Oprah Cannot Afford The Flight To Ferguson And Other Socio-Political Observations

In a recent interview hosted by People’s Magazine, Oprah Winfrey does something her years as a White Woman’s favored daytime negro do not seem to afford her any expertise is: she gave a socio-political critique and analysis.

 

Her particular critique of a socio-political movement that she has neither funded, visited– or based on her comments– studied was the Mike Brown Forever movement, that global revolt inspiring collective of actions sparked by the protest of residence of Canfield Green apartments in Ferguson, Mo. The billionaire who sold almost half of her brand name and had to hire Madea to come help her buy it back seems to have forsaken years of study of political actions and any experience on the ground. Her entry point into this brand new expertise as a political scientist with a special focus on social protest is the new movie she not only stars in, but also acts as producer(read that as part financer) of. One of the world’s richest women has found her voice on the topic of social change in the United States from financing and acting in a small role of a film that has to doctor the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr because they couldn’t afford to pay to license the usage of such wordings on the $20 Million dollar budget they had to work with.

 

Instead of the former fat pocket chica of Chicago, which happens to be a four hours drive away from Ferguson, Mo where Mike Brown was murdered, a four hours that is apparently too much for the boss of Tyler Perry to take out of her busy schedule to observe and give morale, admitting that she has absolutely no clue about what is going on in Ferguson directly, she decided to use her legacy and platform as a punching bag. As quoted here(“Oprah Winfrey’s Comments about Recent Protests and Ferguson Spark Controversy” ), here(“Protesters slam Oprah over comments that they lack ‘leadership'”), here(“Oprah suffers Twitter backlash for comments about protesters” ), and here(“Oprah Comments On Ferguson Protests & Upset Protesters!” ), and if any of these links decide to be removed or altered, I have also included the video of the People interview and the full transcript of the conversation as well:

 



 

Winfrey & Oyelowo, People Magazine(Dec 2014)

Oprah: “I’m a person who lives my life based on intention. I don’t do one thing without thinking about what is my intention first. And I’ve been living my life that way since 1989. And it really just, ya know, it’s ordered my life in such a way that you have, you meet divine order all the time because you’re doing things on purpose. So, I think that what can be gleamed from our film, Selma, is to really take note of the strategic intention required when you want real change. Mmm. Strategic, peaceful intention when you want real change. Mm. I think it’s wonderful to, to, to march and protest. And it’s wonderful to see all across the country people doing it. But what I really am looking for is some type of leadership to come out of this to say this is what we want. Right. This is what we want, this is what has to change and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes and this is what we’re willing to do to get it. And, and when you watch Selma. That’s what Selma is all about, it’s all about the strategy. Those marches just didn’t happen, and they weren’t happening, happening haphazardly, they were happening out of an order, and their design for change. That’s my feeling about it.”

 

Oyelowo: A, and, and, to jump off of that, what I think is so divine and beautiful about Selma coming out at this time is, a), it shows: This isn’t new, we’ve had this before, and there are very direct parallels. Ferguson, I feel, when it initially happened, it felt like it was a black problem. When we saw the footage of Eric Garner, it became an American problem. And you saw that in the way that black and white, young and old came together to say, this is not okay. It was the same thing in Selma.

 

Oprah: Exactly the same thing.

 

Oyelowo: It was, you know, in, in, in the sense that voting rights, or the lack of it for black people, was a black problem. When you saw Bloody Sunday, it became an American problem.

 


 

“What I’m looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, ‘This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we’re willing to do to get it,'” Winfrey told People magazine.

 

Purely as a Black Media analyst taking in a certain text for the first time, I have to consider certain allusions being made her that baffle me. Firstly, the notion of this movement being “leaderless” is silly. There are leaders in Ferguson, Mo representing the Mike Brown Forever movement, there is just more than one. There are several organizations in Ferguson and the St. Louis area that are major key players working for some semblance of justice in not only the Ferguson arena, but also in the names of Kajieme Powell, Droop Myers, and Antonio Martin. There was an entire delegation including the parents of Mike Mike Brown that presented a case to the United Nations. What there has not been is a dictator that could easily be swayed by a multibillion dollar media interest. What there has not been is one single face to put on this movement other than Mike Brown, which, as the interview goes on, seems to be the major concern for not only Oprah “I’m Too Sexy For My Blackness” Winfrey, but also her Afrikan paramour, David Oyelowo(OWL is totally kidding with the “paramour” part. We at the Asylum have no clue as to whether Winfrey and Oyelowo are having sexual relations or not).

