motherfucker, you funky ho!" She begged Dante, "Please, please, Dante, I just wanna be black again, please take me back, I'll do anything.""Ok, bitch, get me a choosin fee and hurry up. You know what to do." Miss Square bitch got on the phone to some tricks so she could get Dante's choosin fee. She got it together and presented it to Dante. He said, "Ok, bitch, don't give me no motherfuckin trouble. Don't you ever again tell me about some motherfuckin boundaries. You do whatever the fuck I tell you quick and in a hurry, you hear me, bitch?""Yes, Dante."

    She moved in with Dante and his other ho's and they were all happy together for a time.
    --Marvin X
    Parable of the No People

    No, no, no! That is all you say. Everything about you is no. Your lips say no, your eyes, your heart, your mind, your arms, your legs, your feet. You are a no person. I run from you. You say no to God. I am afraid of your no touch. I cannot expand my mind around no people. You will kill my spiritual development. No no no no!
    When you say yes to life you open the world of infinite possibilities. I understand no part of no, only infinite possibilities. No does not exist in my world, only yes. Yes to love. Yes to success, yes to hope, yes to truth, yes to prosperity, yet to divinity, yes to resurrection, yes to ascension, yes to eternity. I am the language of yes. If you cannot say yes, get away from me. I run from you, want nothing to do with you. There is no hope for you until you open your mouth to yes.

    Cast away the yes fear. Let it go, let God. Yes. No matter what, yes. No matter how long, yes.
    No matter how hard, yes. Let there be peace in the house, yes. Let there be love between you and me, yes. Let there be revolution in the land, over the world, yes. We will try harder, yes, we won't give up, yes. We shall triumph, yes. Yes is the language of God. Yes is the language of Divinity, Spirituality.

    All the prophets ssaid yes. Adam said yes, Abraham said yes. Moses said yes. Solomon said yes.
    Job said yes. Jeremiah, Isaiah said yes. The lover in Song of Solomon said yes. David said yes.
    John and Jesus sasid yes. Muhammad said yes. Elijah and Malcolm, Martin and Garvey, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth said yes. Fannie Lou and Rosa Parks, Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott ssaid yes.
    Mama and daddy said yes. Grandma and grandpa said yes. All the ancestors said yes. Forevermore, let go of no and say yes. Dance to yes. Shout to yes!
    --Marvin X

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    Marvin X, grandson Jah Amiel ( who told his grandfather at three years old, "Grandfather, you can't save the  world, but I can!") and brother Oliver W. Jackmon, II, who joined the ancestors today in Oakland CA. They are seated at Marvin's Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway. After getting his medication at Walgreen's and cigarettes from the tobacco shop (No doubt his smoking habit caused the throat cancer that led to his demise), Ollie would often sit, chat and observe his baby brother at work (Ishmael Reed said "If you want to learn about inspiration and motivation, , don't spend all that money going to workshops and seminars, just go stand at 14th and Broadway and watch Marvin X at work. He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland.").

    Oliver W. Jackmon, II, 73, oldest of the six children of Owendell Jackmon, I and Marian Murrill Jackmon, passed away today at Oakland's Summit Hospital after suffering heart failure at his Lake Merritt apartment, where he lived around the corner from his infamous younger brother ( one year separated them) Marvin X.

    Marvin X immortalized his brother in his most famous Black Arts Movement play Flowers for the  Trashman. The play made reference to his brother doing time at Soledad Prison. His  brother was unknown but was involved in the American prison movement that evolved at Soledad Prison. The most well known fellow inmates of Ollie Jackmon were George Jackson, Eldridge Cleaver and Alprintice Bunchy Carter.

    Beginning with juvenile hall in Fresno (a few times both Jackmon boys were in juvenile hall at the same time (only Marvin's grades saved him from CYA: honor student, juvenile delinquent), and graduating to California Youth Authority and on to San Quentin, Folsom and Soledad, Oliver's last prison term was in Washington State where he did twelve years for gun violence.

    Upon his release, he returned to Oakland and moved near Lake Merritt where he and his brother finally had a brotherly relationship after they missed he others  love during their teenage and adult years due to Ollie's incarceration.
    Ollie leaves behind a son, Mario,  in Houston, Texas. Mario grew up as a square, protected by his mother who guided and protected him for the criminal life of his father. When Mario told his father he wanted to be like him, Ollie said, "Son, don't you see what the criminal life got me. You don't want to live the life I lived! Do you want to live most of your life in prison?"

