Phil Agnew and the Dream Defenders are No Joke

Phil AgnewWe recently sat down with Phil Agnew of the Dream Defenders which is an incredible organization based in Florida. They were the first on the scene kicking up dust and doing all that they could do to bring attention to the grave injustice that befell 17-year-old  Trayon Martin who racial profiled and then shot by self-proclaimed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

During our interview, Phil walked us through all the direct action the Dream Defenders executed leading up to the Trayvon Martin saga getting national attention. These activities included blocking the doors to the Standford police station and walking 40 miles over a 3 day period from Stanford Florida to Tallahassee. During the trial and the months leading up to it, very little shine was given to the DD. Instead we saw the faces of traditional Civil Rights leaders and media pundits. Throughout that time, the Dream Defenders kept their nose to the grind, doing the heavy lifting of organizing throughout the state. Their focus was young people in many of the colleges and disenfranchised folks from the community.

Dream Defenders signs After the tumultuous trial, which resulted in George Zimmerman being acquitted, while many pundits and Trayvon Martin experts left Sanford to return home, the Dream Defenders headed to the state capital and staged a 30 day sit in at the governor’s office. As Phil explained, the purpose was not to protest the verdict which they obviously didn’t agree with, but to bring attention to the unfair laws  that led to Martin being shot in the first place.

The issues at hand were racial profiling and Stand Your Ground. The group wanted a meeting with the governor and demanded to have a hearing with the legislature to repeal the law. It was an arduous fight and while they didn’t get all they wanted, the Dream defenders made Stand Your Ground a front and center issue. They also made it known they would be a serious political force to be reckoned with.

Phil explained how the Dream Defenders linked up with the Dreamers who are undocumented youth who had been receiving national attention for the direct action tactics in pushing hard for Immigrant Rights. The groups saw common ground and the importance of forming vibrant Black-Brown coalitions that are savvy enough insidious attempts to divide and conquer.

During our interview Phil talked at length about the Dream Defender’s strategy to take their fight around Stand Your Ground laws to the United Nations. He talks about members going to Geneva and the affirming responses they got..

Dream DefendersThis summer Dream defenders will be participating in the upcoming celebrations of the Freedom Summer of 64 with a promise of the group growing stronger and using their leverage to overcome restrictive voting laws saddling their state.

Its interesting to note that when looking at the political landscape and seeing the array of problems that confront society, many in their frustration often ask, “Where are all the young people?” Many like to hark back at a time when seemingly everyone was politically involved and committed to changing the world. Some like to assert today’s youth are lacking.. The Dream Defenders and folks like Phil Agnew through their actions dispel such notions.

MSNBC Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom Breaks Down Trayvon Martin Case

Lisa Bloom

Lisa Bloom

Hard Knock Radio 04-16-14: We speak NBC legal analyst, lawyer and author Lisa Bloom about the her book Suspicion Nation which gives keen insight into the Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman trial which she feels was botched by the prosecutors..

During our conversation Ms Bloom lays out 5 key egregious mistakes and oversights about the trial which led to its messed up outcome. Among the points raised is the mistreatment and harassment of  the only non white juror, Maddy, who for weeks felt singled out, demeaned, and belittled by the five white jurors. Things got so bad that she decided to leave — twice — but was talked into staying by two minority bailiffs. Was racial profiling going on inside the jury room in the midst of the highest profile trial in America about racial profiling?

Another disturbing aspect brought forth by Lisa Bloom in our interview was how the state of Florida failed to  argue their best evidence (that Zimmerman’s gun was holstered behind him, making it impossible for Trayvon to see, much less reach for – the essence of Zimmerman’s self-defense claim).

Zimmerman demonstrated this on videotape the day after the incident, so it was right under their noses all the time. The state failed to prepare its most important witnesses, and assured the acquittal by delivering an abysmal closing argument, failing to connect the evidence to the law, asking questions rather than providing answers. State Attorney Angela Corey’s big smile and statement “the system worked” after the acquittal raises real questions about whether they wanted to win the case at all.

Rachel Jaentel

Rachel Jaentel

Lisa Bloom talks about her interview with Trayvon’ s friend Rachel Jeantel who she notes was poorly prepared by the state prosecutors for her testimony. One of the key points that the state neglected to bring to light during that fateful last conversation was how Trayvon was joking with Rachel just before the altercation. This revelation would’ve have undercut Zimmerman’s claim that Trayvon was an enraged homicidal attacker.