 

In the interview, one of the more overlooked aspects, is a statement regarding Mike Brown and the initial phases of the movement. Oyelowo states, “What I think is so divine and beautiful about Selma coming out at this time is, a), it shows: This isn’t new, we’ve had this before, and there are very direct parallels. Ferguson, I feel, when it initially happened, it felt like it was a black problem. When we saw the footage of Eric Garner, it became an American problem. And you saw that in the way that black and white, young and old came together to say, this is not okay. It was the same thing in Selma. ”
One of the major concerns voiced by one of the young leaders of the Civil Rights Movement that is not mentioned in this discussion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. led segment of the march on Selma, Alabama in the early months of 1965, namely, Kwame Ture (nee stokely Carmichael) is the dependence of US Blacks on a White set of institutions and what he referenced as “national sentiment”. What Oyelowo overlooks in his ahistorical and context-less comparison of two dynamic events–the protests formed around the murder by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson of an unarmed Mike Mike Brown and the voting registration campaign of the early 1960s in Alabama–is that, as dauntingly dangerous it is two compare these two extremely disparate instances of justice campaigning, both were regarded, funded, recorded, broadcast, championed and whatever other verb one can think of to describe “included to the degree of defining”, Whyte US citizenship who from day one positioned it as A) A Black Problem and B) A United States Problem. It is also necessary to return to the words of Kwame Ture who actually happened to be directly involved in a major way with the voting registration drive in Alabama in the early 1960s, not just some actor, actress, producer, or otherwise financial beneficiary whose only study and involvement with the movement to date is the product of capitalistic investment.

 

Kwame Ture & Charles V. Hamilton, “Black Power, The Politics Of Liberation”


…there is a clear need for genuine power bases before black people can enter into coalitions. Civil rights leaders who, in the past or at present, rely essentially on “national sentiment” to obtain passage of civil rights legislation reveal the fact that they are operating from a powerless base. They must appeal to the conscience, the good graces of the society; they are, as noted earlier, cast in a beggar’s role, hoping to strike a responsive chord. It is very significant that the two oldest civil rights organizations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League, have constitutions which specifically prohibit partisan political activity. (The Congress of Racial Equality once did, but it changed that clause when it changed its orientation in favor of Black Power.) This is perfectly understandable in terms of the strategy and goals of the older organizations, the concept of the civil rights movement is a kind of liaison between the powerful white community and the dependent black community. The dependent status of the black community apparently was unimportant since, if the movement proved successful, that community was going to blend into the white society anyway. No pretense was made of organizing and developing institutions of community power within the black community. No attempt was made to create any base of organized political strength; such activity was even prohibited, in the cases mentioned above. All problems would be solved by forming coalitions with labor, churches, reform clubs, and especially liberal Democrats.

 


 

Kwame points out in 1967 with shrewd foresight that there would be a need to empower US Blacks beyond a dependence on Whyte institutions because the gains made by US Blacks in such relationships would only become eroded over time, a point he makes while citing the erosion of public school integration gains he witnessed in the early 1960s. Fast forward to June 25, 2013, some almost 15 years after the passing of Kwame Ture, the Supreme Court of the United States of America in a 5 to 4 vote effectively gutted out one of the most important aspects of the Civil Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 in (please catch this)SHELBY COUNTY, ALABAMA v. HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL., the stipulation that made certain Southern states accountable to report any changes made to their election laws and to have those changes federally approved. So, while Oyelowo presents on one hand an argument and interpretation that reads as obviously oblivious to the context within which the movie he lauds and the events the movie inaccurately portray, Oprah nods in agreement while on the other hand lending credibility to a specious argument that frames Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s methodology as basically the ONLY methodology worthy of consideration outside of the historical and objective trajectory that shows a political stratagem not only worthy of criticism now, but that had received worthy criticism by someone that worked with Dr. King then!!!

