Feel-Good Giving & Capital

Feel-Good Giving & Capital


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 Sadly, feel-good giving often achieves little more than the dissipation of capital.  Feel-good dissipations

of capital encourage people to ignore the necessity of planning long term solutions constructed

around ideologically based institutional reform. 



Feel-Good Giving & Capital

Supporting Local Organizations that Help the People

Or, The Grass Roots Are Not Sleeping!

The Necessity of Planning Long-Term Solutions


Brisbane: Rudy, Acklyn isn’t the point.  He can only do what he feels comfortable doing.  The important thing is that he is able to gather people, energize them and help the process of rethinking our situation.  He doesn’t have to be “political” in the sense others may be.  He is doing what is essential in the process of creating thinking, analytical, yes, political beings.  Everything being political, his platform would be one that you get involved first by learning and then sharing those lessons.  People who know what they are about are not likely to support the Dems. or the Repubs.  Then again, when its crunch time, who knows what will happen behind the curtain. While the discussion is how to return our community to activism.  It is also important to support tentative steps that we all have to make before we dive into the waters. I hope you will help us come up with discussion topics even if you don’t organize a gathering.  You seem to know quite a bit about life in these United States and I would very much like to hear your thoughts on salient discussion topics.

Should the first question in any gathering be: What is the purpose of these groups?   Or should we jump right to the question of the necessity of independent parties?  Given the group participants in some instances, it seems that some preparatory discussions will have to be had before we get to “What needs to be done”.

Rudy: We agree, Acklyn is not the point. Of course, the Acklyn Method was the point. It is important to know its potentialities, as well as its limitations. If we are earnest I have no fear of Acklyn or his method. We will discover soon enough more will be required. But I say this also, a thousand applications of the Acklyn Method would not have stopped the murder of New Orleans. We want to stop the murder of black cities. That is where we start, not merely “how to return our community to activism.”

The nature of the “activism” we provoke is crucial.  For politics as usual will not prevent the murder of another black city. We know it because we have the last three decades as a record of “politics as usual.” It is on the books and all about us the accomplishment of our “black representatives.”  The “People who know what they are about” did in deed support Nagin and his police commissioner. And they are supporting the traditional parties—the Democratic and Republican parties. Support for them among us has risen to the status of almost a religion. So that is not in the least a tertiary topic.

As I said to Miriam, the topics most apparent are what happened in New Orleans and how can we prevent it from ever happening again and how can we be more responsible for ourselves in light of what happened in New Orleans. These as governing topics should keep us all busy for some time. Moreover, that experience was traumatic. We need some healing, and only we can heal we, in such matters.

Brisbane: What happens to the people who lived in the poorest sections of New Orleans and other coastal areas hit by Katrina depends in large part on what we, who are able, do to support their fight to return to their homes.  It will take money to ensure their return.  Can you help?

When the waters recede, the greedy developers and self-serving or weak politicians have to see a SEA of Warriors that are ready and willing to fight to get the people who lived in those areas back into newly constructed homes.      

That can only happen if we are prepared to do one simple thing–continue giving whatever we can to the organizations that have been and continue to support the people of these areas.  NO, not the Red Cross or United Way.   We have to support the local organizations that have been working to help people help themselves before, during and since Katrina devastated the region.  Their time cannot be spent fundraising when whole communities are threatened with displacement.  If we say NO to displacement, we have to say YES to donating the money that can stop the land grab.  

[There] are lists of local organizations that work for the people.  Included with the lists are short blurbs or longer pieces that describe the organizations and what they have been doing to help.  Please review the lists, or if you already know of an organization doing the RIGHT THING, then choose it.  Plan to send a monthly donation to that organization and continue sending that donation as long as you can. 

From the first days after the hurricane, our community has supported those victimized by the storm, the government and the greedy corporate sector.  We did it then and we can do it now.  We can support the struggle to save neighborhoods, have decent housing, jobs and other needed services.  You can make those dreams come true. 

You DO Make the Difference. Please make the letter, your appeal and sign your name to it.  Remember to pass it on to all your family and friends. And keep in touch with each other.  Let everyone know if an organization is meeting its announced intentions and goals.     

Rudy: Three of the organizations listed are not local organizations and it is not clear what local leadership any provide or will provide the black poor in “their fight to return to their homes.” From the website of NAACP, it is clear that their program is not for the poor, but rather for the black middle class. American Friends is not a community or local organization for the black poor. Cindy Sheehan is not even a native of New Orleans nor Louisiana. ACORN, also, is not an indigenous organizationIf I were people inclined toward donating money so that the black poor can wage battle to return home to New Orleans, I would want to see the program of these organizations and I’d look for organizations that are indeed indigenous.The 9th Ward was worst hit and it has an elected representative. For instance, Charmaine L. Marchand, State Representative of that District 99, containing the 9th Ward,  has posted this information: “If you are a concerned individual or represent a business entity that is interested in assisting and want your dollars to go directly to one of the hardest hit areas of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita’s flooding, please consider contributing to CARECorp., LLC.” She is receiving contributions at CARECORP, 9th Ward Relief, 4138 Saint Claude Avenue, Suite C, New Orleans, Louisiana 70117.

Brisbane: Thanks for clarifying the list Rudy.  It was organized from several lists published by various groups after Katrina.  If other people know about groups that are not on the ground working for our folk, then please let us know so we can edit it accordingly.  The list was attached as an aid to those who might want to provide ongoing support and thus each person should contact the organization/s of choice to determine if it is doing what she/he thinks is worth supporting.