Lisa Bloom addresses the nagging issue of Trayvon being suspended from his high school in Miami. many were lead to believe that Trayvon was some sort of violent thug who was disruptive. That was far from the case. Bloom points out that Trayvon was suspended for being late and having an empty bag with traces of weed in his locker.

Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie in the rain..In the world of Don lemon and Geraldo, maybe He should've had an umbrella instead

Trayvon Martin

During our conversation Bloom gives larger context to the suspensions by noting how there have been multiple civil rights cases filed against Florida schools for racial bias against African-American boys in suspensions. In the case of Trayvon his infractions did not warrant suspensions under his school’s own written policies.

Under those policies, his offenses, like tardiness, should have not led to suspensions at all, or resulted in only brief suspensions.  Trayvon was away from his Miami home the night he lost his life due to an unwarranted ten-day suspension, his third in a few months.

We concluded our interview by talking about the importance of making sure the right DAs and judges get into office and how the refusal of many to take such elections seriously have had long term negative consequences…


Reflecting on the Loss of Trayvon and Chokwe-How Will We Honor Them?

Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie in the rain..In the world of Don lemon and Geraldo, maybe He should've had an umbrella instead2 years ago today we lost a young man by the name of Trayvon Martin..He was on his way home from the store when a racist man filled with hate and fearful of Black people ‘suspected‘ him of being ‘up to no good‘ because he was deemed to be out of place in the upscale neighborhood.

Disobeying police orders, George Zimmerman, a man with a criminal record and history of violence acting in the capacity of self appointed neighborhood watch captain, followed, this young brother and ultimately wound up killing him…

After Trayvon was killed that fateful night it took 44 days before Zimmerman was arrested and charged by a prosecuting team that for the most part did not want to try him and literally killed the concept of ‘justice’ during the trial.  They brought their C and D game to the trial vs their ‘A’ game thus revealing to their world the same bias toward Black people that Zimmerman had.

We should never forget what happened to Trayvon who was not only killed by Zimmerman but also saw his character viciously assassinated by many who can’t stand the fact that with each passing day they are losing their power and the world they once oppressively ruled.

We should never forget that the parents of Trayvon Martin lost their son…There are few things in this world more painful then losing a child… Reflect on that for a minute…

As we reflect on Trayvon, let us also reflect on the sudden loss of Chokwe Lumumba, a true freedom fighter and the recently elected Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. Lumumba throughout his life, stood and fought tirelessly for justice and was shining light in a sea of madness. His election while ignored by many political pundits had ignited the masses who were excited about his bold plans for Jackson (The Jackson Plan: A Struggle for Self-Determination, Participatory Democracy, and Economic Justice )and the upcoming conference in May called Jackson Rising. His loss was a heartbreak for many.

Chokwe Lumumba

Chokwe Lumumba

How will we honor their deaths? Will we stand for justice like Chokwe? Will we value life and love and respect each other so we don’t have any more Trayvons, meaning young people who die tragically before their time? Or will today be just like any other day in America where we capitulate to the social and political engineering efforts of corporate tyranny?

For those of who are older, it would be a big loss if we don’t teach our youth the lessons learned around Trayvon and the legacy of Chokwe. Today is a day for reflection. Tomorrow is when we make a commitment to move forward in honor of two who are now with the ancestors..

Trayvon Martin Blackface Costumes Are As American As Cherry Pie & Lynchings

Davey-D-brown-frameThe photos circulating of white folks dressed as Trayvon Martin for Halloween complete w/ blackface, bloodied hoodie and a bullet hole is just as offensive as the Harriet Tubman sex tape video that a number of folks tried to defend talking about its ‘just comedy‘ and ‘free speech‘…

Folks should clearly understand, we as Black folks, are not the only ones who will do shocking, distasteful things and defend it as humor and free speech..Apparently all sorts of white folks are doing the same except they are hitting on a basic building block of this country which is Black death and Black misery is funny and entertaining..

This is a country where many would routinely hold lynching parties complete with little kids cheesing for the cameras as ‘strange fruit‘ would dangle from the trees. We’ve all seen the post cards… (For those who don’t know, they actually made post cards of these gruesome hangings)


For those who wanna act like such activities were in the distant past, all you have to do is look at what took place in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.. There is a documentary that was played during the International Katrina Tribunals a year after,  that showed white residents living in the Algiers sections of New Orleans, bragging and laughing about how they had been ‘pheasant hunting‘. Some of the folks pictured were firemen… These residents were determined not to have any Black folks come through their neighborhood which was situated on high ground and they formed hunting parties and went out shooting Black folks..

