Thursday, June 27, 2013

My First Black President- The Madiba Poem

My First Black President- 
The Madiba Poem
As we, all over the world, wait for Brother Mandela to recover from his illness or make his Transition, This young South African Sista Botlahle shows us that the Struggle for Freedom and the final end to Racism will continue with a new crop of power-filled South African Youth!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

  Common Core State Standards Hinder Black Educational and Cultural Excellence

Common Core State Standards created by the Council of State School Officers and the National Governors Association are inadequate for all American school children. Now adopted by 45 states, the District of Columbia and four territories, the Standards are demeaning and particularly unacceptable for students of African descent.

While there is presently considerable dissent among states, parents, educators and even students, with regard to the suitability of the standards for all students, those states which reverse their adoption of the Standards risk their eligibility for Race to the Top funds. Yet, in spite of pressure from the White House for national acceptance of the Standards, the State of New York Assembly and Senate, for example, have recently introduced a bill to "discontinue implementation of the Common Core State Standards".

In the interest of students of color, it is important that Black and Latino legislators support the bill to end the government required Common Core State Standards in New York State.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D. Harvard, wrote in his classic book, The Mis-education of the Negro (1933), that education in America was intended purposefully to make people of African descent feel inferior and people of European descent appear superior. That white supremacist purpose was then and is now still manifested in teacher training, in curriculum, in instruction, in books, newspapers, broadcasting, films and, most importantly, in public discourse, philosophy and institutionalized in public policy.

Criticism of the Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards are untruthful about the United States' history. CCSS assume an American population embodied with a similar history of freedom and cultural “neutrality” or “universality”. That assumption is incorrect with regard to the history and present experience of students of African descent whose ancestors bore the scars of physical and mental chains of enslavement, and who themselves, whether they recognize it or not, are still victimized by a white supremacist culture and school curriculum.

No other culture came to America in chains to be eradicated or suppressed and vilified by Americans of European descent who have historically and presently been accorded unearned special privileges because of their skin color and heritage (despite the class differences among them).

Claims of the new standards
Although the new standards claim that no specific curriculum materials are being advocated, in several areas that specify common standards in English Language Arts, and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, and technical subjects, the "sample" of illustrative texts rarely contains any books or writings by Black authors, and, for that matter any writings by Hispanic/Latino, Native American or Asian writers. The "illustrative" texts for student readings in the formative grades K-5 contain no readings identifiable as written by authors of color.

The CCSS claim these are only recommendations, not required readings. Presumably states are free to choose their own readings. Then how can these readings be considered Common Core? The State of Texas, for example, has decided to remove such illustrious Americans as President Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from its textbooks and curriculum.

Major Criticisms of CCSS

There are no recommendations for truthful readings or discussions that will help all students of whatever ethnicity or gender to become divested of cultural, racial, gender or sexual biases.

Such divestment is critical, not only for American born and educated students, but particularly for incoming immigrants who often bring with them their own biases and racial impressions of Americans of African descent.

In the areas of mathematics and science, a failed curriculum relies heavily on rote memorization for high stakes tests, rather than inquiry based learning of math, science and technology. This is coupled with inadequately educated mathematics and science teachers who have to rely on the textbook industry to tell them what and how to teach.
Moreover, continuing to omit the historical foundations of science as originating in Africa often results in Black students not seeing themselves as mathematicians or scientists.

The current “education” of African American students is an ongoing process of "Educational Genocide", the deliberate dumbing down of a people while erasing or distorting their history to benefit other ethnic groups.

Without a truthful history of its founding, how it acquired enormous wealth and power on the backs of enslaved Africans, the United States will continue to remain a segmented nation, one which in several decades will find white Americans the new minority, but still in control of the nation's major resources, primarily through the deliberate "Mis-education of the Negro".

For our more detailed critique of the Common Core State Standards and our National Black Education Agenda recommendations, go to-

Donald H. Smith, Ph.D.
• Former Chair, the New York City Board of Education's Commission on Students of African Descent
• Founding Member of The National Black Education Agenda

Sam Anderson, Ph.D.
• Retired Mathematics and Black History Professor 
• Founding Member of The National Black Education Agenda


The Trouble with the Common Core

By the editors of Rethinking Schools
The Trouble with the Common Core
Ethan Heitner

It isn't easy to find common ground on the Common Core. Already hailed as the “next big thing” in education reform, the Common Core State Standards are being rushed into classrooms in nearly every district in the country. Although these “world-class” standards raise substantive questions about curriculum choices and instructional practices, such educational concerns are likely to prove less significant than the role the Common Core is playing in the larger landscape of our polarized education reform politics.

We know there have been many positive claims made for the Common Core:
  • That it represents a tighter set of smarter standards focused on developing critical learning skills instead of mastering fragmented bits of knowledge.
  • That it requires more progressive, student-centered teaching with strong elements of collaborative and reflective learning.
  • That it equalizes the playing field by raising expectations for all children, especially those suffering the worst effects of the “drill and kill” test prep norms of the recent past.
We also know that many creative, heroic teachers are seeking ways to use this latest reform wave to serve their students well. Especially in the current interim between the rollout of the standards and the arrival of the tests, some teachers have embraced the Common Core as an alternative to the scripted commercial formulas of recent experience, and are trying to use the space opened up by the Common Core transition to do positive things in their classrooms.
We'd like to believe these claims and efforts can trump the more political uses of the Common Core project. But we can't.

For starters, the misnamed “Common Core State Standards” are not state standards. They're national standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). They were designed, in part, to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum, hence the insertion of the word “state” in the brand name. States were coerced into adopting the Common Core by requirements attached to the federal Race to the Top grants and, later, the No Child Left Behind waivers. (This is one reason many conservative groups opposed to any federal role in education policy oppose the Common Core.)
Written mostly by academics and assessment experts—many with ties to testing companies—the Common Core standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere. Of the 135 members on the official Common Core review panels convened by Achieve Inc., the consulting firm that has directed the Common Core project for the NGA, few were classroom teachers or current administrators. Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.

The standards are tied to assessments that are still in development and that must be given on computers many schools don't have. So far, there is no research or experience to justify the extravagant claims being made for the ability of these standards to ensure that every child will graduate from high school “college and career ready.” By all accounts, the new Common Core tests will be considerably harder than current state assessments, leading to sharp drops in scores and proficiency rates.

We have seen this show before. The entire country just finished a decade-long experiment in standards-based, test-driven school reform called No Child Left Behind. NCLB required states to adopt “rigorous” curriculum standards and test students annually to gauge progress towards reaching them. Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year in every grade from 3–8 and again in high school. (Before NCLB, only 19 states tested all kids every year, after NCLB all 50 did.)
By any measure, NCLB was a dismal failure in both raising academic performance and narrowing gaps in opportunity and outcomes.

But by very publicly measuring the test results against benchmarks no real schools have ever met, NCLB did succeed in creating a narrative of failure that shaped a decade of attempts to “fix” schools while blaming those who work in them. By the time the first decade of NCLB was over, more than half the schools in the nation were on the lists of “failing schools” and the rest were poised to follow.
In reality, NCLB's test scores reflected the inequality that exists all around our schools. The disaggregated scores put the spotlight on longstanding gaps in outcomes and opportunity among student subgroups. But NCLB used these gaps to label schools as failures without providing the resources or support needed to eliminate them.

The tests showed that millions of students were not meeting existing standards. Yet the conclusion drawn by sponsors of the Common Core was that the solution was “more challenging” ones. This conclusion is simply wrong. NCLB proved that the test and punish approach to education reform doesn't work, not that we need a new, tougher version of it. Instead of targeting the inequalities of race, class, and educational opportunity reflected in the test scores, the Common Core project threatens to reproduce the narrative of public school failure that has led to a decade of bad policy in the name of reform.

