ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
So Nancy Pelosi, the leader of Democrats in Congress, forbade even members
of the Congressional Black Caucus from speaking up publicly on the unfolding
spectacle of racially selective displacement on the Gulf Coast. Amazingly, the entire
Congressional Black Caucus silenced themselves on Katrina and refused to call
for congressional hearings, with the exception of Georgia’s Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
Community Organizer vs. Corrupt Politician
The December 6 New Orleans Congressional Election
By Bruce A. Dixon
The congressional election in Louisiana’s 2nd district was delayed due to Hurricane Gustav, and will take place on December 6, 2008. What was once an overwhelmingly black district containing most of New Orleans and a sliver of neighboring Jefferson Parish is probably still majority black, but with a much thinner margin.
The Republican is a Vietnamese American who almost never mentions his party affiliation when campaigning inside New Orleans. The Democrat is disgraced nine-term incumbent William Dollar Bill Jefferson, under indictment for bribery after the FBI discovered $90,000 stashed in the plastic containers of his home freezer. The Green Party candidate is longtime community organizer Malik Rahim, a co-founder of Common Ground Relief Network, a grassroots organization brought together in the wake of Katrina to open medical clinics, distribute flood relief supplies and repair and rebuild homes damaged by the flood. With a projected low turnout, it’s shaping up as a three way race that could go in a surprising direction. We are shooting for 30,000 votes here, a Rahim campaign spokesperson told BAR, and we think we can win.
Hurricane Katrina along with the series of man-made disasters, ethnic cleansing, and wholesale privatizations of the city’s school and health care systems in its wake have changed the face of New Orleans, and determine the fault lines for its politics even today. Accordingly, their responses to the Katrina disaster provide us with a useful and telling contrast between Rep. Dollar Bill Jefferson and Malik Rahim.
On the second day after the levees broke, hundreds of starving, dehydrated New Orleans residents (and some tourists) attempted to walk out of their drowned city toward the lights of neighboring Gretna. Their paths were blocked by lines of local law enforcement officers who menaced them with shotgun fire, cursed them, buzzed them with helicopters and drove them back into New Orleans. If ever there was a time when the relative wealth, the connections, the prestige and authority of a congressman might have done his constituents some good, this was it. But Dollar Bill Jefferson was not that kind of congressman.
Malik Rahim lived in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, one of the few places that wasn’t flooded, and where water supplies were not compromised. Ignoring orders to evacuate, Rahim was one of many local residents who remained in New Orleans to save lives and assist his neighbors, since the authorities would not. He helped other families evacuate, tried to get white vigilantes to stop shooting random black people and began organizing shelter and assistance to the victims of the flood.
While thousands of his constituents were swimming for their lives, trapped in attics, on rooftops and expressway overpasses, or penned up in the Louisiana Superdome, congressman Jefferson commandeered six Louisiana National Guard MPs and a five ton truck to drive to his home in the flood zone and linger there for an hour or more while he removed personal belongings including a laptop computer, suitcases and several boxes. According to ABC News:
The Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News the truck became stuck as it waited for Jefferson to retrieve his belongings.
Two weeks later, the vehicle’s tire tracks were still visible on the lawn.
The soldiers signaled to helicopters in the air for aid. Military sources say a Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the signal and flew to Jefferson’s home. The chopper was already carrying four rescued New Orleans residents at the time.
A rescue diver descended from the helicopter, but the congressman decided against going up in the helicopter, sources say. The pilot sent the diver down again, but Jefferson again declined to go up the helicopter.
After spending approximately 45 minutes with Jefferson, the helicopter went on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel and was forced to end its mission.
“Forty-five minutes can be an eternity to somebody that is drowning, to somebody that is sitting in a roof, and it needs to be used its primary purpose during an emergency,” said (ABC News consultant) Hauer.
The contrast between the personal bahavior of Malik Rahim and Dollar Bill Jefferson could not be clearer.
In Katrina’s aftermath of homicidal government indifference and incompetence Republicans saw vast opportunities.
Richard Baker, a prominent Republican Congressman from this city, had told a group of lobbyists, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans’ wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: “I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities.” All that week the Louisiana State Legislature in Baton Rouge had been crawling with corporate lobbyists helping to lock in those big opportunities: lower taxes, fewer regulations, cheaper workers and a “smaller, safer city”which in practice meant plans to level the public housing projects and replace them with condos.