    Ollie leaves behind  five sisters: Judy, Ann, Debbie, Suzie, Gale and two brothers, Marvin and Tommy, and numerous nieces and nephews throughout California, Portland OR, Seattle WA,  East coast, Dirty South, Europe, Caribbean and Africa.
    He requested cremation, no memorial. In his own words, he said, "Don't say a motherfuckin' thing bout me, don't say shit!" Nice words for a career criminal who was gentle as a lamb until crossed.
    I have already violated my brothers request with the above words. Let me conclude by saying I loved him dearly and missed him much growing up,  but I am happy we were able to spend the last few years around the corner from each other. He loved solitude and so do I so I gave him his space. May the ancestors be pleased with him.

    Ollie, in spite of your negrocities (Amiri Baraka term)  I always thought you were a better man, i.e., human being, than I am.

    People said he was a great guy until you crossed him. I never crossed my brother!--well, until today because he told me don't say shit about him! lol

    For sure, he was among the warriors of the American Prison Movement and Black Liberation Movement. As prison griot Kumasi says, "You guys had your revolution on the outside while we had ours inside the prisons walls. It was kill or be killed, so we did what we had to do to survive down in the dungeon, the American Gulag!"

    FYI, one of his homeboys from Fresno was  Willie Sundiata Tate of the San Quentin Six. Tate said that last time I saw Ollie was San Quentin Prison, 1968. After his final release, Tale wanted to meet with Ollie, but my brother declined to meet with his fellow inmates, again, he came to love solitude.

    I did my best to give him his space because as a writer I understand the need for solitude. My brother told me when he was fighting his last case, he could have gotten more time off his case if he'd stayed in county jail and fought the case, but he chose to return to prison so he would not lose his single cell. 

    We want the world to know our sister Debbie assisted Ollie in his last days and he literally suffered a heart attack in her arms. So we love you Debbie for being there for our beloved brother. We know you are stressing greatly at this hour, so may the Creator relieve your stress and grant you peace of mind. Surely after difficulty comes ease says Allah!

    We lost two of our siblings this year: Donna and Ollie, so our family is suffering grief. We understand death is part of life and one cannot separate the two. Let me end with a quote from my poem for Monk: Round Midnight:
    ...Death is always round
    tryin ta steal life
    Death is always round
    tryin ta steal life
    if it don't get the husband
    it get the wife.....
    --Marvin X

    As-Salaam-Alaikum, Big Brother, Ollie, Appreciate You!
    Marvin X. Jackmon

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    The indefatigable and peripatetic, Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, activist, planner

    We have tried to imagine the endgame of historical events and present events rooted in history, especially unresolved events, e.g., justice, political and economic equity for descendants of African victims of the American slave system; the resolution of genocide upon indigenous Americans; justice and full nationhood for Palestinians; the self determination of Arab and African peoples, free of colonialism, neo-colonialism and globalism, the most despicable animal of modern times. Globalism is like a drug addiction, cunning and vile, with no discrimination of nations and peoples, and yet  globalism is a conundrum because we are perplexed when we attempt to discern the motivation of globalists who already possess 1% of global wealth. They already possess most of the world's wealth, so what else do they desire? It is desires that transcend greed, jealousy, envy. It is more morbid and sinister approaching something demonic, like pure evil. For example, why would the Clinton Foundation raise money for Haiti and take 94% of funds raised for Haiti earthquake relief; Haiti, a nation with a plethora of maladies and a myriad ills that would take someone beyond a rocket scientist to ameliorate.

    As per the most complex question of the modern era, The Negro Question, and even the question is made more complex by the very title of the question which is itself bound in what we call the psycho-linguistic crisis of North American Africans who change the very title of the question every few decades, most especially the identity of the people in question: African, Negro, Black, Afro, Kemite, Sudanese, Bilalian, etc. Let us call it the So-called Negro Question, borrowing from Nation of Islam linguistics. Elijah Muhammad tried to simplify our linguistics along with our reality in these hells of North America as he described it. As per identity, he said we are the Aboriginal Asiatic Black Man and Woman, mother and father of the universe. Most scholars acknowledge his history and mythology. But because of what Harold Cruse called historical discontinuity (see Crisis of the Negro Intellectual), we essentially have a problem of consensus or the lack thereof. This lack of consensus is far beyond the psycho-linguistic crisis and identity politics, but it poisons any discussion of relevant topics of communal issues.