This was not 1920s during the Red summers where race riots (massacres) jumped off and Black folks were being attacked and slaughtered wholesale.. and Blackface/ Vaudeville shows already 50 years old were at their height and would last another 30 or 40 years.. making it the biggest form of entertainment in this country ever.

This was not the 1930 and 40s when Billie Holiday was singing Strange Fruit.

This was not the 1950s when Emmet Till was killed…or the 1960s when Freedom Riders and Black Panthers were being shot, Malcolm and Martin were killed or when racist police in LA were patrolling with the goal of keeping Blacks contained in the Watts section. They would routinely go into Watts and hem up Black folks in a practice they dubbed ‘duck hunting‘.

The pheasant hunting (code word for shooting Blacks took place in 2005.. This took place in 2005 in a city that was damn near 80% Black in the middle of a disaster of epic proportions. It shocked everyone who saw this during the tribunal.

I mention all this because throughout the decades, there has never really been a commitment to change our collective ways… Lynching parties of the past have given way to celebrations of Black death and misery in rap songs, World Star Hip Hop videos and marathon showings of Cop/Prison shows that draw huge ratings for the Discovery Channel, History Channel and MSNBC to name a few..

Halloween costume lynchingBlack life isn’t seen as life in the minds of many. Black life is not seen as something sacred to be protected and upheld, even amongst ourselves. It’s seen as something that’s disposable and useful for making a profit.. We saw this when Russell Simmons and Dreamworks got together and made a Harriet Tubman sex tape anticipating that it would be the appropriate jump off to a new video company. The Black comedians featured in the film, not only graciously thanked Russell, but they aggressively promoted and defended the piece..

We just saw pictures circulating around the internet of a young sister for a Halloween costume, put a noose around her neck, hold a bucket of cotton while her white friends held the noose…They all found it to be funny.

What I’m describing is not limited to a few ‘idiots’..We had famous TV stars like Julie Hough put on Black face.. We had a sitting NY Assemblyman named Dov Hikind not only wear wear Blackface to a party this year but he actually defended it.. You can read about HERE

Last year we had the head of social media for the Israeli Army wearing mud on his face talking about he was going  ‘Obama style‘. He got upset when folks called him out on it claiming he wasn’t a racist.. You can read about that HERE

We have all sorts of costume and ‘ghetto‘ theme parties taken place over the country and not just on Halloween where white folks wear Blackface or don Klan Attire, or pretend to be people of another ethnicity. One college that stood out earlier this year was Auburn, University in Alabama..You can read about that HERE while you peep the picture below from one of their theme parties.

auburn racist party

By pointing out the complicity or the laughter of a few Black folks in some of these incidents, I’m not suggesting that they somehow gave white folks permission to go HAM on us. This has been going on for more than a century. The history and legacy of Blackface  Minstrel shows was it was the nations most popular institution that was rooted in white folks dressing up as enslaved Blacks, making fun of them.. and it evolved from there and remained popular as evident by this routine shown below done in the 1950s.

Trayvon BlackfaceMaybe one can simply say its all a big joke and keep it moving, but obviously it isn’t, not when we see post after post of white folks dressed up like Trayvon and folks seriously upset about it. The question is what should we be doing?

You can’t fight everyone, you can’t shame everyone and you can’t control folks from trying to get notoriety in a world that rewards it and its obtainable via the internet and social media…

As simplistic as this may sound, I said it before and I’ll say it again.. our first step is Don’t lose sight of your humanity.. Continuously reaffirm your humanity and try not to dehumanize others..Fellas we can start with the way we engage the women around us.. Are they bitches and hos or mothers, daughters and wives?

Second, lets not allow our death and misery to be other people’s entertainment.. I think this is what comedian Dave Chapelle was getting at when he left that 50 million dollar deal he was offered at Comedy Central.. And while Chapelle was trying to address the ill-timed laughter, we should keep in mind, not all entertainment is comedy..It is also those reality prison shows.. It is the local news that wants to lead off each night with a story of Black criminality while completely ignoring Black excellence.

It’s not enough to simply turn off the TV.. Many of us have the TVs off. Our challenge is millions of folks watch and then engage you based upon stereotypes and BS depictions that a handful of people are controlling..Those depictions may influence a cop, or loan officer at a bank or the person sitting before when you go to a job interview .. The bottom line is a variety of strategies need to be developed on dealing with this..