If Republicans saw opportunities in Katrina’s wake Nancy Pelosi, the leader of Dollar Bill Jefferson’s Democratic party in Congress, saw a trap. She wanted to blame Republicans, but she feared holding hearings to expose the homicidal incompetence and indifference of government would tie congressional Democrats to the cause of black New Orleans in the minds of voters nationwide. Better, from her point of view, to leave that alone. So Nancy Pelosi, the leader of Democrats in Congress, forbade even members of the Congressional Black Caucus from speaking up publicly on the unfolding spectacle of racially selective displacement on the Gulf Coast. Amazingly, the entire Congressional Black Caucus silenced themselves on Katrina and refused to call for congressional hearings, with the exception of Georgia’s Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
A fifth term representative, McKinney had just returned to Congress after a two year absence. Instead of restoring her seniority and committee assignments as is the rule in such cases, Pelosi unceremoniously stripped McKinney of her seniority, leaving Rep. McKinney freer than usual to reach across the aisle and do what not a single one of more than three dozen of her black congressional colleagues would dohold hearings on Katrina.
In the days following the Katrina disaster, Malik Rahim did what experienced community organizers dohe talked to his neighbors, he helped bring like-minded local residents together with volunteers from around the country and funders to create the Common Ground Relief Network. Common Ground distributed relief supplies, generators, food, fuel and tools to begin gutting houses and rebuilding. Malik Rahim and Common Ground solicited medical supplies and qualified personnel and opened up free medical centers in devastated New Orleans. He rallied volunteers and raised money for grassroots efforts with churches and others to get done on the ground what government officials like Jefferson could not or would not do. Under the leadership of Common Ground and Malik Rahim, some 13,000 volunteers have gutted roughly 3,000 homes to prepare them for occupancy in New Orleans.
That’s community. That’s organizing. That’s leadership. That’s Malik Rahim, and that’s the choice before the voters of New Orleans on December 6. They can reward Republicans and Democrats for engaging in the same old politics of cronyism, privatization and avoidance of responsibility. Or they can send a community organizer to Congress.
This is a choice between a deceitful “minority” Republican, a brazenly corrupt Democrat, and an honest to goodness community organizer with a history that stretches back to his co-founding of the New Orleans branch of the Black Panther Party back in 1970.
In the wired and interconnected environment of the early 21st century it’s no longer the exclusive choice of voters and activists in New Orleans. In some measure, this choice up to all of us who want a piece of it. This will be a three way race, and an extremely low turnout election, so it’s anybody’s game. There’s even a chance, if the turnout is low enough, that the Republican can win. It’s not a chance we chose. It’s a chance that leaders of the Democratic party, nationally and in Louisiana forced upon us, secure in their belief that black and progressive voters in New Orleans would have no place else to go. But they do.
Here’s what you can do.
You can click here to donate to Malik Rahim’s media fund THIS WEEK to ensure that he can air radio commercials in the final days before the election.
You can click here to volunteer your energy and phone minutes phone banking to New Orleans voters. You’ll be guided through a polite, well thought-out online script that informs undecided voters of the clear choice before them. You don’t need to live in Louisiana to phone bank for Malik Rahim.
Is there a chance that supporting the Green candidate could lead to a Republican temporarily assuming the seat in New Orleans? Honestly yes, there is that chance. It would not be possible of Louisiana’s lazy and hollow Democratic party had bothered to come up with an honest and viable Democrat to represent hundreds of thousands of New Orleans voters. But they didn’t. And they won’t. There is also a chance of sending a real community organizer to congress. One choice was forced upon us. The other is ours to make, and to take.
It’s anybody’s contest in New Orleans December 6. We hope that our readers will do the right thing. Forward the link to this page, and to Malik Rahim’s web site to all your friends, family and associates. Give generously to put Malik Rahim’s radio commercials in play, to get him parity with the fat cats who contribute to his Republican and Democratic opponents. And participate in the phone bank that reminds New Orleans voters of the December 6 election.
In a low turnout environment like this a few votes, a modest contribution of money or time can make a big difference. If you want a change, be that change.