 

Let me close on this note, not only does Oprah and Oyelowo get the details of the film they should have studied the events they are supposed to be reenacting wrong, they by way of lack of apparent research get the details wrong regarding the movement of protest and civil disobedient actions stemming from the desire to call to justice the officer that killed Mike Mike Brown. While it is my thinking that Winfrey is well within her rights to wait for whatever messiah might fall from the sky, her desire to have that messiah present demands seems to be oversight. Since prior to the mobilization weekend held in October(“Ferguson October”) that galvanized activist nationwide to join in the St. Louis area in a series of actions including one involving Professor Cornel “I came to get arrested” West(how did Oprah miss that?), there has been a list of five demands. These demands, as well as an addendum to those original demands here at this online location I have linked to. These demands were read to the St. Louis Mayor in an action that same Monday on which Cornel West was arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department with other activists and clergy at the St. Louis City Hall. The facts would show that Winfrey has no clue as to what she is talking about. As far as waiting on some majestic messiah to fall from the clouds, I cannot speak too directly to that, other than to say, I personally am not and have not been waiting on anyone to lead; I have been waiting on justice to prevail. I would think waiting on justice in the United States of America with regard to its slave descendants is also a very wasteful pursuit, just one I deem less wasteful of resources than waiting on the Black Messiah if it ain’t a record being recorded by D’angelo.

 

Given that Winfrey obviously has no clue about what she is talking about, as a Black Media Analyst and thus semiotician, I do now wish to question why the hell is she talking about this at all…

More Like Waiting for America(Movie Review: “Waiting For Superman”)

I was alerted earlier this week, or even possibly the last one, that a phenomenal documentary exposing the problem areas of the United States’ educational system was to be released in theaters. I was asked to tune into Oprah, no go there, and I found myself attempting to find more information online. As the movie’s release approached, I was bombarded with information regarding the educational systems, teacher’s salaries, and a host of other maladies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to view the movie in its entirety, I was left to watch the trailers. (*cough*hands off the net*hack*).

The documentary, “Waiting For Superman”, as the trailer suggests, is a purview of the underlying asili of this nation, that only a certain portion of society is worthy of a thorough education. As prisons fill, and joblessness increases, so does the gap separating those that will be able to assist the country in an intellectual manner, from those that will be dependent upon them. It is no surprise to me that the antics of women ‘swirling’ around the net, promoting more division through the internet, than assistance plowed their way through twitter during this movie’s release.

Although, as stated, I haven’t seen the movie yet, a sister’s who’s twitter handle is @Chey_marly_mom was able to venture out and…well, I’ll let her discuss “Waiting for Superman” in her own words…

More like…”Waiting for America….”

If you have a pulse or are moderately abreast of current events, then chances are you have heard some of the buzz around the new documentary discussing this country’s education crisis, ironically entitled “Waiting for Superman”. I happened to catch wind of the film while reviewing this past Monday’s episode of Oprah. The documentary written and directed by Davis Guggenheim, features DC Schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee; Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, and other experts in education, as they chronicle the experiences of 5 real life families and the overwhelming problems facing America’s school system. As a mom with two children in grade school, I was glued to the TV and knew that I would make it my business to see this documentary for myself.

So after work yesterday evening, I ventured to “Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema”, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Before I go any further, I find it utterly ridiculous that a film with such presupposed importance and “must see” requisition, is playing in a handful of theaters (two in NYC to be exact) and in only two cities thus far (New York & LA)… How is a “ground breaking” film with Oprah’s seal of approval supposed to reach the masses and ignite a movement, let alone start a conversation if its release is limited? With that as a consideration, many people will likely not have an opportunity to see this documentary. However, I recommend that you view the trailer online and Google search the title to learn more about the film and the growing anticipation for it to be the stepping stone toward reforming America’s education system.

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Spoiler Alert: There simply is no way to discuss or review this documentary without disclosing the premise. In a nut shell, America’s ENTIRE school system is failing and producing a generation of adults who are/will be ill equipped to perform this country’s most highly skilled jobs or even enter today’s competitive job market due to the incredibly poor/low achievement rates in math, science & literacy. The US currently ranks 25th in math and 21st in science, worldwide. Statistics strongly dictate that high school students are dropping out at alarming rates and that graduates are being set up to compete and FAIL in a shifting global job market they have not been equipped to compete in. In the film, failing high schools are sadly referred to as “drop out factories”. One distressing example from the film is Roosevelt High School in LA; where only 1 out of 100 seniors will meet college admissions standards & 54% of students overall will not graduate! In the past 40 years, out of 60 thousand students… 40 THOUSAND have dropped out. I wish I could reference all of the disturbing stats and figures that where evidenced. Unfortunately, my memory isn’t that savvy & frankly I was disgusted, heartbroken and consumed with the defeated faces of the students… while thinking of my own children.

