November 27, 2009

NJ's People's Organization for Progress says "Afghan War Must End!"

UPDATED, Dec. 3—
Thanks to FotM reader, "Nat" who alerts us that POP's Plainfield Branch also held a demonstration against expanding the war in Afghanistan this past Saturday during their regular monthly picket of the so-called Army Career Center on Front Street. Tip o' the hat to Steve and the whole Plainfield Branch. Oh, and apologies for not including the Plainfield demonstration in this report (also included in this update is the link to December 3rd's Amsterdam News article about the POP demonstration…
Throughout its more than 25 years of defending our right to education, quality healthcare, peace in the streets and against police brutality, racism, sexual oppression and many other scourges on our community, the People's Organization for Progress has not been the kind of organization that waits to react to these attacks. When it became clear this past week that the federal government would use the goodwill of the Thanksgiving Holiday to launch the military's expanded attack on the Afghan people, it was imperative to call an emergency demonstration before these new deprecations become a fact.
"Money for Education, Not for War! Money for Healthcare, Not for War!" and "Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan… No More War!" POP members and supporters chanted as they picketed at the intersection of Broad and Market Streets in downtown Newark. "The US ambassador in Kabul reported that this war isn't winnable, that the government the Bush Administration put in place is corrupt. That Hamid Karzai's government is spending US tax dollars defending his brother's heroin business. We need that money in this country for schools and hospitals, for education and healthcare, not Ahmed Wali Karzai's poppy crop," Larry Hamm, chairman of the People's Organization for Progress told the crowd.
While the POP picket began with the usual 10-30 dedicated members who arrived earlier than the scheduled 12-noon starting time, the crowd quickly expanded as Broad Street shoppers picked up U.S. Out Of Afghanistan or Bring The Troops Home NOW! picket-cards and joined in, before going on with their Saturday activities.
Thanks to the creative influence of people who joined the picket, POP's signature rhythmic chants expanded to include references to Pakistan as well. In a brief address to those assembled, Larry Hamm had elucidated how a secret war was already sending robot drone-bombers across the border in Pakistan. To "older-heads" in the crowd this brought back memories of bombing raids on Cambodia and Laos, thirty years earlier. One Korean War veteran commented that "military plans don't get changed by the President's good intentions. The best guy may be in the White House, but the brass is supposed to take orders from their Commander-in-Chief, not the other way round…"
The New York Amsterdam News was unique among the print media in reporting on anti-war sentiment in the Black community. See Americans protest Afghanistan troop buildup for their report coverage, including POP's picketline this past Saturday.

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November 14, 2009

"Hollywood Mayor" Looks to Move Up — And Out of Newark

Newark mayor Cory Booker couldn't wait a week. NJ Governor Jon Corzine was just voted out in an widely-reported odd-year race that was more about suburban control of the state than about taxes, Wall Street, corruption, or any of the issues that Republican challenger "Krispy Kreme" Christy pushed.

The media-hungry mayor hastened to disassociate himself from the fellow Democrat that he had supposedly been supporting--and also to throw his own hat into the ring for the next gubernatorial race. This is pretty clear evidence that he's going to spend the next four years running instead of governing.

Cory "Hollywood" Booker has a lot of incentive to run for state-wide office. Not least is the fact that he's reduced nearly all his bridges in Newark to smoking wrecks. He lies--repeatedly and blatantly--at every public appearance.

At this year's Labor Day March in Newark, he represented himself as a "friend of labor" at the rally to the very unions he's attempted to bust (while trying to upstage US Congressman Donald Payne -an actual "friend of labor"-- who was the parade's Grand Marshal). His most repeated claim is to be pro-education as he destroys city public schools in favor of charter-schools owned by political contributors. He professes to support citizens against greedy and corrupt businesses, while turning off tenants' water because their landlords had unpaid water-bills and taxes (see The Community Fights "Hollywood" Booker Over Right to Water… Newark Wins!).