    Consensus is necessary for communal progress. If we cannot agree on our agenda, whether political, economic, spiritual, cultural, all meetings, conferences, conventions are bound to be a failure. This is why so many of our gatherings end with confusion and disillusionment. People come with a plethora of ideologies that are often dogmatic, sectarian, and narrow-minded. If you want to complicate matters, add to the confusion religiosity, ageism and the inter-generational crisis.

    So after 400 years in the wilderness of North America, we are yet treading water in a pitiful state; we suffer a severe case of the Sisyphus Syndrome, i.e., in the manner of the Greek myth of the man who rolled the rock up the hill only to have it escape his grasp and fall down the mountain. W.E.B. DuBois and more recently ancestor Amiri Baraka wrote about the Myth of Sisyphus. in his opera. In my interview with Arna Bontempts, associate of Langston Hughes; Bontempts was also author of that revolutionary novel Black Thunder about Gabriel Prosser's slave revolt, said we seem to react every thirty years, another outbreak for freedom, a spark of dry bones coming into consciousness, most often brought about by political-economic circumstances. When our situation becomes dire, we hear talk and some action toward Blaxit as we are hearing at this hour as the election of Donald Trump approaches inauguration day.

    But as per usual, our action is reaction. We somehow cannot gather the energy to be proactive and push our agenda. Even with the out-going Black President, we failed to push our agenda with him so he responded to other agendas that did not benefit us in the least. What does gay/lesbian marriage have to do with the 400 year old fight for the liberation of North American Africans? Our struggle has nothing to do with marriage: liberation of a people is about self-determination, i.e.,  the political, economic and cultural freedom of a people. Once we exercise self determination and sovereignty, we can configure our social life and  resolve  gender identity issues, especially issues rooted in the patriarchy  of white supremacy. So what that now you can marry a tree but we ain't free in any political sense and most certainly in any economic sense. For sure, the entire world needs to deconstruct its antiquated sexual mythology rooted in religiosity, but we have priorities and often we are  distracted by those who have their own agenda for us that is not a priority for us.

    Beyond the So-called Negro Question

    As we continue our quest to unravel the conundrum of the endgame, we must explore the condition of indigenous peoples in America, to say nothing of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. Alas, the President of Bolivia is the first indigenous leader in 500 years! The burning question is what do we imagine will finally placate the dreams and aspirations of the remaining aboriginal peoples so fortunate to survive the European holocaust and genocide. As we travel throughout the USA and see the beauty of the land, with full knowledge of the genocide, we wonder why it was necessary, for sure there was/is enough land here for anybody and/or everybody who would come in peace, come correct minus that apparently impossible dream of Europeans sharing instead of destroying and dominating.

    Since we know what goes around comes around, could anyone imagine when the day of judgment would arrive and the God of Justice would raise His hand to adjudicate matters for once and all times? Why could not those socalled erudite founding fathers and those who came after, discuss that maybe their grand experiment would one day have dire consequences of the most damaging degree imaginable. For one day the remnants of the subject people would rise up in coalition with other oppressed peoples and completely demolish the regime of the settler invaders.

    The Palestinian Question

    I am a war baby, born in 1944. I was thus four years old in 1948 when the state of Israel was established. As a child at the drive-in theatre, when I used to watch the newsreel, I used to wonder to myself why all those Arabs were fleeing across that bridge into Jordan. I never asked my parents why, but my four year old mind wondered and wandered over the plight of the Palestinian people.

    As we look back at history, we must recall the Crusades and the fact that the Christians were forced to depart the "holy lands' after 100 years when the Kurd Saladin forced them back to Europe. Richard the Lion Hearted attempted to conquer Jerusalem but made peace with Saladin and returned to Europe, if my study of history is correct. But as we imagine the end-game, how can we not imagine a similar scenario for Israel who is in the same role as the Crusaders, in fact, represent the Zionist and Crusader mythology.

    The irony is that in this part of the world, political chicanery and duplicity is the name of the game and we need only take a cursory glance at the Syrian quagmire to see there are no players left out of the Syrian theatre of war, the grand stand of geo-politics in the Middle East, most assuredly leading us into World War Three. For those steeped in religiosity and biblical prophesy, we have heard with the armies are drawn nigh to Jerusalem, know that the end is near!