The documentary introduced viewers to five real life families battling in the trenches of America’s education system. I was touched by them all and brought to tears by Bianca’s story. A kindergartner from Harlem whose mother Nakia was unable to afford the tuition for her daughter to continue attendance at her private school. As a result she was not permitted to walk in her graduation ceremony. They live in a community where the “zoned” (designated according to address zip code) public schools are depressed and failing. Nakia was laid off from her job which meant that Bianca would ultimately have to attend a school in her neighborhood or get lucky and win the “lottery”. Lottery: defined as… a gambling game or method of raising money, as for some public charitable purpose, in which a large number of tickets are sold and a drawing is held for certain prizes. Lottery: defined with regards to the education system, is an “opportunity” for a child to obtain an education at a Charter School (a school within or out of the community that is not pigeon held by district rules and regulations usually producing students with at a higher achievement rate than zoned schools). All five families in the film were subjected to this lottery process with the hopes they could “win” a chance for a promising future at their districts prized school; oftentimes located miles from their homes. The entire theater was still when the lottery process and results sadly displayed just how unfair the system currently is and how America has officially made education (once again) a civil rights issue. So much for “no child left behind…”

Education reformers such as Geoffrey Canada, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, and Newark mayor Cory Booker, are on a campaign to remedy what is ailing the system. Each of them has made tremendous strides in reform that have been wonderful for SOME children. But there are clearly roadblocks in the system that’s preventing a significant overhaul. Unions such as the ACLU appear to be an impediment to even addressing some of the most obvious resolutions to the problems: firing bad teachers and paying great teachers their worth. [pullthis]Tenure, guaranteed pay to teachers for life– even if they go to prison, perform poorly or are under investigation for sexual accusations– is the REAL lottery, and needs to be re-evaluated.[/pullthis]

In the film, shifting around bad teachers from one school to the another school is referred to as the “dance of the lemons”, the “turkey trot” and “passing the trash”. On screen, teachers are depicted as animated figures floating and “dancing” on a map of the Milwaukee school system. Demonstrating in a satirical way how chronically bad teachers are traded among principals in different districts with the hope they can make “lemonade” with another school’s “lemon”. In New York City, over 100 million is spent annually paying out salaries & babysitting teachers who are up for review/suspension while they report to the city’s Re-Assignment Center, also known as the “Rubber Room”. They are seen reading news papers and playing cards while they wait for their hearing. The film goes on to divulge that in Illinois, “one in 57 doctors lose their medical licenses; one in 97 attorneys lose their law licenses; but for teachers, only one in 2,500 have ever lost their credentials.” Disgraceful!

The system is further entangled in a web of political ascendancy. Teachers unions such as the NEA and AFT are the largest political interest group and 90% of their donations are campaign contributions to the Democratic Party. Smh!!

So now what?

The truth has reared its ugly head and America is now going to reconcile these issues by any means necessary and expeditiously, right? *Not holding my breath* The problems are astounding. Sitting in the theater watching this documentary left me with the feeling of every word synonymous to defeat. As I previously mentioned, I have two children in grade school. My eldest daughter goes to a public Magnet school (public school with specialized courses or curricula) where she is an Honor Student and an Art major. My babygirl is in Pre-Kindergarten at a private school that my husband and I pay tuition for her to attend. I have a tremendous amount of concern for their futures and I have as much concern for their peers’ futures. EVERY child in this country is deserving of a competent & competitive education. The mediocrity of America’s education system is a criminal offense! How do the powers that be knowingly allow for the future of our children to be destined for inadequacy? The breakdown in the system appears to have begun decades ago although there seems to be some debate on the cause or source of its inception. And the problem is not immune to any one area in the country. In the film, Emily an 8th grader from a wealthier family living in an affluent LA neighborhood was desperate to attend the district’s Charter school because her college campus-like, state of the art zoned school, “track” student achievement levels; another issue plaguing America’s school system. Standardized tests as a measure of intelligence haven’t proven to be a successful metric of achievement. And I didn’t find it unusual that the question arose that whether the breakdown in (urban) neighborhoods are the CAUSE or RESULT of the failing education system. How many of us have been made privy to the implication that children in underdeveloped neighborhoods simply can’t learn or are not teachable? *sigh*