The engine for this potential disaster, as it was for NCLB, will be the tests, in this case the “next generation” Common Core tests being developed by two federally funded, multi-state consortia at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Although reasonable people, including many thoughtful educators we respect, have found things of value in the Common Core standards, there is no credible defense to be made of the high-stakes uses planned for these new tests.
The same heavy-handed, top-down policies that forced adoption of the standards require use of the Common Core tests to evaluate educators.

This inaccurate and unreliable practice will distort the assessments before they're even in place and make Common Core implementation part of the assault on the teaching profession instead of a renewal of it. The costs of the tests, which have multiple pieces throughout the year plus the computer platforms needed to administer and score them, will be enormous and will come at the expense of more important things. The plunging scores will be used as an excuse to close more public schools and open more privatized charters and voucher schools, especially in poor communities of color.
If, as proposed, the Common Core's “college and career ready” performance level becomes the standard for high school graduation, it will push more kids out of high school than it will prepare for college.

This is not just cynical speculation. It is a reasonable projection based on the history of the NCLB decade, the dismantling of public education in the nation's urban centers, and the appalling growth of the inequality and concentrated poverty that remains the central problem in public education.

Nor are we exaggerating the potential for disaster. Consider this description from Charlotte Danielson, a highly regarded mainstream authority on teacher evaluation and a strong supporter of the Common Core:
I do worry somewhat about the assessments—I'm concerned that we may be headed for a train wreck there. The test items I've seen that have been released so far are extremely challenging. If I had to take a test that was entirely comprised of items like that, I'm not sure that I would pass it—and I've got a bunch of degrees. So I do worry that in some schools we'll have 80 percent or some large number of students failing. That's what I mean by train wreck.
Reports from the first wave of Common Core testing are already confirming these fears. This spring students, parents, and teachers in New York schools responded to administration of new Common Core tests developed by Pearson Inc. with a general outcry against their length, difficulty, and inappropriate content. Pearson included corporate logos and promotional material in reading passages. Students reported feeling overstressed and underprepared—meeting the tests with shock, anger, tears, and anxiety. Administrators requested guidelines for handling tests students had vomited on. Teachers and principals complained about the disruptive nature of the testing process and many parents encouraged their children to opt out.

Common Core has become part of the corporate reform project now stalking our schools. Unless we dismantle and defeat this larger effort, Common Core implementation will become another stage in the demise of public education. As schools struggle with these new mandates, we should defend our students, our schools, our communities, and ourselves by telling the truth about the Common Core. This means pushing back against implementation timelines and plans that set schools up to fail, resisting the stakes and priority attached to the tests, and exposing the truth about the commercial and political interests shaping and benefiting from this false panacea for the problems our schools face.

Rethinking Schools has always been skeptical of standards imposed from above. Too many standards projects have been efforts to move decisions about teaching and learning away from classrooms, educators, and school communities, only to put them in the hands of distant bureaucracies. Standards have often codified sanitized versions of history, politics, and culture that reinforce official myths while leaving out the voices, concerns, and realities of our students and communities. Whatever positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what our schools should teach and children should learn has been repeatedly undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests.

Unfortunately there's been too little honest conversation and too little democracy in the development of the Common Core. We see consultants and corporate entrepreneurs where there should be parents and teachers, and more high-stakes testing where there should be none.

Until that changes, it will be hard to distinguish the “next big thing” from the last one.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps


A few years back, Paul E. Lingenfelter began his report on the defunding of public education by saying, “In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level.”

In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty.

There are now movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.

To explain my perspective here, I need to go back in time. Let’s go back to post World War II, 1950s when the GI bill, and the affordability – and sometimes free access – to universities created an upsurge of college students across the country. This surge continued through the ’60s, when universities were the very heart of intense public discourse, passionate learning, and vocal citizen involvement in the issues of the times. It was during this time, too, when colleges had a thriving professoriate, and when students were given access to a variety of subject areas, and the possibility of broad learning.

The Liberal Arts stood at the center of a college education, and students were exposed to philosophy, anthropology, literature, history, sociology, world religions, foreign languages and cultures. Of course, something else happened, beginning in the late fifties into the sixties — the uprisings and growing numbers of citizens taking part in popular dissent — against the Vietnam War, against racism, against destruction of the environment in a growing corporatized culture, against misogyny, against homophobia.

Where did much of that revolt incubate?

Where did large numbers of well-educated, intellectual, and vocal people congregate?

On college campuses. Who didn’t like the outcome of the 60s?

The corporations, the war-mongers, those in our society who would keep us divided based on our race, our gender, our sexual orientation.

I suspect that, given the opportunity, those groups would have liked nothing more than to shut down the universities. Destroy them outright. But a country claiming to have democratic values can’t just shut down its universities. That would reveal something about that country which would not support the image they are determined to portray – that of a country of freedom, justice, opportunity for all. So, how do you kill the universities of the country without showing your hand? As a child growing up during the Cold War, I was taught that the communist countries in the first half of the 20th Century put their scholars, intellectuals and artists into prison camps, called “re-education camps”.

What I’ve come to realize as an adult is that American corporatism despises those same individuals as much as we were told communism did. But instead of doing anything so obvious as throwing them into prison, here those same people are thrown into dire poverty. The outcome is the same. Desperate poverty controls and ultimately breaks people as effectively as prison…..and some research says that it works even MORE powerfully.

So: here is the recipe for killing universities, and you tell ME if what I’m describing isn’t exactly what is at the root of all the problems of our country’s system of higher education. (Because what I’m saying has more recently been applied to K-12 public education as well.)

First, you defund public higher education.
Anna Victoria, writing in Pluck Magazine, discusses this issue in a review of Christopher Newfield’s book, Unmaking the Public University: “In 1971, Lewis Powell (before assuming his post as a Supreme Court Justice) authored a memo, now known as the Powell Memorandum, and sent it to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The title of the memo was “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System,” and in it he called on corporate America to take an increased role in shaping politics, law, and education in the United States.”

How would they do that?

One, by increased lobbying and pressure on legislators to change their priorities. “Funding for public universities comes from, as the term suggests, the state and federal government. Yet starting in the early 1980s, shifting state priorities forced public universities to increasingly rely on other sources of revenue. For example, in the University of Washington school system, state funding for schools decreased as a percentage of total public education budgets from 82% in 1989 to 51% in 2011.”

That’s a loss of more than 1/3 of its public funding. But why this shift in priorities? U.C. Berkeley English professor, Christopher Newfield, in his new book Unmaking the Public University posits that conservative elites have worked to de-fund higher education explicitly because of its function in creating a more empowered, democratic, and multiracial middle class. His theory is one that blames explicit cultural concern, not financial woes, for the current decreases in funding. He cites the fact that California public universities were forced to reject 300,000 applicants because of lack of funding. Newfield explains that much of the motive behind conservative advocacy for de-funding of public education is racial, pro-corporate, and anti-protest in nature.

Again, from Victoria: “(The) ultimate objective, as outlined in the (Lewis Powell) memo, was to purge respectable institutions such as the media, arts, sciences, as well as college campus themselves of left-wing thoughts. At the time, college campuses were seen as “springboards for dissent,” as Newfield terms it, and were therefore viewed as publicly funded sources of opposition to the interests of the establishment. While it is impossible to know the extent to which this memo influenced the conservative political strategy over the coming decades, it is extraordinary to see how far the principles outlined in his memo have been adopted.”