    We wonder is there or will there ever be a resolution to any of the above issues. Nobody wants more than justice and nobody wants less. But there are those who talk endlessly about peace but refuse to mention justice. Don't they say peace is the absence of war, which only means peace is not justice, thus war shall continue until justice arrives in her royal robes and the scales of Ma'at will weigh justice to see if she is lighter than a feather or heavier than Mount Tai! Imagine this!
    --Marvin X

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    The endgame for the oppressed can only be joy and happiness, for surely after difficulty comes peace says Al Qur'an. The ultimate peace for North American Africans is nationhood. The same is true for the American indigenous people. Same for the Palestinians. The right wing globalism and left wing internationalism cannot go anywhere devoid of nationalism. How can we skip to internationalism without the path of nationalism? It's like getting into the pussy without the foreplay! And if the woman demands foreplay, the step to internationalism must include nationalism, alas, in Africa we would call it tribalism or the recognition thereof: tribalism must be recognized even before nationalism. Muddled headed North American African intellectuals yet in crisis since Harold Cruse deconstructed our malady, want to jump into internationalism, Pan Africanism and other ideological fantastic notions that will never attract the masses of North American Africans. It has been told to me that Africans told North American Africans thank you for helping us with African Liberation Day but you North American Africans are free and therefore do not need the assistance of Africans in your struggle with the white man! North American Africans were deeply unsettled by the pronouncements of their Pan African brothers, especially since we had supported African liberation unselfishly. In short, we had helped our African bothers liberate themselves but were not getting mutual support from them for our final confrontation with the American Beast!

    But surely we know all peoples and nations look out for their own interests first and foremost. We neglected to insure our own struggle to aid our brothers and sisters in the Motherland, yet it wasn't mutual and we were played in the name of internationalism in general and Pan Africanism in particular.

    Elijah Muhammad told us to help ourselves first! How can you help somebody else when you haven't helped yourself? Didn't mama and daddy teach us charity begins at home and spreads abroad?  When we meet with our Pan African nationalists, what are we bringing to the table? Are we a sovereign national entity or just some crack headed Pan Africanan intellectuals without a mandate from our nation of North American Africans? As Mayor Ras Baraka noted in his brief words at the State of the Black Race Conference in Newark, NJ: have you gone to the churches  and senior citizen centers with your message of Pan Africanism and revolution? No, you have not. You are the group of usual suspects that have kept us in perpetual intellectual crisis in general and whores and sycophants of the Democratic Party pseudo liberal white supremacists in particular.

    We see it was pure white nationalism that brought Donald Trump to victory. Pan Africanism without nationalism is a romantic dream that the EU has smashed. African nations have lately reconsidered Kwame Nkrumah's vision of the United States of Africa. North American Africans will conclude if they are to enjoy the American pie, especially upon the Balkanization of the US that we see is on the horizon, they will ultimately consider the nation state. We see the endgame of America as a possible civil war ending with the partitioning of the US into ethnic nation states enjoying self determination and sovereignty. After a four hundred years marriage with the USA, North American Africans must conclude it was a marriage impossible because the parties are disagreeable to live together in freedom, justice and equality.

    This endgame will be most painful for our children who only wanted to be treated as human beings and treat others as human beings, yet they were forced to face reality and remove their rose colored glasses. Even my children who were conservative by education in the legal profession, were forced to alter they ideology for reality and decided to Blaxit, i;e., remove themselves from the USA back to the Motherland. They were forced to conclude the USA is a racist society beyond recovery of their addiction to white supremacy!

    Imagine the  trauma of a mother forced to decide the USA is not the place to raise and educate her black or African son, especially after witnessing the treatment of Black African boys in the most liberal of US cities, Berkeley CA. My daughter witnessed black boys relegated to "holding cells" in the public schools before they entered the California Department of Corrections. And even the President of the Berkeley NAACP described the treatment of North American African employees in the Berkeley Public Schools and other workplaces in Berkeley as "ethnic cleansing." Of course the response from the white liberals was that the NAACP had crossed the line of propriety in his linguistics and requested he adopt a more Miller Lite linguistics. Perhaps the NAACP President should say the education and workplace of North American Africans reflects the most progressive relationship between ethnic students and employees. We should be happy our children are treated as inmates in holding cells and our workers on the precipice of general removal from employment in the City of Berkeley.