Third, know that we are in a culture war, an ideological war and spiritual war and what some are resorting to is designed to crush your spirit and dampen your morale..There is a fear of a Blackening and Browning planet and so many are go full tilt in trying marginalize us..

Black KidsFind ways to protect your heart, Find ways to heal from your own grief and trauma and learn to see these attacks for what they are and react accordingly.. Sometimes you can shut shyt down, other times, you have to brush it off and see the weakness behind the attacks and deal with it another time and way..

Protect our kids from all this madness and make sure they know they are beautiful, great and special.. Reaffirm life and uplift the children that are around you so that generations coming behind us are of strong minds and equipped to rebuff any nonsense that comes their way..

Immortal Technique Speaks on Trayvon, Religion, Race in America & Syria

Immortal Tech-ani4

photo credit: Ani Yapundzhyan

In the scorching San Bernardino heat, I tried to track down Immortal Technique for a good two hours at Rock The Bells. His cold, comfortable trailer had been untouched all through the day when I found him outside in the sun, at his merch booth, a few hours into signing autographs and talking to fans.

After a half a day of doing this, everywhere he walked, people rushed to him every few steps of the way: fans asking to take pictures, fellow artists talking about past and future collaborations, women who wanted to flirt and shower him with hugs. It was never-ending. And he respectfully and good-naturedly gave every single one of these people his limited time.

When it was time for our interview, he looked around and said, “I don’t even know where my trailer is.” I showed him the way and as the door closed behind us, his sociable disposition disappeared immediately as his deep eyes intently awaited my questions.

Immortal Technique is not in the game to fuck around. He is a machine on a mission that does not stop. And once his body ceases to move, his brain kicks in overtime.

-Ani Yapundzhyan-

 AniIn the wake of the Zimmerman verdit, you engaged your 200,000+ Twitter followers in a very eye-opening dialogue about race-relations in modern-day America as well as in the historically in the world. What prompted that dialogue?

 Immortal Technique: The most important thing for me was to facilitate a dialogue about race and racism and there were people who contacted me who were Caucasian who said “Yo, listen, I feel like every time I talk about race, people call me a Racist. So can we have a conversation about that?” And I said, “Sure. Let’s talk about Race in America. Let’s talk about the Mythology about Race. Let’s talk about the mythology of America, because that’s intrinsically linked to Race.”

For example, some little-known facts are that when Europeans first colonized this continent, that massive amounts of Europeans defected from those colonies. They didn’t wanna be in a Puritan society, they didn’t wanna be with people who ordered them how to pray. They claimed that they were coming here looking for Religious Freedom. So if that’s the case, and you’re based on a Capitalist society, why can’t you admit that the reason you came here-dispelling the Mythology of America, which was the point of that whole conversation-you didn’t come here just for religious freedom and looking for new lands, you came here for Gold. You came here looking for Slaves. You came here looking for women and land that you could steal. Why don’t you be honest about that with yourself as a human being and that way we get to the core of the real problem.

The other thing is this: In the same way that for example, the Soviet Union, when it held on to Eastern Europe, couldn’t explain how if their brand of society was superior-as they claimed-to American Capitalism, everybody kept running away and trying to get over to the other side. The Europeans could not explain, “How is it that we have massive defections from a European society to an Indigenous society that’s supposed to be quote unquote “inferior,” full of “savages?” And that’s very important. Why? Because Native-Americans judge people based on the merit of who people Were. How did you Act? I don’t care if you’re white, I don’t care if you’re from Ireland. I don’t care if you’re from Italy. I don’t care if you’re from England. Europeans had a hierarchy amongst themselves the same way people from the Caucus region do, the same way people from Latin America and from Asian countries do, the same way people in Islamic societies in the Middle East do…but they said to themselves, “This is ridiculous, when you come to us from another culture, what you put into this society is what you get.”

Now obviously, nothing was perfect. It’s still a human society. But at the same time, we had people that were giving a willingness for mobility within the society to say, “You can be part of us and we’re not gonna treat you like property.” I’m not saying Native Americans never had slaves, I’m saying that when their societies were pitched against European societies, people could not explain the mass defections, which were punishable by corporal and capital punishment. Same thing that we see in places like East Germany or the former Czechoslovakian state, where people wanted to leave, they wanted to run away. But at the same time, they can’t explain that. And I think, when you get to that, that’s the whole point of it.