And all the while, Cory Booker maintains that, as mayor, he has reduced street-crime.
This is, perhaps, the biggest lie of them all. Anyone who actually lives in Newark has witnessed the ever-increasing levels of street-violence. Booker has allowed his Giuliani-esque police force to run amok in the neighborhoods. The sharpest single example of the anti-community policies carried out by Police Director Gary McCarthy, an NYC transplant, is the police murder this past May of Basire Farrell. Farrell was beaten to death by Newark police while in handcuffs.
Defenders of McCarthy's police policies insist that neighborhood residents who'd witnessed the beat-down "had to be lying" because they claimed that the cops used tasers. "Stun guns are not standard issue in Newark." As though they are not for sale to anyone with a badge at cop shops down on Williams Street or anywhere in the state.
Last Saturday saw a rain-soaked march to the 5th Precinct on Bigelow Street, called by Mr. Farrell's aunt, Sharonda Smalls. It was far broader than simply a demand for justice for her nephew. Ms. Smalls reached out to families of other victims of police brutality, as well as the People's Organization for Progress (of which she is a member) and other community-based groups.
"We're all family," Ms. Smalls said. "The moment you hear the horrifying news about a loved one, you become a member of my family." She went on to talk about the many neighborhood residents who've suffered at the hand of the local police. But Smalls also broadened the issue beyond the precinct and even Newark, when she expanded the battle by talking about Amar McLean who was handcuffed and then "shot in the back, execution-style" by deputies of the Essex County Sheriff's Department..
"The 5th Precinct has a reputation for arrested suspects never making it to the station house," Lawrence Hamm, POP's chairman said. "This has got to stop! This is Newark, 2009 -- not Montgomery in the 1950s."
"We need to hold elected officials accountable for what happens on their watch," New Black Panther Party spokesman Zayid Muhammad said. "And if Cory Booker can be reelected after this, the shame is on us!"
The broader lesson is very clear. Cory "Hollywood" Booker is interested in Newark as a stepping-stone to state-wide or even national office, and that's all. His "tough love" policies are designed to polish his image at the expense of Newark residents. Because he's young, photogenic and well-spoken, folks like Oprah Winfrey have taken to him and are promoting him as a kind of "America's Mayor," Rudy Giulani-style.
And we can't forget the other thing besides name recognition that campaign for high office in this country requires. Money. Lots of money. And Cory Booker has the closest thing you can get to a public money-laundering scheme without winding up in jail. Here's how it works: well-meaning out-of-towners, following Oprah's example, donate money to help provide better schools for Newark. Booker takes their money and directs it to privately-owned, for-profit charter schools owned by campaign contributors. These folks turn around and make fat contributions to Booker's electoral war-chest.
It is our responsibility in Newark to stop Cory "Hollywood" Booker's climb to power--on our backs--right here and now. We have to expose his money-laundering schemes and the policies he promotes because they look good to well-meaning NJ suburbanites. And we have to fight for our own needs and interests, because he sure won't be doing it.

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November 11, 2009

Visiting Harpers Ferry after 47 years…

My friend Jon, who often provides the photos I employ to illustrate the Black NJ series of postings, wrote about his recent trip with his 83 year-old father to Harpers Ferry. Fire on the Mountain blog-site founder, Jimmy Higgins suggested that we may want to publish this, so (with Jon's permission) his reflections on Si and his recent visit to Harpers Ferry follow:
by Jon Levine
John Brown's "Fort", below the railroad right-of-way at the intersection of Shenandoah and Potomac Streets.
Visiting Harpers Ferry after 47 years? No, not me. My family, my union sisters & brothers, my comrades and other friends all know that I try and make Hajj down to the Ferry as often as possible. Whether I'm driving to Florida on union business, heading to DC for a conference or a demonstration, or on my way to the Black Workers for Justice annual Martin Luther King "Salute to Labor" dinner, if I'm driving, Harpers Ferry is nearly always along the way.
But this year, when I decided to head randomly south I also decided to reprise the old tradition of taking my father along (traveling with my dad, Si, is something we did for a few years right after he retired). And the last time Si was in Harpers Ferry was probably around 1962 or so. Back then the US was commercializing the Civil War, selling little blue or grey "forage caps" for children to dress like Union or CSA troops. Family trips to Gettysburg, Antietam, Harpers Ferry and other relatively closeby Civil War battlefields were part of the new and rising US highway culture (and yes, at the time this industrial town at juncture of the Shenandoah and the Potomac Rivers was mainly *supposed* to be remembered for Stonewall Jackson's 1862 victory).
So what's different after nearly half-a-century? I'd noticed a few of these things in the twenty-or-so years I've been making pilgrimage, but seeing the differences from Si's perspective after 47 years was particularly instructive. Obviously John Brown and the Kennedy Farmhouse Raiders has taken on greater significance this year, the Sesquicentennial of Brown's raid. But the relatively new exhibit on Storer College and the Niagara Movement, on W.E.B. DuBois, as well the exhibit about freedmen and slaves in Harpers Ferry impressed my dad. Si was interested to see that the Black population of Harpers Ferry at the time of Brown's raid was approximately 50% freedmen, making the "paradox" that the first townie to die in the raid was a free African-American railroad worker relatively inevitable rather than "ironic", which is how other exhibits choose to describe the incident.
But for me, these newer exhibits had been there for awhile, I've seen them before. No, I found one small new element not only interesting, but instructive. There is an obelisk on the rise near the railroad bridge marking the original location of "John Brown's Fort." (I've always had a problem with this description of the fire-pump storage facility where Brown and the remaining raiders took refuge, maybe going back to my first visit in the early '60s, but that's another matter). My biggest problem was that the location of that firehouse always felt wrong. I knew that it had been moved more than once (to the grounds of Storer College, to the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, back to Storer, later destroyed, and eventually recreated. Yes, I knew all that, but the location below the railroad right-of-way always felt somehow WRONG, both as a pump-house and (more importantly) as the location Brown would choose for a "last stand."
Militarily, we would expect Brown to choose a less isolated spot as he attempted to cross the river into the highlands (and yes, Brown was a fairly masterful tactician, as earlier events in Kansas had shown). Now the monument on the rise, placing that as the original site of the firehouse may have been there before, but I didn't see it 'til this visit. It made sense, it answered some nagging questions and so I, too, learned something new…
Monument at the original "pump-house" site, on the rise above the present recreated location…

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