    Onward to the Indigenous Peoples in the USA

    When it becomes crystal clear the USA endgame is balkinization or the breakup of states and cities into ethnic enclaves with self-determination and nationhood, surely the indigenous peoples will finally recover they human and communal dignity. Who knows better than they that the white man speaks with a forked tongue is his agreements in word or on paper are worthless poppycock! One can even reflect on the voting rights the condition of North Americans Africans to wonder why their voting rights must be renewed if they are in fact full citizens of the USA. The indigenous people know full well their condition proves beyond a doubt the white man is not to be trusted and unable to be a equitable partner in any agreements, thus war may be the only means to resolve their conflict. They know too, even the American Civil War clearly did not reconcile the issue of full citizenship for North American Africans. We maintain our critical mistake was surrendering the arms of 200,000 African troops who fought on the side of the North in the Civil War. Since giving up our weapons, things that could have been never were, thus we are in the present quagmire, treading water in a pitiful state. Well, we can at least learn from the Arabs and white nationalists in America who have no plans to give up their guns, whether liberal or right wing! Thus as we see with Hamas, Heszollah, USA white liberals or right wingers, none of any plans of giving up their guns, so North American African must think in the same vain, Indigenous people as well. All human beings demand liberty or death!

    As per Arabs, especially Arab Muslims, they and all Muslims pledge their life and death are all for Allah. And this is true for all Muslims everywhere, whether moderate, mild, conservative and/or extreme radicals, the fundamental notion that our lives and deaths are all for Allah is the general consensus among all those who believe Allah is God. On the Islamic mystic plane, we say no attachments but to Allah, yes, beyond wife, husband and children. The Qur'an says, "If your wives and children and the wealth you acquire are dearer to you than Allah, then wait til His command comes to pass. And He guides not the unjust people." Please forgive me if I have misquoted Al Qur'an.

    So again, what is the endgame: war, peace, suffering, prosperity, equity, sovereignty? Well, when a man is in a hole, there is no way to go but up!  Was it not Marcus Garvey who said, "Up you mighty peoples, you can accomplish what you will!"

    And so I conclude with this: the tide is turning because you are turning the tide!
    --Marvin X

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     Sister Debbie and Brother Marvin X; standing Debbie's son Darian

    Darian, Debbie and Marvin X

     John Murrill and Eva Murrill, maternal grandparents of Ollie

    Owendell Jackmon, II and Marian Murrill Jackmon, 1942

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  • 12/27/16--06:33: Kwanza Sacramento
  • No automatic alt text available. 
    Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Kwanzaa Worldwide

    Sacramento’s first Kwanzaa

    Sacramento’s first Kwanzaa was held in 1971 as an outgrowth of Shule Jumamose, a free Saturday School founded in Oak Park by a group of African American parents and students at Sacramento State College, now CSUS.    A core component of the school’s philosophy was the importance of culture and history to the development and success of African American people. 

    Kwanzaa, as founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga of Southern California, fitted Shule Jumamose’s   commitment to traditional African values of family, education, community responsibility, and self-improvement.  Based on the Nguzo Saba, seven guiding principles – Unity (Umoja); Self Determination (Kujichaguilia); collective work and responsibility (Ujima); Cooperative Economics (Ujimaa), purpose (Nia); creativity (Kuumba); and Faith (Imani) – the founders of Shule Jumamose adopted Kwanzaa as the major cultural observation and formed a committee to implement it.

    The original Kwanzaa committee was comprised of Shule Jumamose’s founders Bertha Gaffney Gorman, Martha Tate-Glass  (Reid), and the late Cheryl Fisher, Stan St. Amant and Byron Robertson, and other community activists that included Tchaka Muhammed, Roy Willis, Ramona Armistead, Lujuan and the late Leslie Campbell and late Aisha Yetunde (Barbara Darden). 

    The Sacramento Kwanzaa Committee closely followed the seven principles that Dr. Karengaa deemed critical to the success and strength of an African Americans cultural observation.  Kwanzaa programs emphasized the education of Black children, honored the ancestors and focused on values represented by the seven principles.   Committee members raised money, solicited donations, and donated their own resources to provide the major portions of the food served at the “feast”.  The community was only asked to bring desserts, salads or vegetables (no pork).  