Under the guise of many “conflicts”, such as budget struggles, or quotas, de-funding was consistently the result. This funding argument also was used to re-shape the kind of course offerings and curriculum focus found on campuses. Victoria writes, “Attacks on humanities curriculums, political correctness, and affirmative action shifted the conversation on public universities to the right, creating a climate of skepticism around state funded schools. State budget debates became platforms for conservatives to argue why certain disciplines such as sociology, history, anthropology, minority studies, language, and gender studies should be de-funded…” on one hand, through the argument that they were not offering students the “practical” skills needed for the job market — which was a powerful way to increase emphasis on what now is seen as vocational focus rather than actual higher education, and to de-value those very courses that trained and expanded the mind, developed a more complete human being, a more actively intelligent person and involved citizen.

Another argument used to attack the humanities was “…their so-called promotion of anti-establishment sentiment. Gradually, these arguments translated into real- and often deep- cuts into the budgets of state university systems,” especially in those most undesirable areas that the establishment found to run counter to their ability to control the population’s thoughts and behavior. The idea of “manufactured consent” should be talked about here – because if you remove the classes and the disciplines that are the strongest in their ability to develop higher level intellectual rigor, the result is a more easily manipulated citizenry, less capable of deep interrogation and investigation of the establishment “message”.

Second, you deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors 
(and continue to create a surplus of underemployed and unemployed Ph.D.s)

V.P. Joe Biden, a few months back, said that the reason tuitions are out of control is because of the high price of college faculty. He has NO IDEA what he is talking about. At latest count, we have 1.5 million university professors in this country, 1 million of whom are adjuncts. One million professors in America are hired on short-term contracts, most often for one semester at a time, with no job security whatsoever – which means that they have no idea how much work they will have in any given semester, and that they are often completely unemployed over summer months when work is nearly impossible to find (and many of the unemployed adjuncts do not qualify for unemployment payments).

So, one million American university professors are earning, on average, $20K a year gross, with no benefits or healthcare, no unemployment insurance when they are out of work. Keep in mind, too, that many of the more recent Ph.Ds have entered this field often with the burden of six figure student loan debt on their backs.

There was recently an article talking about the long-term mental and physical destruction caused when people are faced with poverty and “job insecurity” — precarious employment, or “under-employment”.  The article says that, in just the few short years since our 2008 economic collapse, the medical problems of this group have increased exponentially.  This has been the horrible state of insecurity that America’s college professors have experienced now for thirty years. It can destroy you — breaking down your physical and emotional health.

As an example:  the average yearly starting salary of a university professor at Temple University in 1975 was just under $10,000 a year, with full benefits – health, retirement, and educational benefits (their family’s could attend college for free.) And guess what? Average pay for Temple’s faculty is STILL about the same — because adjuncts now make up the majority of faculty, and earn between $8,000 to $14,000 a year (depending on how many courses they are assigned each semester – there is NO guarantee of continued employment) — but unlike the full-time professors of 1975, these adjunct jobs come with NO benefits, no health care, no retirement, no educational benefits, no offices. How many other professions report salaries that have remained at 1975 levels?

This is how you break the evil, wicked, leftist academic class in America — you turn them into low-wage members of the precariat – that growing number of American workers whose employment is consistently precarious. All around the country, our undergraduates are being taught by faculty living at or near the poverty line, who have little to no say in the way classes are being taught, the number of students in a class, or how curriculum is being designed. They often have no offices in which to meet their students, no professional staff support, no professional development support. One million of our college professors are struggling to continue offering the best they can in the face of this wasteland of deteriorated professional support, while living the very worst kind of economic insecurity.

Unlike those communist countries, which sometimes executed their intellectuals, here we are being killed off by lack of healthcare, by stress-related illness like heart-attacks or strokes.  While we’re at it, let’s add suicide to that list of killers — and readers of this blog will remember that I have written at length about adjunct faculty suicide in the past.

Step #3: You move in a managerial/administrative class who take over governance of the university.
This new class takes control of much of the university’s functioning, including funding allocation, curriculum design, course offerings. If you are old enough to remember when medicine was forever changed by the appearance of the ‘HMO’ model of managed medicine, you will have an idea of what has happened to academia. If you are not old enough – let me tell you that Once Upon a Time, doctors ran hospitals, doctors made decisions on what treatment their patients needed. In the 1970s, during the infamous Nixon Administration, HMOs were an idea sold to the American public, said to help reign in medical costs.

But once Nixon secured passage of the HMO Act in 1973, the organizations went quickly from operating on a non-profit organization model, focused on high quality health care for controlled costs, to being for-profit organizations, with lots of corporate money funding them – and suddenly the idea of high-quality health care was sacrificed in favor of profits – which meant taking in higher and higher premiums and offering less and less service, more denied claims, more limitations placed on doctors, who became a “managed profession”.

You see the state of healthcare in this country, and how disastrous it is. Well, during this same time, there was a similar kind of development — something akin to the HMO — let’s call it an “EMO”, Educational Management Organization, began to take hold in American academia. From the 1970s until today, as the number of full-time faculty jobs continued to shrink, the number of full-time administrative jobs began to explode.

As faculty was deprofessionalized and casualized, reduced to teaching as migrant contract workers, administrative jobs now offered good, solid salaries, benefits, offices, prestige and power. In 2012, administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country. And just as disastrous as the HMO was to the practice of medicine in America, so is the EMO model disastrous to the practice of academia in America, and to the quality of our students’ education. Benjamin Ginsburg writes about this in great detail in his book The Fall of the Faculty.  

I’d like to mention here, too, that universities often defend their use of adjuncts – which are now 75% of all professors in the country — claiming that they have no choice but to hire adjuncts, as a “cost saving measure” in an increasingly defunded university. What they don’t say, and without demand of transparency will NEVER say, is that they have not saved money by hiring adjuncts — they have reduced faculty salaries, security and power. The money wasn’t saved, because it was simply re-allocated to administrative salaries, coach salaries and outrageous university president salaries.

There has been a redistribution of funds away from those who actually teach, the scholars – and therefore away from the students’ education itself — and into these administrative and executive salaries, sports costs — and the expanded use of “consultants”, PR and marketing firms, law firms. We have to add here, too, that president salaries went from being, in the 1970s, around $25K to 30K, to being in the hundreds of thousands to MILLIONS of dollars – salary, delayed compensation, discretionary funds, free homes, or generous housing allowances, cars and drivers, memberships to expensive country clubs.

Step Four: You move in corporate culture and corporate money

To further control and dominate how the university is ‘used” -a flood of corporate money results in changing the value and mission of the university from a place where an educated citizenry is seen as a social good, where intellect and reasoning is developed and heightened for the value of the individual and for society, to a place of vocational training, focused on profit. Corporate culture hijacked the narrative – university was no longer attended for the development of your mind. It was where you went so you could get a “good job”.  Anything not immediately and directly related to job preparation or hiring was denigrated and seen as worthless — philosophy, literature, art, history.

Anna Victoria writes, on Corporate Culture: “Many universities have relied on private sector methods of revenue generation such as the formation of private corporations, patents, increased marketing strategies, corporate partnerships, campus rentals, and for-profit e-learning enterprises. To cut costs, public universities have employed non-state employee service contractors and have streamlined their financial operations.”

So what is the problem with corporate money, you might ask? A lot. When corporate money floods the universities, corporate values replace academic values. As we said before, humanities get defunded and the business school gets tons of money. Serious issues of ethics begin to develop when corporate money begins to make donations and form partnerships with science departments – where that money buys influence regarding not only the kinds of research being done but the outcomes of that research.

Corporations donate to departments, and get the use of university researchers in the bargain — AND the ability to deduct the money as donation while using the labor, controlling and owning the research. Suddenly, the university laboratory is not a place of objective research anymore. As one example, corporations who don’t like “climate change” warnings will donate money and control research at universities, which then publish refutations of global warning proofs. OR, universities labs will be corporate-controlled in cases of FDA-approval research. This is especially dangerous when pharmaceutical companies take control of university labs to test efficacy or safety and then push approval through the governmental agencies.