If I can facilitate a dialogue about these things that exist in our society and that permeate every relationship that a government has and get down to the human relations of it, then I can begin to heal-at least in the inner circle that I have-the cancer of Racism. Because I think that it’s about time that that became extinct. And maybe I can’t stop it completely, but I feel like if I can at least wake up a few people who are blind to its existence, people who don’t even think that it exists- ’cause unfortunately those are the most affected by Racism-those people that think that Racism doesn’t exist. That it’s just something that the NAACP does. I mean, I’ve seen people on the internet that go, “Oh, the NAACP and the KKK are the same thing!” Uh, no. The NAACP ain’t never lynched motherfuckers. They never murderedpeople for profit like that. Are you kidding me? They never tried to justify a legacy of chattel slavery.

So I think that it was really me destroying a lot of social lies that were constructed by ultra-conservative, right-wing factions that I felt needed to be addressed at that particular time.

 Ani: All great societies were built on slave labor. Why do you think that Africa, which is the richest continent as far as natural resources in the world, is the poorest, statistically worse-off continent?

 Technique: Lack of Unity. Specific division. The British were incredible at that, the French were incredible at that, and I think that they hide behind their “civilization” and “culture” when in reality, they presented the image of a “Civilized Barbarian” to the rest of the world. In other words, Ani, who’s more civilized? The African dude in the loin cloth who’s tending sheep and goats in West Africa, who is half-naked because it’s 120 degrees, who’s Gods are the Earth, and the spirits of Stream and Wood and Forest, Water and Air, who’s the more savage, him or the religious fanatic from Europe in the 13th century who hops off a boat, full of armor, unshaven, who is such a zealot and an extremist that he thinks dinosaur bones are put in the ground to test the faith of humanity, who thinks that he can excuse his behavior by putting someone in irons who is not of his exact demographic.

 Ani: So how did that behavior win out?

 Technique: Because I think that the human race is, honestly, confined to the behavior of a talking monkey. I think the danger that we face right now, Ani, is that when we go to a museum, and we see “Australopithecus” we see “Homo habilis” “Homo erectus” “Neanderthal” “Cro-Magnon” I think we’re in danger of some little kid a thousand years from now walking into a futuristic museum and saying, “Oh, there’s Homo sapien sapien: the well-groomed, superstitious, warrior-monkey that used to talk. And he harnessed the power of the Atom, but for all his incredible inventions, he was still limited by his incapacity to control his emotions. By his own ego, and his own over-inflated sense of self-importance. He thought the universe revolved around him. He thought that the Earth belonged to him instead of him belonging to the Earth. No respect for nation, no respect for nature, no respect for his fellow man, seeing that it’s OK to kill somebody, or it’s not as bad, if they’re not from the same demographic as they are.”

In other words, I see conservative Christian people who are so gung-ho about abortion and “we’re killing babies” but you don’t mind killing Iraqi babies. But if they were Christian white babies, you’d have a problem with that. But because they’re Muslim, dark-skinned children, you don’t care. That makes you a fake Christian to me.

 Ani: And it goes back to Trayvon.

 Technique: Not just to him. And I think that’s where I would differ in this. To me, I think the Trayvon Martin case was completely mishandled by the prosecution. I think that instead of focusing on Race, solely, they should’ve focused on the fact that this was still a child, that this was still a human being that was destroyed, unnecessarily. That if we’re talking about the social construct of race, what difference would it have made? Would George Zimmerman have followed a well-to-do looking, light-skinned, half-Latino, half-White kid who’s skipping in the rain, as he described him in the Sean Hannity interview? Skipping. In the rain. But that’s different. I think that when you talk about the media, they also have to share some of the blame and responsibility.

When you show people on welfare, this has nothing to do with Trayvon. When you show people on welfare, you show black people, even though the majority of people on welfare are white women. But you don’t show white women, you don’t show white working-class women. This county has always used white working-class people as a buffer. To not expose the real issue of Classism. They’ve always wanted to focus on Racism, because Classism is what will bleed this fuckin’ country. If poor and disenfranchised white people say to themselves, “Goddamit, what the fuck are we getting out of this? We’re told to blame immigrants but its not the immigrants who are making money out of this. It’s these multi-national corporations that ship these jobs over to America, so that they can make a profit that has nothing to do with helping anybody else ’cause trickle-down economics was never part of the problem. It was never part of the issue. You know why it was never a part of the problem? Cause it was never part of the solution. They didn’t give a fuck about that.