After viewing this film, one can’t help but wonder if the damage to the entire system is irreparable…? And none of what I have recounted diminishes the required responsibility of learning & achievement reinforcement in the home by any means. Parents have simply got to do better. On Friday’s Oprah Show, the topic was revisited with reactions from teachers & administrators such as Geoffrey Canada, and politicians with varied opinions on what was revealed in the documentary and what are we going to do as a result. A pledge was made by Newark mayor Cory Booker, the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg to further revitalize and repair the Newark school district under the leadership of Mr. Booker. Zuckerberg donated 100 Million dollars to that effort. Newark is on its way to potentially being a model for education reform in this country, while the rest of the country is waiting for…?

Rest in Revolt, Bro. Malcolm…And Let The Dead Bury Their Own…

Sometimes I have to laugh at people to keep the last pieces of my sanity from completely sending me into the abyss. I think deeply about what I read, and what I hear. I attempt to reflect the best part of that back into the world, through what I say and what I write. I consider the Brother Malcolm X to be a guide post in my life more reasons than one. I think about all the articles I read based on Oprah’s theory of the down low brother and “homo-thug”. I listen to the banter about Atlanta, and I laugh when someone begins to question a man’s sexual preference based on if he likes receiving oral stimulation from a woman more than vaginal penetration. I wonder if any of these people would have asked Malcolm those questions, or had those thoughts running in the back of their heads as he mentions he spent seven years incarcerated.

So today, as I read my twitter stream, I begin to giggle at this one young sister that I follow. The sister is one of those high strung women that thinks because she looks a certain way, (that being light-skinned), that she is entitled a certain respect in all things American black. I read a comment she made today about the release of Mr. Thomas Haggin, the one of the suspects arrested at the Audubon Ballroom after the assassination of Brother Malcolm. Mr. Thomas would become the only one of three men sent to prison for the assassination to admit his guilt. The sister typed shock that the brother was being released in rhetorical question.

What I responded to the sister might have been slightly rude. What I typed possibly might have even gotten my account blocked from following her. I mentioned that the brother had done his time, as Malcolm had done his once, and asked her if she was going to “put in work” for Malcolm. Knowing that she would rather post and update her twitter stream than plan to kill the person responsible for the assassination of a brother she looks up to in death, but possibly would have repulsed in person, I continued my conversation with others there, not expecting a response. Not saying that I am doing more, of course, my life being what it is, I would suppose my efforts should be considered with high regard. Those who have seen the ugly face of war should be relieved of any obligations to return.

That being said, in the same vein that I regarded the actions of Maulana Karenga and the US organizations involvement with the murder of Bunchy Carter, I read and learn of the history, respect the elders that survived, and learn from their flawed victories. There were wars and disputes that existed before I did. The black struggle for self-determination and nationhood has had people from different sides of the aisle with extreme passion and dedication take shots and fight one another. Just as I have fought with people, and have done things that others might either be afraid to do, or ashamed to do. We all have a past. We all have to thank God for the opportunities given to us to live among the hurt, as those that hurt live among us. It is not my duty or my job to the memory of Malcolm x to attack Aziz Muhammad(who subsequently was made the regional captain of the East Coast and head of the very Mosque that Malcolm built upon his release by Minister Louis Farrakhan), Kahlil Islam, or Thomas Hagan.

If you feel it is your duty, let me remind you that when you attack that man, you attack a brother that was in the climate that “allowed him [Brother Malcolm] to be assassinated” that Louis Farrakhan has taken accountability for creating. You attack a man who not once said that the other brothers who were set free some twenty odd years ago had anything to do with the assassination. You attack a man that while serving forty years has received a master’s degree, and has been working to take care of his wife and children. But, he is in Sunset Park in Brooklyn if you need answers. I’m sure he is more than just the man who killed another man you probably wouldn’t have understood either…