Another example is in economics departments — and movies like “The Inside Job” have done a great job of showing how Wall Street has bought off high-profile economists from Harvard, or Yale, or Stanford, or MIT, to talk about the state of the stock market and the country’s financial stability. Papers were being presented and published that were blatantly false, by well-respected economists who were on the payroll of Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch.

Academia should not be the whore of corporatism, but that’s what it has become. Academia once celebrated itself as an independent institution. Academia is a culture, one that offers a long-standing worldview which values on-going, rigorous intellectual, emotional, psychological, creative development of the individual citizen. It respects and values the contributions of the scholar, the intellectual, to society. It treasures the promise of each student, and strives to offer the fullest possible support to the development of that promise. It does this not only for the good of the scholar and the student, but for the social good. Like medicine, academia existed for the social good. Neither should be a purely for-profit endeavor. And yet, in both the case of the HMO and the EMO, we have been taken over by an alien for-profit culture, our sovereignty over our own profession, our own institutions, stripped from us.

A corporate model, where profit depends on 1) maintaining a low-wage work force and 2) charging continually higher pricers for their “services” is what now controls our colleges . Faculty is being squeezed from one end and our students are being squeezed from the other.

Step Five – Destroy the Students
While claiming to offer them hope of a better life, our corporatized universities are ruining the lives of our students.   This is accomplished through a two-prong tactic: you dumb down and destroy the quality of the education so that no one on campus is really learning to think, to question, to reason.

Instead, they are learning to obey, to withstand “tests” and “exams”, to follow rules, to endure absurdity and abuse. Our students have been denied full-time available faculty, the ability to develop mentors and advisors, faculty-designed syllabi which changes each semester, a wide variety of courses and options.

Instead, more and more universities have core curriculum which dictates a large portion of the course of study, in which the majority of classes are administrative-designed “common syllabi” courses, taught by an army of underpaid, part-time faculty in a model that more closely resembles a factory or the industrial kitchen of a fast food restaurant than an institution of higher learning.

The Second Prong:  You make college so insanely unaffordable that only the wealthiest students from the wealthiest of families can afford to go to the school debt free. Younger people may not know that for much of the 20th Century many universities in the U.S. were free – including the CA state system – you could establish residency in six months and go to Berkeley for free, or at very low cost. When I was an undergraduate student in the mid to late 1970s, tuition at Temple University was around $700 a year. Today, tuition is nearly $15,000 a year. Tuitions have increased, using CA as an example again, over 2000% since the 1970s. 2000%! This is the most directly dangerous situation for our students: pulling them into crippling debt that will follow them to the grave.

Another dangerous aspect of what is happening can be found in the shady partnership that has formed between the lending institutions and the Financial Aid Departments of universities.  This is an unholy alliance. I have had students in my classes who work for Financial Aid. They tell me that they are trained to say NOT “This is what you need to borrow,” but to say “This is what you can get,” and to always entice the student with the highest possible number. There have been plenty of kick-back scandals between colleges and lenders — and I’m sure there is plenty undiscovered shady business going on. So, tuition costs are out of control because of administrative, executive and coach salaries, and the loan numbers keep growing, risking a life of indebtedness for most of our students. Further, there is absolutely no incentive on the part of this corporatized university to care.

The propaganda machine here has been powerful.  Students, through the belief of their parents, their K-12 teachers, their high school counselors, are convinced by constant repetition that they HAVE to go to college to have a promising, middle class life, they are convinced that this tuition debt is “worth it” — and learn too late that it will indenture them.  Let’s be clear: this is not the fault of the parents, or K-12 teachers or counselors.  This is an intentional message that has been repeated year in and year out that aims to convince us all about the essential quality of a college education.

So, there you have it.

Within one generation, in five easy steps, not only have the scholars and intellectuals of the country been silenced and nearly wiped out, but the entire institution has been hijacked, and recreated as a machine through which future generations will ALL be impoverished, indebted and silenced. Now, low wage migrant professors teach repetitive courses they did not design to students who travel through on a kind of conveyor belt, only to be spit out, indebted and desperate into a jobless economy.

The only people immediately benefitting inside this system are the administrative class – whores to the corporatized colonizers, earning money in this system in order to oversee this travesty. But the most important thing to keep in mind is this: The real winners, the only people truly benefitting from the big-picture meltdown of the American university are those people who, in the 1960s, saw those vibrant college campuses as a threat to their established power. They are the same people now working feverishly to dismantle other social structures, everything from Medicare and Social Security to the Post Office.

Looking at this wreckage of American academia, we have to acknowledge:  They have won.

BUT these are victors who will never declare victory — because the carefully-maintained capitalist illusion of the “university education” still benefits them. Never, ever, admit that the university is dead. No, no. Quite the opposite. Instead, continue to insist that the university is the ONLY way to gain a successful, middle class life. Say that the university is mandatory for happiness in adulthood. All the while, maintain this low-wage precariate class of edu-migrants, continually mis-educate and indebt in the students to ensure their docility, pimp the institution out to corporate interests.

It’s a win-win for those right wingers – they’ve crippled those in the country who would push back against them, and have so carefully and cleverly hijacked the educational institutions that they can now be turned into part of the neoliberal/neocon machinery, further benefitting the right-wing agenda.

So now what?
This ruination has taken about a generation. Will we be able to undo this damage? Can we force refunding of our public educational system? Can we professionalize faculty, drive out the administrative glut and corporate hijackers? Can we provide free or low-cost tuition and high-quality education to our students in a way that does NOT focus only on job training, but on high-level personal and intellectual development?

I believe we can.

But only if we understand this as a big picture issue, and refuse to allow those in government, or those corporate-owned media mouthpieces to divide and conquer us further. This ruinous rampage is part of the much larger attack on progressive values, on the institutions of social good. The battle isn’t only to reclaim the professoriate, to wipe out student debt, to raise educational outcomes — although each of those goals deserve to be fought for.

But we will win a Pyrrhic victory at best unless we understand the nature of the larger war, and fight back in a much, much bigger way to reclaim the country’s values for the betterment of our citizens.

I am eager to hear from those of you who have been involved in this battle, or are about to enter it.  We have a big job ahead of us, and are facing a very powerful foe in a kind of David and Goliath battle.  I’m open to hearing ideas about how to build a much, much better slingshot.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A short Video On Sanford, FL's Racist Past & Present

A Place Called Sanford

The Trayvon Martin shooting trial opens up old wounds. Paul Hunter takes us to Sanford, Florida.

George Zimmerman trial: judge to sequester jury for entire trial

Judge announces decision four days into jury selection for the Florida man accused of killing Trayvon Martin
George Zimmerman
George Zimmerman is accused of second-degree murder in the 
fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Photograph: Jacob Langston/AP
The six jurors and four alternates picked to hear the second-degree murder trial of neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman will be sequestered for the two to four weeks the trial will last, the judge presiding over the case said for the first time on Thursday.

Circuit judge Debra Nelson told a potential juror on the fourth day of selection that all panellists will be kept isolated

During the first four days of jury selection, attorneys have asked potential jurors about the hardships they would face if they were kept away from their families during the trial. Some have said they also worried about their safety if they served.

Defence attorney Don West explained to one jury candidate that if picked she would have limited contact with her family, would be monitored by court security outside the courtroom and would have to live in a hotel for the duration.

"You would not be able to participate in day-to-day routine activities," West said. "You will be limited in contact with the outside world."

Zimmerman, 29, is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming he shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defence.

A 44-day delay before Zimmerman was arrested led to nationwide protests. They questioned whether the Sanford police department was carrying out a proper investigation since Martin was a black teenager from the Miami area. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Attorneys started off on Thursday, the fourth day of jury selection, with a pool of 20 potential jurors whom they wanted for a second round of questioning. They needed an additional 10 candidates before they could move past the first round of asking questions about what potential jurors knew about the case from news coverage or social media.