Atlanta-based Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He can be reached at email@example.com
* * * * *
Malik Rahim, born and raised in New Orleans’ Algiers neighborhood, has worked as an organizer for decades around housing and prison issues. During Hurricane Katrina, Malik stayed to assist the community and has been speaking out about racism and the failures of government exposed by the Katrina disaster.
* Co-founded Common Ground Health Clinic in September 2005 with Sharon Johnson. After Hurricane Katrina, it was the first health clinic in the city of New Orleans. * Co-founded Common Ground Relief in September 2005. * Founding member of the Louisiana anti-death penalty group Pilgrimage for Life, with Sister Helen Prejean. * Founding member of Housing is a Human Right a San Francisco, California citywide non-profit affordable housing advocacy organization in 1996 * National Coalition to Free the Angola Three * New Orleans Chapter of the Black Panther Party
The Louisiana Secretary of State changed the elections calendar after Hurricane Gustav, so the general election where you can vote for Malik is on December 6, not November 4.
Hurricane Recovery & Flood Protection:
· Ensure our region gets the resources we were promised to continue our recovery · Fund category 5 (100 Year) flood protection for all of Southern Louisiana. · Develop Comprehensive Storm Protection by maintaining and preserving ecosystem services, including rebuilding our cypress swamps.
Rebuild a Sustainable Economy:
· Support economic and fiscal policies to strengthen working people and their families. · Fund green job training to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and provide pathways from poverty. · Jumpstart the regional economy by supporting the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project.
Quality Public Education:
· Invest in our public education system, inlcuding funding for smaller class sizes, so that every child is given the opportunity to excel. Education not incarceration. · Remove high-stakes testing as the sole criteria for federal funding · Support a teachers right to collective bargaining
Healthcare for All:
· Ensure that every American citizen has access to quality affordable healthcare. · Secure federal money to rebuild our health care infrastructure, including Charity Hospital. · Establish and fund community health clinics.
Comprehensive and Sustainable Energy Policy:
· Decrease our country’s reliance on oil. · Demand a shift to 20% renewable energy sources like solar and wind within five years. · End tax breaks and giveaways to oil companies.
Reform of the Criminal Justice System:
· Alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders.
Troops out of Iraq:
· Bring the troops home from Iraq as safely and quickly as possible. · Use the money that we have been spending in Iraq to rebuild infrastructure in the U.S.
· Demand federal funding for the construction of affordable housing in the Gulf Coast. · Call for a full investigation now on the awarding of contracts for the demolition of public housing developments in New Orleans and their reconstruction
posted 2 December 2008
* * * * *
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
* * * * *
By Eric Liu and Nick Hanaper
American democracy is informed by the 18th centurys most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. Weve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economicsthe cutting-edge ideas of todaygenerate these simple but revolutionary ideas: The economy is not an efficient machine.
Its an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest. Were all better off when were all better off. The model of citizenship depends on contagious behavior, hence positive behavior begets positive behavior.
* * * * *
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake.
* * * * *
By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.” Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger
* * * * *
By Glenn C. Loury
In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lensand as a legacyof an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country’s race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury’s claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.
Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor
Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington’s political outlook on race. The group’s respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.Publishers Weekly
* * * * *
By Andrew B. Lewis
With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table) revisits the ragtag band of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Impatient with what they considered the overly cautious and accommodating pace of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., the black college students and their white allies, inspired by Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and moral integrity, risked their lives to challenge a deeply entrenched system. Fanning out over the Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins, voter registration drives, Freedom Schools and protest marches. Despite early successes, the movement disintegrated in the late 1960s, succeeded by the militant Black Power movement.
The highly readable history follows the later careers of the principal leaders. Some, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, became bitter and disillusioned. Others, including Marion Barry, Julian Bond and John Lewis, tempered their idealism and moved from protest to politics, assuming positions of leadership within the very institutions they had challenged. According to the author, No organization contributed more to the civil rights movement than SNCC, and with his eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.Publishers Weekly
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
update 31 July 2012
Related files: Governor says everyone must leave New Orleans / Eighteen Months After Katrina (Bill Quigley) / Ending Poverty As We Know It: Guaranteeing a Right