    The committee alternated the observations between Oak Park and Del Paso/Strawberry Manor. Using Fairbanks school, church halls and various community centers.

    Overly ambitious in its efforts in its first year, the Kwanzaa Committee held celebrations the entire seven days, from December 26 to January 1, rotating from Oak Park, to the South Area and Strawberry Manor.  While the effort was successful in getting the word out about this new and positive observation in Sacramento and generated local news coverage, it almost wiped out the committee.

    The second year the committee was more realistic and scaled its Kwanzaa activities back to three days at three different locations in the central city (Oak Park), the South Area and the North Area (Strawberry Manor).

    By the third year the Sacramento Kwanzaa Committee observations had grown from a few dozen people to several hundred participants at each celebration. 

    As Kwanzaa evolved from a “fad” to a serious observation, diverse people began to bring their own interpretation to it.  The media wrote about it, people held Kwanzaa celebrations in their homes; public schools held Kwanzaa observations, and entrepreneurs began holding Kwanzaa events.  After about 12 years, around 1983, the Sacramento Kwanzaa committee simply burned out.

    Kwanzaa as a community observation was dormant in Sacramento for a few years but took on new life sometime in the 1990s and has continued since under the umbrellas of various organizations and groups.

    By Bertha Gaffney Gorman and Martha Tate Glass

    No automatic alt text available.
    2016 Kwanzaa Celebrations in Sacramento
    Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Kwanzaa
    All events are free. Please bring food for the potluck (karamu) at the Dec. 27-Jan.1 events)

    December 27 - 6:00pm-9:00pm, (6-6:30 Drum Circle) – Kugichagulia - Umoja Productions, 23rd Annual Children's Kwanzaa, Roberts Family Development Center, 770 Darina Way, Sacramento. Contact: Mama Maia, 821-6466
    December 28, - 6:30pm-9:00pm - Ujima - Black United Fund of Sacramento, Sacramento Area Black Caucus and Brickhouse Art Gallery & Complex, 2837 36th St., Sacramento. Sorry no vending at this celebration!! Contact: Bertha Udell,
    December 29 - 6:00pm-9:00pm -  Ujamaa - Wo'se African Community-Wackford Community Center, 9014 Bruceville Rd. Elk Grove. Contact: Imhotep Alkebulan, or 486-4664
    December 31 - 3:00pm-4:30pm -  Kuumba - Fenix Drum and Dance Company-Del Paso Heights Library, 920 Grand Ave. Sacramento. Contact: Angela James, 205-3970
     New location:-December 31 - 6:00pm-8:00pm – Kuumba - Kwanzaa Celebration- Robbie Waters Library, 7335 Gloria Drive @ Swale River Wa,Sacramento, Ca. 95831. Doors open: 5:00pm, Kwanzaa celebration begins : 6:00pm.. Contact: Marshall Bailey, 519-4199
    January 1 - 4:00pm- 7:00pm – Imani – 13th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration-Center for Spiritual Awareness, 1275 Starboard Dr. West Sacramento. Contact: Rebecca Davis, 317-6042

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  • 12/02/16--18:09: Do the Charleston
  • Charleston's African-American Heritage

    Famous Folks & Important Facts


    - A Spanish explorer lands on the coast of South Carolina and tries to build a colony. The attempt to build a colony fails, but before survivors leave, some of the Africans brought on the voyage may have escaped and then intermarried with the Indians in the area.


    - About 100 English settlers and at least one enslaved African create the first permanent Colony in South Carolina near present-day Charleston. Soon after, the governor brings a family of enslaved Africans to the Colony. In subsequent years, slaves help establish the Colony in many ways, building homes, cooking, sewing, gardening, cattle raising, and providing many forms of skilled labor and artisanship. Approximately one in three of the early settlers is African.


    - Seed rice arrives in Charleston as a gift from a sea captain whose boat was under repair here. Efforts by the English to grow rice fail. Slaves, who grew rice in Africa, show the English how to grow rice in wet areas. The "rice culture" creates tremendous wealth for the Colony.


    - The growth of indigo and cotton require more labor, which leads to the importation of more captive Africans. By 1708, the numbers of whites and blacks in South Carolina are about 4,000 each. For the next two centuries (except for a brief period between 1790 and 1820), blacks outnumber whites in the state.