By mid-afternoon on Thursday, attorneys had interviewed 29 potential witnesses over four days.
Attorneys need to find six jurors and four alternates. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for criminal trials involving capital cases, when the death penalty is being considered.

Potential panelists included a recent high school graduate who said classmates at his central Florida high school claimed to be friends with Martin even though Martin was from Miami. But the overwhelming opinion of his classmates and friends on social media was that Zimmerman was guilty, although he made it clear he had never voiced his opinion.

When asked if he thought race played a role in the case, he said: "For sure."

"It just got people really riled up," he said.

Following him was a middle-aged white woman who appeared to have already made up her mind.

Her impression was that Martin's prior use of marijuana and an image of a gun found on his cell phone were indications that "he was going down the wrong path". She also said she believed Zimmerman was just "looking after his neighborhood".

"I believe every American has a right to defend himself," said the woman, known as Juror E-81.
"I think the more people armed, the better."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The More Effective Evil: The Impact of Barack Obama's Presidency on the Black Community

This important documentary features some of the progressive and fearless voices of African/Black people who have insisted on speaking out against the destructive polices (foreign and domestic) of US President, Barack Obama. 

This documentary details Obama's record as a war mongering president whose policies have cost the lives of countless civilians in places like Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Please watch this documentary with your full attention and share it in places of worship, community centers and with your loved ones and friends. Lets the film be a force for ending imperialism and starting peace., justice and equality.


Silicon Valley's Awful Race and Gender Problem in 3 Mind-Blowing Charts

| Thu Jun. 6, 2013 
Catherine Bracy moved to San Francisco from Chicago during the 2012 campaign to run Team Obama's technology field office, a first-of-its-kind project that enlisted Silicon Valley's whiz-kid engineers to build software for the campaign. (That tech savvy, of course, played a pivotal role in Obama's victory.) What struck Bracy about the tech-crazed Bay Area, she recounted Thursday in a talk at the Personal Democracy Forum tech conference, was the jarring inequality visible everywhere in Silicon Valley—between rich and poor, between men and women, between white people and, well, everyone else.

Bracy's talk featured some eye-popping charts on Silicon Valley's race and gender divide. Here are three of them.

In 2010, the latest year for which Bracy could find data, 89 percent of California companies that got crucial seed funding were founded by men. What percentage were all-female founding teams? Just three percent.
CB Insights, Venture Capital Human Capital Report, January-June 2010
Bracy looked at that funding breakdown by race—and there's even less diversity. In 2010, less than 1 percent of the founders of Silicon Valley companies were black, a figure so small Bracy didn't put it on her white-guy-dominated pie chart.
CB Insights, Venture Capital Human Capital Report, January-June 2010
And when looking at the economic winners and losers in Silicon Valley, that racial disparity really pops out. From 2009 to 2011, income for blacks living in Silicon Valley dropped by 18 percent, compared to a decrease of 4 percent nationally. Hispanics fared badly, too. The big winners were whites and Asian Americans.
Silicon Valley Foundation/Joint Venture Silicon Valley, 2013 Silicon Valley Index
Oh, one more thing: According to Bracy, women make 49 cents for every dollar men make in Silicon Valley. You don't need a chart to feel the force of that statistic.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Michelle Alexander Gives Us a Moving Speech and Plea to Resist and Resolve Mass 
Black Incarceration
Michelle Alexander, highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, Associate Professor of Law at Ohio State University, and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, in February 2013 delivered the 30th Annual George E. Kent Lecture, in honor of the late George E. Kent, who was one of the earliest tenured African American professors at the University of Chicago.

The Annual George E. Kent Lecture is organized and sponsored by the Organization of Black Students, the Black Student Law Association, and the Students for a Free Society.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

From the Mathematics Teaching Community To Secretary Duncan: 
Policies should support teaching profession, not test-based accountability

Letter-2013-06-03-ver4 by jhicks_math

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Chokwe Lumumba IS the Mayor of Jackson, MS!

Chokwe Lumumba, with his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, and daughter, Rukia Lumumba, celebrates his primary victory on May 21. Two weeks of hard campaigning later, he’s Mayor Lumumba, having won the general election by a landslide.
Bravo!  Wow!  Jackson, MS, got it right!  The call is out for all others to be inspired!
I know I'm not the only one who read this subject line and had to do a kind of double take. 
Jackson, the capital of "the poorest and most backward state in the Union" (as it was often characterized) -- the state of Gov. Ross Barnett; Emmit Till; Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner (where Cheney's grave stone is pocked with bullet holes and is routinely overturned); Medgar Evers, James Meredith, the RNA shoot-in, the Choctaw reservation, the Greenwood Flood (like Rosewood and Tulsa, not to be unknown), and Ronald Reagan's launch of his "race-card" presidential campaign -- has elected Chokwe Lumumba as its mayor!
(This has even more irony in light of the RNA reference.  As I recall from when I met Chokwe in Chicago, with Haki and others of the African Liberation Support Committee, he was very much representing the RNA, and, if senior memory serves, even organized a national "POW{ rally in Mississippi, around the well known RNA political position that African Americans were made citizens of the US without our consent or will, and should be more correctly recognized and treated in the international community as Prisoners of War, entitled to justice according to all of the conventions that govern that status.)
Ironies and surprises aside, what is so much more significant abut this is, as you point out, the SUBSTANCE of what he brings to the office, and we can especially be gratified that the first subject on which his thinking has come to light is education.  What can it be called short of the cool water of refreshment from an oasis for those who have been traveling the desert wasteland of what "education" has become throughout the rest of the country.  And, like any good scholar and student of composition, he backs up his position with concrete, tangible examples, like the teacher who organized the trial of Hansel & Gretel (that should inspire at least a few more trials around the land), and his clear statement of his goal of a COMPLETE education, not simply a biased one.
Did I hear correctly that the Jackson public school system has a 99% African American student population?  Can that be?  Can that be a question of overall demographics (which would easily explain his election victory, perhaps), or does it reflect a trend of virtually all non-African American students being transferred to charter and private schools (a resurgence of an old-time practice)?
Whatever the case, I certainly agree with your assessment of what this means for progressive educators everywhere, in terms of providing an example and a "Victory-Space" for thought and action.  (Any reader of Sun Tzu's "The  Art of War" would know how valuable that is.)  Of course, as both you and Bro. Chokwe have made clear, this is not an occasion for giddiness: "Now the work really begins!"  (Reminiscent of the famed rooftop scene in Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers": "You know, Ali, it is very difficult to start a revolution.  It is even more difficult to sustain it.  And the most difficult is to win it.  But we will see that it is after we have won, that we will discover that our real difficulties have begun.") 
We note with interest that the work, as he outlined in the video, is not only in the field of education, which will certainly benefit from the kind of creative thinking and action he describes; he also addressed he fact that economic impoverishment, along with poor education, form two of the legs that support and cause crime.  This is right on time with this year's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice.  Dr. King was keenly aware of the fact that the legal battle for equal Civil Rights was only a part of the battle, and that even that victory was hollow without economic justice, which is why the very next phase of the struggle he led was the Poor People's Campaign (in which Mississippi was prominently represented), which he did not live to lead.
Dr. King knew, and his enemies knew, that economic justice was not just a matter of the distribution of monetary wealth, but entailed the whole panoply of factors that he outlined in the speech which sealed his fate, "A Time to Break the Silence," at Riverside Church in NY on April 4, 1967.  The distribution (or lack thereof) of opportunities, the simple presence or absence of hope, the reality (or lack thereof) of representative politics, the economics of warfare, and of he prison system, are all themes that continue to haunt us today as much as they did in the 1960s, if not even more so (in both depth and breadth), to which can be added the more recent awareness of environmental justice issues.
A Chinese proverb reminds us that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  You are probably aware of the recent interview that was held with Mumia Abu Jamal, in which he posed a very pertinent question:  Now that we have elected the nation's first African American president, after his two terms in office, what will we have to show for it?  What indeed?  The election of Barack Hussein Obama, who accepted his party's nomination on the anniversary date of the March on Washington, of Emmit Till's murder, and of the landfall of hurricane Katrina 50 years to the day after that unpunished crime, was certainly A step on that long journey, and not the first one, but it can be argued that the election of Chokwe Lumumba as Mayor of Jackson, MS, is an even greater step. 
And that is because, as my activist sister/friend/mentor in the Bronx, "Aunt Bunchy" Fox has often observed, "We can travel a thousand miles in our heads, but if our foot moves one inch forward, that is a real inch of progress."  Chokwe Lumumba embodies the change of which he speaks.  This is a real step forward.  Yet we know that his election does not guarantee any "walk in the park" when it comes to implementation in the face of the entrenched forces that are the cause and substance of the problem in the fist place.  The specter of a public school system in a sizable city educating its predominantly Black student population to be knowledgeable of he world, appreciative of their own self worth and of that of those around them, to learn from domestic workers as much as from captains of industry, to be more than just student-loan-enslaved parts of some global corporate "workforce" is nothing less than revolutionary thinking.  (In any other context, it would be just common sense, and the birthright of every child.  In this context it is "revolutionary" because it stops the pain of having one's head hit repeatedly with a hammer, as if THAT were somehow normal and acceptable.)
You are very right:  We are all on call.  Like it or not, ready or not, with or without us, the real work has begun in earnest, now that it has a real and tangible identifiable face and place.
Asante sana for sharing this,
Dinizule Gene Tinnie
Miami, FL