Rudy: Brisbane, at this stage, I’m not certain that the problem is so much one of finding the right relief organizations, or even effective ones. There are also Black Gulf Support Committee  that needs support. They have issued the document: “Hurricane Katrina: The Black Nation’s 9/11.” Contact Sam Anderson for a copy.  Then there’s Community Labor United’ and its website. 

There are so many organizations involved in collecting money for “relief.” In a way one might say the problem is that they got people in a “relief bag.” The real issue is power. That is creating a city that is managed in the interest of the poor and the powerless. There are probably only two leaders in the entire city I have respect for, namely, Kalamu ya Salaam, and his Listen To The People Project and Malik Rahim (Algiers) and his The Common Ground Collective, a community health center and food distribution network. Their judgments are the only ones I am willing to take on face value.

As Earl Ofari Hutchinson has pointed out in his article, elected Black Leaders Also Failed New Orleans Poor. According to a report from Kalamu, the school board (majority black) has abolished public schools in New Orleans and have chosen the chartered school approach to public education. Police brutality still seems on the menu. The BBC showed three cops brutalizing a 64 year old man on the street in the French Quarter last week. Kalamu refers to the overall situation as the “white power structure and their negro henchmen.”

Of course, donating money is one way of doing something. And we should do what we can do. But whatever money is available I would direct at supporting these two leaders, for I believe they indeed have the best interests of the people at heart and they are the ones that need to be sustained if the people will have true representatives, rather than the “henchman” of which Kalamu spoke. Money is necessary to sustain these leaders and political struggle, which is needed to keep New Orleans black. This struggle might take a decade or more, long after any sentiment people will have to donate to “relief.”

My ultimate concern is that we lose focus. The tragedy of New Orleans is symptomatic of a larger problem, that is, an American problem, more specifically, the black poor. They are not just in (out of) New Orleans, but gathered in most of America’s cities and not being served well politically by black elected officials, whose interests lie in sidling up to white power in the form of the Democratic and Republican parties, neither of which has a program to deal with poverty in America. That focus was lost in the last several decades.

Black folk are in need of  a political renaissance. They need to think of politics in an altogether different sort of way, namely, outside of the traditional parties. Do you not find it odd that we have a black everything, except a black political party, neither on the local or the national levels? Do you not find that an odd phenomenon? Have you ever asked why that is the case. Few have, and few have dared asked. I’m not talking about a revolutionary party, or a socialist party, or a Black Panther Party, but a regular electoral party that stands for election like other parties.

In that we are a peculiar people, product of a peculiar institution, I suppose such an  oddity is not odd at all. If we do not have white political masters, I suppose, we just don’t feel comfortable with each other. The question remains whether we can overcome this malady, and soon. Or must we have another New Orleans tragedy to wake us up, again? 

I would be interested in your rationale why we have this lack of political independence, why we cling to this political dependency tenaciously, why we are not even willing to discuss the subject when we have all kinds of graduates in the field of politics, even though it is as logical as a black church, black colleges, black guilds, black businesses, and so on and on. 

Wilson: Rudy, you address an important issue, but we must concentrate on ideologies and institutions, not personalities.   This “emergency” and the need for “emergency relief” will persist beyond our lifetimes, and we must not console ourselves with charitable donations to mere mortals.  We must be selective and systematic when deciding where our limited financial contributions are to be applied.   I am certain that a large portion of whatever we give should go to education, but our “widow’s mites” are too minute to be effective if dissipated indiscriminately among the several educational institutions.  We must contribute only towards the maintenance of viable institutions. 

Furthermore, we cannot entrust limited resources to the Princess Dianas, whose well-meaning efforts invariably divert energy away from ideological issues. We cannot continue to support the Mother Teresas whose charitable efforts divert capital away from fundamental institutional reforms.  That may sound brutal, but I think it necessary to support institutions rather than persons, after ascertaining which institutions are capable of surviving.  We must focus on institution building, rather than sinking capital into a vortex of heroic, but ultimately futile, efforts. 

This brings us to the question of how resources should be distributed over a wide range or institutions.   Should we apply the same logic to chartered schools and private colleges, remembering that some of these are historically black?   Should efforts be applied to achieving greater equity in public, and racially integrated schools and universities?  Should we encourage consolidated efforts or even mergers between the private institutions white and black?  Should a major, formerly white-separatist university, pool resources with (or take over) a small historically black college?   Is it possible to aggregate sufficient capital to accomplish a plurality of goals? 

Certainly we are not talking only about the next six months; we are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars and a long-term capital fund drive. What sort of time frame are we talking about, decades or centuries?   These questions must be addressed systematically, but I am not aware that anyone has yet begun to discuss an “integrated” fund raising plan, to address all the needs of the various private and public institutions involved.  Planning must address all the outstanding ideological issues regarding the funding of education in Louisiana, and the outstanding economic problems of integration and segregation that Louisiana has never responsibly addressed at any point, either before or after Plessy v. Ferguson.  

Hence the need to address both the history of ideology and the survival of ideological traditions.  Sadly, feel-good giving often achieves little more than the dissipation of capital.  Feel-good dissipations of capital encourage people to ignore the necessity of planning long term solutions constructed around ideologically based institutional reform.  Rest assured that Bush, Cheney, Rove, and the rest of the American right (both secular and Christian) fully appreciate the history and continuing necessity of ideology as the basis of their political economy and social policy.  

posted 11 October 2005

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11 January 2012




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