    - Roughly 100 slaves capture firearms about 20 miles south of Charles Towne, and they attempt to rally more people to join them during what is now called the Stono Rebellion. They plan to fight their way to St. Augustine where the Spanish promise freedom. They run into a group of whites led by the lieutenant governor of the Colony, who alerts white authorities before the slaves have time to grow into an overwhelming force. The revolt is forcefully put down, and some 60 rebels are executed; many are decapitated.


    - In reaction to the Stono Rebellion, the Legislature passes slave codes that forbid travel without written permission, group meetings without the presence of whites, slaves raising their own food, possessing money, learning to read, and the use of drums, horns and other "loud instruments" that might be used by slaves to communicate with each other.


    - Denmark Vesey Plot. Led by Denmark Vesey, an African Methodist Episcopal church leader who purchased his freedom for $600. The well-planned and widespread rebellion involved about 9,000 people. However, two house slaves informed their masters before the planned date. Vesey, who refused to reveal any names, was hanged along with five others two days before local Independence Day festivities.


    - Robert Smalls, a Charleston harbor pilot (and future state legislator 1871-1878), along with his family and a few friends, take control of the Confederate steamer, The Planter, sailing it out of Charleston Harbor and presenting it to the U.S. Navy. The Planter is converted for use as a Union ship and serves in that capacity throughout the Civil War.


    - In support of the Liberia Emigration Movement (1877-1878), the Rev. Richard H. Cain, a local and national AME leader and politician, sponsors a bill to pay passage for those who desire to return to Africa. As a result, the ship Azor leaves from Charleston with 206 black emigrants en route to Liberia, West Africa.


    - The Rev. Daniel Joseph Jenkins establishes the first and only orphanage for blacks in Charleston. The orphanage is created to be self-supporting with departments where orphans learn trades, produce items for sale and learn music. The Jenkins Orphanage Band is created to help raise funds for the institution.


    - Chapters of the NAACP are organized in Charleston.


    - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks from the pulpit of Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street. King is brought to Charleston to help spark local voter registration efforts.


    - Reuben Greenberg, an African American, is appointed city of Charleston police chief.


    - On July 3, a 6-foot historical marker is placed on Sullivan's Island near Fort Moultrie to honor those enslaved Africans who arrived in bondage via Charleston Harbor.

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    Jean and Doug Carn were the voice of the black love 60s. Doug and Jean warmed our hearts with love songs of  partner love family love that sustained us into the turbulent 70s, those years after the USA destroyed the Black Panther Party and other remnants of the Black Liberation Movement. Doug and Jean sustained us in critical  moments of transition accompanied by despair! Here was a beautiful artistic couple full of African talent that soothed our hearts to the ultimate. Infant Eyes is a classic of that time in our history when black was beatiful, when we would be insulted if we came into town and checked into a hotel room rather than staying with our friends. Yes, staying at a hotel might be considered a civil rights achievement by those addicted to civil "rites" (Sun ra, Black Arts Movement) but the consciousness community would consider it an insult to come into town and not stay with friends and revolutionary comrades.

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     Ollie Jackmon, Soldier, Black Liberation Army, American Gulag, aka Department of Corrections

    People ask me how I feel
    ain't tryin to feel
    don't want to feel
    deny feel
    silence feel
    medicate feel
    do you feel his vibration in his house
    damn right I feel his vibration 
    had to leave
    vibration too strong
    after a lifetime of missing him
    together in the end
    in 33rd
    loved him
    said he didn't know love
    sister debbie made him know love died in her arms, died in the arms of love
    got to know love in the end
    what else matters God is Love
    my favorite song Nature Boy say,
    "The greatest thing
    you will ever learn
    is to love
    and be loved in return...."
    --Marvin X


    West Oakland nigguh don't give a fuck
    west oakland nigguh
    so what bad and good luck
    west oakland prescott elementary
    lincoln theatre
    don't give a fuck
    cambell village
    pennywell gang
    harold campbell
    heroes of my youth
    ward brothers
    alvis billy ray ward
    tribal oakland
    nigguhs move east
    harlem of the west no more
    bart station moderism
    main post office moderism
    where the people made west oakland live
    culture business art sports where
    negro removal ethnic cleansing gentrification
    west oakland closer to sf than sf mayor jerry brown said
    witch doctor supreme
    brought ten thousand whites colonial children hipsters to occupy oakland
    seize west oakland closer the sf than sf
    hipsters march black lives matter
    buy houses of black lives matter
    displace black lives matter
    smiling faces first friday black lives matter
    occupy oakland black lives matter
    displace oakland black lives matter
    fire fire fire fire fire
    white art matters
    hipsters matter
    developers matter
    Black lives don't matter!
    Ax somebody
    Better ax somebody Houston TX Negroes say
    Better ax 'em!
    --Marvin X