Education Activists,

History was made last nite in Jackson, MS! The citizens of Jackson elected an outwardly progressive Black mayor whose roots run deep within the Black Liberation Movement of the 60s,70s, and 80s. Chokwe Lumumba is an attorney for political prisoners and the people who became a City Councilmember in Jackson.

He, along with numerous ordinary Jacksonians, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and other progressive groups and individuals organized a successful mayoral campaign against the Republican and Democratic Party establishments' status quo candidates.

As Brother Mayor Lumumba states in his victory speech: now the work really begins!

Those of us who want to see a free, antiracist/antisexist and democratic public education system constructed in Jackson, should be On Call to support Mayor Lumumba and his education team in making it a reality.

On Call! Are You?

The video below gives us a hint of what Lumumba and his education team envision for this mainly Black Mississippi city.

Chokwe Lumumba becoming mayor of Jackson, MS gives the progressive education movement another "Victory-Space" to help show the rest of the nation what quality education, cultural excellence and parental/student/educator democratic involvement looks like.


In Struggle,

Sam Anderson


Chokwe Lumumba Will Be Jackson's Next Mayor

Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, a longtime activist and attorney, wants to bring his experience as a human-rights organizer to the Jackson mayor’s race.
Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, a longtime activist and attorney, wants to bring his experience as a human-rights organizer to the Jackson mayor’s race. Photo by Trip Burns.
Editor's Note: Councilman Chokwe Lumumba has been elected mayor of Jackson by a large margin. Here is his JFP interview and other articles.

Chokwe Lumumba Endorsement Interview

Chokwe Lumumba first came to Jackson in the early 1970s as a civil-rights activist. He returned to Michigan shortly after to attend law school, returning to Mississippi in 1988.

He's been in Jackson ever since, and now he's running for mayor of the capital city.

If his views and policies don't set him apart, his name will stand out on the ballot. Lumumba chose the name--which he stresses is African, not Muslim--in the late 1960s.

"I picked the name Chokwe because in my African history class I learned that the Chokwe tribe, which is a tribe that still exists, was one of the last tribes to resist the slave trade successfully in northeast Angola," Lumumba told the Jackson Free Press. "The name literally means 'hunter.'

"The second name, Lumumba, was the name of a great African leader who began to lead Africa to decolonize, to independence. He was from the Congo. Lumumba means 'gifted.' So literally, it means 'gifted hunter.'"

When he was growing up, Lumumba felt close to the civil-rights conflicts in the South as the son of an Alabama-native mother. It didn't take long for him to join to fight for freedom, and he hasn't given it up, either. For more than 35 years, Lumumba has defended civil-rights cases in the courtroom and from the rally podium. He also helped start the New Afrikan People's Organization.

He helped defend Jamie and Gladys Scott, who received double life sentences for a 1993 armed robbery that netted anywhere from $11 to $200, depending on who was testifying. In December 2010, then-Gov. Haley Barbour suspended the sisters' sentences on the condition that Gladys donate a kidney to her sister. "We thanked him when he let them go," Lumumba said. "We're still trying to get them off parole. We haven't done that."

Lumumba has also represented rapper Tupac Shakur as well as Lance Parker, who was accused of trying to shoot the gas tank during the assault on a white trucker, Reginald Denny, during the 1991 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Lumumba, who won an acquittal for Parker, argued that his client discharged his weapon to aid Denny.

Lumumba has served one term as Jackson's Ward 2 city councilman. There, he has continued to fight for more minority representation on city contracts, and gladly reminds listeners that the city is between 75 and 80 percent black on a regular basis. The JFP sat down with Lumumba in his office on Mill Street to talk about his campaign for mayor.

What role did you play in forming the New Afrikan People's Organization?
I was one of the founders of the New Afrikan People's Organization. That was in 1984. I was involved in it in the city of Detroit. It was founded in three different locations: one was in Detroit, one was in Los Angeles and one was in New York.

What is the goal and purpose of that organization?
Basically: human rights for human beings, with the focus on trying to vindicate the oppression of black folks, trying to make sure that black people are put in a position for self-determination. When we say self-determination, what we mean is giving the opportunity to govern themselves commensurate with their numbers in the particular population.

What that means is that we feel that the thing that hurt us the most, in terms of the whole estrangement from Africa, the enslavement and middle passage, is not actually the specific experiences of slaves on middle passage, but the liquidation of our rights to self-government. We feel that any people, not just us--we support this for all people, in terms of self-determination--have to be given an opportunity to participate in self-governance, economic development, political development and things of that nature.

Some people have interpreted it to say that we're separatists or something. That is not the case. We've never been separatists, nor have we ever been segregationists. What we're saying is that whatever our numbers are in a particular population, we should be able to participate in governance commensurately with those numbers.

In areas that we are in the majority, we have to be able to maintain the majority of that responsibility. (We're) not trying to subjugate or discriminate against other people, because our highest goal is human rights. We're very tight in respect to the universal declaration of human rights.

What we want to do is do a better job than our predecessors in terms of those who control us, not turning the tables. We're trying to do a better job. We're trying to fight not just for a different complexion of people in office, but a better idea in office and things of that nature.

Didn't the Republic of New Afrika call for a separate black state?
The Republic of New Afrika advocated for an independent nation. That's different from a separate nation. Well, it's different in this respect: At no point in time did the Republic of New Afrika advocate for anything that was going to throw white people out or exclude white people....

My philosophy has always been human rights for human beings. To underscore that, I'm the one that helped sponsor the anti-racial profiling ordinance and that's going to help immigrants if we get it rightly enforced. Occupy Jackson was a predominantly white organized movement where they wanted to stay at Smith Park. I'm the one that spoke up for them, not quietly but publicly.

My First Encounter With Chokwe Lumumba

Soon after the JFP launched, Editor Donna Ladd tried to cover a rally for Chokwe Lumumba—where white media were not welcome.

We've heard you mention the percentage of African Americans in Jackson and wanting to see that percentage more in government. As mayor, how would you look to implement that belief, and would you use the belief in looking at hires for city jobs and city contracts?
What I'm looking for is the empowerment of the population of the 80 percent (African American population) that's there. As far as I'm concerned, I'm looking for the empowerment of all the population. You can check my background in terms of the cases I've had and causes I've championed. As far as that's concerned, there were a lot of poor white people, too.

It so happens that in the city of Jackson, except for the south side where you do have some poor white people who, I believe, are (of) modest income, for the most part, what we're greeted to on the northeast side are white people who are fairly well off. They are not really in the economically oppressed class.

What I am looking for is the empowerment of that population, the empowerment of the urban population, period. Black population is principal of that, because it's 85 percent of it, or 80 percent of it. What I'm looking for is we need that 85 percent to have jobs. We can never get it done if we have people who come in and give the black population 20 percent of the jobs, give another part of the population 60 percent of the jobs and another one 20 percent of the jobs. That's not going to work. ...

It's self-defeating, not only for the black population, but it's self-defeating for the city of Jackson. If most of your population is not enjoying the opportunity to get work, then of course, you're going to be a poor city. ...

If you're fighting to keep that 80 percent in peonage, then your whole state's going to be in peonage. You're going to have some rich people, but a good number of the white people are going to be poor. The black people are going to be poor. The state is going to be poor, relatively speaking, to other states.

That's what I don't want. Do I expect there to be white businesses and white jobs and plenty of them? Of course. Any of the white businessmen who have dealt with me can tell you that.

Despite health problems that put him in the hospital in 2012, Lumumba is confident he is up to the rigors of the mayor’s office.

Give an example.
I have given a lot of the impetus for the Siemens (water and sewer improvement) project, for instance. Siemens came to me, for whatever reason, before they came into the city council, and before, I believe, they came to the (Johnson) administration. I can't speak to when they came to the administration, but it was at least a couple years before the city council actually got it. People brought Siemens to me to ask me what my view was in Siemens trying to get this (water) project.

They were trying to convince me there would be a lot of jobs available, and it would be good for the city. So what I did is, I told them what I tell everybody. I said, 'Yeah, we want your business. We need business here in the city. There are two things that I'd like to see. I'd like (commitment) to giving jobs to Jacksonians, and I'd like to see you committed to what we call the so-called minority level. That is, as far as your contractors and sub-contractors, a good portion of them are either black or Hispanic so other people have a chance to do these contracts years down the road, other than the small groups we have working them now.

Those are the two things I said. I thought (Siemens' officials) were genuine. I still think they're genuine, in terms of saying what they're going to do. If you look at what they've done, it's pretty representative.

That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about, OK? I'm not talking about cutting anybody out of this. Certainly, I'm not trying to exclude businesses, which would be profitable to Jacksonians from coming in.

I'm not just trying to get black people to come to this city. I think if we do what's supposed to be done in this city, the city is going to attract a lot of people, not only black and white, but globally. That's what happens to cities (that) really do well.

Go way back to Cairo, Egypt. Egypt used to be black, but it attracted cultures from everywhere. That's why it looks like it does now. The same thing with New York City.

That's what I want to see. I want to see an opportunity for us to advance immensely here in Jackson. I'm not going to be counting the number of blacks who walk through the door, or the number of Hispanics who walk through the door. Anybody that wants to get down with this process and really do it well, I'm down with them.

How, specifically, as mayor would you assure that when contractors come in that they do give jobs to Jacksonians and specifically to minority Jacksonians?
I think there are two ways. Number one, we're already supposed to have a policy that is supposed to encourage--and I'll have to revisit the policy--but last I heard, it was supposed to encourage 8 percent minority involvement. It's supposed to be a goal as opposed to a quota.

Lumumba's New 'Frontier'

Chokwe Lumumba has a fascinating, if controversial, history in Jackson and beyond.

8 percent?
I think it's 8 percent, the last I heard. Harvey (Johnson) says he strives for higher than that. I think that the actual, spoken policy is 8 percent, which is ridiculously low. I've thought about having an articulating policy that we can have agreed upon and approved by the City Council, hopefully, which would be larger than that.

First of all, I think we should have a goal. You really would have to talk about this in terms of a goal. You can't make it a quota. You want to have a goal of encouraging all businesses that come here to have more than 50 percent, or 60 percent of their employees be Jacksonians. You want at least 50 percent of their contractors and sub-contractors, except in special situations, to be minorities.

That's how we'll make it work. When these people employ more people from the city, that's going to increase the income in the city. They contract with more sub-contractors that reflect the population of the city, and other oppressed people who may not live in the city. They live around the city. If they do that, that's going to spread the skills pool, and the contractor pool, getting people where they can do projects big enough where they can get bonded, they can get insured. Then we can have a bigger pool of people participating. I believe the bigger the pool participating, the more the economy grows.

One of our problems right now is that even as far as black people are concerned, or minorities, (we're) building too small of a pool. If you keep shipping the same contracts to the same people, first of all, in many instances they're not really able to handle all the contracts. So what they do is go out and contract someone else the work that they're supposed to be doing, and it defeats the whole purpose to why you gave it to them in the first place.

By having those two things as goals--A, having those who you contract with having over 50 or 60 percent of their people from Jackson, and then having at least 50 percent of the sub-contractors being from the minority pool, and that includes women, Hispanics, blacks, and Asians and others--those two things, I think, would help economically help our population.

You seem to be suspicious of capitalistic enterprises. How will that affect your relationship to businesses and business groups in terms of attracting them Jackson?
We're in a transitional economy in many respects. Capitalism, at its rankest form, is not a humanistic economic system. It allows the most powerful to tear into the economic fabric of the least powerful. It allows people with big money to control people with no money, low money and small money in many ways including politically because the people with the money the determinant of who runs for office.

How receptive do you think white business owners and groups like Downtown Jackson Partners will be to your ideas?
I'm very much for the development of downtown, and I think it can be done together with outskirt areas: Highway 49, Medgar Evers. Highway 18. We need a frontage road on parts of I-20. The infrastructure areas planned for downtown need to be expanded beyond downtown.

You're not going to get any major department store to relocate in downtown, Jackson. It doesn't happen in other cities so why would it happen here? You're not going to get them in the big shopping centers like Metrocenter. They live on stretches like Lakeland Avenue, and that's why Rankin County is doing so well developing that stretch.

What about One Lake?
I think it's a good idea. We've got to develop waterfronts. Waterfronts are profitable all over the country, and sometimes the best aspects of the cities are right there on the waterfront so we've got to take advantage of that.

How do you plan to balance your work as a lawyer with your work as mayor?
I don't plan to have work as a lawyer. I can't do it. It's rough enough from the city council perspective.

It's time for me to move on from being a lawyer, anyway. I've been doing this thing since 1976. I feel about like Barry Sanders when he quit the Detroit Lions. I saw Barry at the airport and asked him, "Barry, man, we didn't want you to quit. We wanted you to stay." He said, "You don't think I've done enough?"

You don't lose as much as Sanders did in Detroit, either, do you?
Yeah, that's right. That is true. That is one of the considerations I had to have as far as deciding to run (for mayor). I had to make sure my son (Chokwe) was in a position where he could take over a lot of my responsibilities as far as my law firm is concerned. I can't do both. Those things are not compatible.

How did a lawyer from little old Jackson, Miss., get involved with all these high-profile cases and clients?
Because I was an activist first before I was a lawyer. I went all over the country helping in causes and demonstrations - students rights, prisoners' rights, women's rights. When you're involved in those struggles then you become a lawyer you're in high demand for people who have those kinds of cases. And for a time in my career, I was able to live off those kinds of cases where people were being politically or racially prosecuted, or being prosecuted because of gender.