    I remember 7th Street West Oakland
    up and down the street
    7th and Peralta jazz blues
    Lincoln Theatre jazz blues black films news
    Lorraine's greasy spoon
    hamburger heart attack fries
    Pear's Cafe
    turkey wings
    Perry's Shoe Shine
    dad got us ready for shined shoes church rounds  
    Church of God in Christ Holy Ghost Sinners Temple
    St. John's Baptist on Market Street
    Down's Memorial where dad membered
    Rev. Cecil Williams tenured on the way to Glide
    Moon's Records
    Scott's Keys
    John Singer's
    Pullman Porters Union Hall
    Slim Jenkins with Josephine Baker Earl Father Hines
    Esther's Orbit Room
    BARN funky buffet

    Pine Street ho stroll
    16th Street AMTRAK station
    tell ho i'm writer
    you ain't no writer nigguh
    Ho Hotel by hour
    Army  base
    Naval Supply Center
    7th Street
    Bumper to bumper cars
    bumper to bumper nigguh weekends
    7th and Campbell Jackmon's Florist
    Granny in window
    watch nigguh weekends
    fascinated by street nigguh love
    soldiers sailors nigguhsfightin stabbing killing
    club let out pussy time
    hammond b3 organ  jazz pussy
    jimmy smith pussy
    hammond b 3 jammin up down 7th
    Arthur Prysock Man Ain't Supposed to Cry'
    name of my first autobiography at 18
    nigguh ain't lived writin autography
    nigguh please
    get a life then write autobiography

    my life was music
    musicians in theatre
    dancing through the aisles
    Donald Garrett
    Dewey Redman
    Monte Waters
    Earle Davis
    wailing jazz blues black classical sounds
    harmonizing Fillmore Street rhythms
    musicians on street playing car sounds
    cars honking call and response
    musicians freeing us from freedom
    Donald Rafael Garrett bassist leading actors to freedom
    jazz is  you
    go black actor go
    Ed Bullins
    Marvin X
    Actor Danny Glover
    Papa's Daughter
    by Dorothy Ahmad
    Danny got ready for Color Purple
    same theme same dream
    Dewey gave birth to Joshuah
    Joshuah transcends daddy sound
    son did same to me on tennis court
    beat my ass and laughed all the way
    no more tennis for me.
    like Merritt College basketball team 1962
    gave it up driving into hole for layup
    tall Mack nigguhs ain't elbowing me
    fuck that shit
    let me play tennis
    beat white boy ass
    what nigguhs know bout tennis 1963
    throw down racket white boy
    tennis nigguhs on the scene
    where you at Oakland
    Slim Jenkins
    Earl Father Hines jazz
    Josephine Baker jazz
    jet magazine weekly negro jazz
    ebony world of make believe jazz
    Pine Street ho stroll jazz
    you ain't no writer nigguh ho said jazz
    Ho I write I write I write
    you want some pussy
    good writin ass nigguh
    write my story
    good writing ass nigguh
    write my ho story
    suck and fuck story
    7th Street 6th grade ho story
    write that nigguh
    wit yo good writing ass
    --Marvin X

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                                 Nat Turner's Bible

    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Chapter 3, The Slave's New Year's Day Summary & Analysis

    This Study Guide consists of approximately 46 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

    Chapter 3, The Slave's New Year's Day Summary and Analysis

    In this short chapter one learns about the slave auction and hiring day which occur each year on January first. The slaves live in fear of this annual event, which sends people powerlessly into unknown horrors and tears apart families. Linda laments how children (sometimes very young ones) are sold away from their mothers, never to be seen again. She tells of a woman with seven children who lost all of them to a slave trader one New Year's Day. Throughout the book, one will see several similar mentions of children permanently separated from parents and husbands separated from wives, since the law offers no legal sanction or protection for these familial bonds between slaves.

    +Chapters Summary and Analysis

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