As mayor, what would you do if someone sued the city of Jackson for police brutality? You've always been on the victim's side of those cases.
Well, first of all, I'm going to do a thorough investigation. If the police are responsible, we're going to have to settle. And this is going to be an incentive to make sure we have the right kind of police department. And sometimes the police aren't culpable, and I'm going to protect them. 
Crime is like this: I'm in a unique position to understand people who have problems and people are marginal as far as crime is concerned. Our attack on them has to be get them a job, to reorient their values. You've got to reduce the pool of people who might become criminals ... that's going to be a joint effort with churches, people like me who ran basketball programs.

Secondly, we have to get them a job. Thirdly, we have say to those who continue to commit crimes that we're going to sit down at this table and make a promise: You're going to stop committing crimes, and I'm going to try my damnedest to get you a job, to create programs to get jobs, to encourage businesses to drop the "misdemeanor box" so you don't get dropped from the job because you have to check off that you've been convicted of a misdemeanor. What your promise is going to be is you're going to get out of the drug game, you're not going to break into people's homes. If you do that, you've breached our promise.

The city has a lot of contracts ahead of them, including approximately $400 million worth of work on the sewer system from the Environmental Protection Agency's consent decree. How, as mayor, would you look to fund that over the next couple of decades?
First of all, I think the Siemens contract addresses that in a small way. It's a way that we can increase the revenues from water, so we've got to look at that. We know that we've got to increase those revenues and use some of that money toward that.

The other thing is that we've got to get that (local option) sales tax through, or at least give the people a chance to vote on it. If the people don't want it, then of course they won't vote for it.

On the 1-percent sales tax situation, we just need to get it straight and, hopefully, shed that (oversight) commission. That's one of the ways that we're going to be looking at it. There are other companies out there that have lease-to-own programs in terms of repairing old water systems. What they do is, the city pays on it over a period of time, on a sort-of lease-to-own situation.

For instance, just a hypothetical, a company comes in, and they put in like $400 million of pipes and change the system around. They own it. What happens is (the city) begins to pay them back. So you're leasing it until you pay them back. That's a possibility.

We've got to investigate those. People came to me with those while I was on the council. I referred them to administration. For whatever reason, (administration) didn't use them. I'm not saying they should have. I don't know.

That's one of the problems, I think, with the present way that things are done. I should know, because I'm on the council, and we should be working on these things together, but I don't know. That kind of stuff is not shareable to me nor the other council members. I think the philosophy of how we deal with things economically lacks collectivity, which I think is not good.

I think that should we ever be placed in the situation that we were several years ago--remember when the water system broke down? We declared an emergency. I think the State declared an emergency too, for the Jackson area.

(U.S. Rep.) Bennie Thompson was head of the Homeland Security Committee at the time. I called Thompson and the mayor. I called Bennie first and asked if he would be receptive to hearing a request from us that the president declare a state of emergency for the state of Jackson, and give us some money. Bennie said, "Well, is Harvey going to ask for that?"

I called Harvey, and Harvey told me he didn't think we needed it. I disagree with that. If we have that opportunity again, at least go for it. Look for those types of opportunities, because that could have created a whole new day for Jackson. (I believe) $300 million is not all that much coming from the federal government, in terms of their contribution, but in terms of us receiving it, that's a lot of money. That gives you a whole new economic frontier.

That's the kind of thing that I'm certainly going to be looking out for. At the same time, the hard work of trying to get the sales-tax thing through is something we're going to have to do. I think that will generate a lot of income, if we can get it through.

How important is it to make Jackson a tourist destination?
It's important. That's a good question. I think it's important, because all major cities nowadays, maybe always, have used that as a portion of their economy. I don't think we should get beyond ourselves. I don't think we should be thinking of ourselves as a New Orleans, or (an) Orlando, Florida, or something like that. That's primarily what they are.

I think that we have to have industry. We have to produce something here. We've got to address the needs of people who live here, and not just think about bringing other people in. I think (tourism) is an important part. I believe that an important part of that is to do something with Farish Street. I think we've been hustled on Farish Street, but I don't know. Farish Street is an issue that's lasted a lot longer than me. I just got into public council in 2009.

What did you mean when you said we've been hustled?
Well, I think that the problem is that the Watkins Development group--that is supposed to have been doing the Farish Street thing--has not had the capacity to do it. Their lack of capacity has stymied us for a number of years in terms of getting it done.

Why have they lacked the capacity? It seems to me that they have been in a lot of different projects and playing with our money. Like the Standard Life building: The city sold that for a million dollars to David Watkins.

Then, we've got the Farish Street thing they're involved in. Later on, (Watkins) was involved in the Metro Retro project (to revitalize Metrocenter Mall). I'm not sure that David really ever had enough resources to do all those things. That's what I'm saying.

Maybe "hustled" is too strong of a word. I kind of think he was trying to get some money, at certain points of time, that some of the money he was trying to get for one project may have been going to another project. Apparently, according to what we've been told, he's had some success with the King Edward. I haven't heard much about the Standard Life, but I'm assuming he's had some success with that.

I think that, sometimes, you need to consider other sources, or at least it needs to be re-vetted. You can't just assume that because he's had two successful projects that the third one is going to be good, or the fourth one is going to be good. I don't think we did our due diligence in terms of the Farish Street project.

Is it time to look for another developer on Farish Street?
Yeah. Yeah. I think so. I think that we need to look for another developer. If the developers that have it now can jump up and say, "Look, we've got it. We've got the money. We can do it," then, of course, you don't put them out so they can never do it.

You've called for recruiting undocumented immigrants to Jackson to spur economy growth.
Yeah, I want them to become citizens because I think their blend into the political process as well as the economic process could be healthy for us. What we need here is a new culture. It's a new idea, a new way, a new justice frontier. We have not only a black culture, we have white people who have their culture. We have Hispanics. We have Asians. And something's going to happen as a result of that. Something always does when you have a new blend of people.

The question is it going to be something good or something bad? What we need is a new culture with new ideas that leads up to becoming a model city in the world.

You were in the hospital last year. Do you feel physically up to the task?
I had pneumonia last year. I feel great now. ... I'm going to get it accomplished. It was the first time in my life I came down with pneumonia, and pneumonia's rough. So I was in there... a week or two weeks?

No lingering problems that people should worry about?
No, nothing you should worry about. Win or lose, I'm going to be around a long time. But I'll tell you this: I don't intend to be in office for 12 years. I think that's too long. I have enough sense to realize that I'm not the answer to every question. The answer is developing a system and building new leadership. Part of my job is to address the problems of Jackson as best I can. The other part is to develop leadership for Jackson. In my administration, you're going to see a reflection of that in the types of people I hire - younger people, women. And we're going to make sure that it's an administration that forward looking and not backwards looking. I expect someone to come along that's greater than me, and if I don't do that, I haven't succeeded.

Yeah, that's part of the Jackson Plan to develop a progressive leadership that's going move Jackson forward and make it a better place. (Another part of the Jackson plan) is to build Peoples' Assemblies all over not just Jackson but all over Mississippi where people will express their concerns to city, state and national governments and at the same time be able to learn more about what this organizations are doing.

Email R.L. Nave at See all mayoral interviews to date at


JFP Interview with Chokwe Lumumba, 2009

Read Lumumba's cover interview when he ran for Jackson City Council in 2009.

In His Own Words: Lumumba Explains HIs 'Jackson-Kush Plan'

The month before the 2012 Democratic Primary, Lumumba talked to a national publication about his controversial plan for Jackson.

From 2004: Chokwe Lumumba v. Mississippi Bar

Read a 2004 JFP story about Chokwe Lumumba's battle with the Mississippi Bar, including several PDFs of legal documents.

The Jackson Plan

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement developed a "plan" for several cities around the country. Read the Jackson Plan here.