 Ani: It does’t even make sense, that whole theory and idea of trickle-down economics.

 Technique: Right, because the re-investment per-capita is not there.

 Ani: “Take what you can get and be happy” is really what fucking “trickle-down” means. Literally.

 Technique: In other words, “we’re peeing on you.”

Ani: Syria. I’m not even going to ask a question. I’m just going to say the word and let you take it from there.

Immortal Tech Ani5

photo credit: Ani Yapundzhyan

 Technique: (sighs) I know a lot of people on both sides of this debate, and the people that I’ve talked to that are pro-rebels will tell me, “Yes, we know we’re making a deal with the devil. We know that we’re getting money funded through slush-funds from America, that lie about them, saying ‘We have never supported the Syrian rebels.'” Of course you have, you’ve been giving them money through all your vassal states: Turkey, you’re a vassal state of America. I don’t know if you realize that, but America has more to do with the policies that you have in your country, even if it seems that they’re against them. Saudi Arabia, as proud as you are of your Wahhabi culture, you’re a vassal state to America. They have more military bases in your country than they do in any state, individually, in America.

I don’t know if you realize this, but Israel is the biggest welfare state-no disrespect to any people of the Jewish faith-is the biggest welfare state that America keeps. They keep it afloat. Without American dollars, there would be no Israel. I think what’s important to note about these things is that those people say, “Yes, we know we’re are making a deal with the devil. But we’re trying to get rid of another devil.” The problem that I have with that, is that even though I can’t support a dictator, like Bashar al-Assad, his supporters, I’m afraid sometimes, I’ve had conversations where these people are delusional, they’ll tell me, “No, he’s never abused his power, he’s never abused any people.” And I’m just like, “Yo dude, in order for you to run a non-Democratic government, where you have not been voted into power…to have a lock on everything in the military, you have to rule with an iron fist.”

Now obviously, his father was more of a ruthless dictator than he was, and Bashar al-Assad was welcomed as a reformer, in many communities actually. I remind people of this, he was invited to stay at Buckingham Palace, he was greeted as a hero. Same way a lot of the Afghan rebels were by American society. They said, “Yeah, even though these people are radical, and we radicalize them in the name of getting rid of the Russians, we wanted to do that.” That history is now lost. And I think what people don’t understand, is that if you look at both sides of the equation, America refuses to allow Russia and China to come to the table. In the same way that the NeoCons like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, when they were bleeding Russia and Afghanistan, said, “You know what, we’re not gonna let you leave with your grace, we’re gonna bleed you ultimately. This is an ultimatum, an ultimate ‘Fuck You.’ This is a Rape of your society. If you want to have your troops home, they can be home tomorrow, pull them out.”

Imagine if someone that said to America, “If you wanna get out of Afghanistan, your troops can be home tomorrow.” But what is the issue? The issue is, “How can I pull them out and not seem like I’m a coward, like I’m running away?” That’s what America refuses to do stubbornly and that’s why it lost so many tens of thousands of troops in Vietnam, and if we had the same medicine that we had back then that we do now in Iraq, we would have a similar casualty rate. What we have now is people that have been maimed and had their bodies half destroyed, so the body count is technically lower, but unfortunately, when I think about it, in terms of Syria, I find it very hard to consider that John Kerry cares about the lives of 400 Syrian children, when you don’t care about the hundreds of children that have been killed in Pakistan by your drones. You don’t care about the “collateral damage.” Obviously, a lot of people that have talked to me say that they need global positioning in the area, that this is the original part of the diagram, and something that I really wanna share before I get out of here, cause I really do have to get the fuck outta here, but… some history:

Before WWI, the powers of Europe decided that they would carve up the Ottoman Empire, the sick man of Europe. And everybody got their slice. The Russians took the entire Caucus region. They said “Since you have the Russian-Turkish War, we’ll help you.” And England, France, everybody else said “Ok, you know what we’ll do? We’ll give you all the Caucus: Chechnya, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia.” That’s why they’re willing to trade pieces with America. They said, “Oh, word? Since we backed the Serbians and you wanna carve Kosovo out?” What happened, they played tit-for-tat, ’cause right afterwards, if you remember, they went into Georgia and they said, “We’re gonna carve out South Ossetia.” And if you look at it, it’s pretty much geographically the same amount of land that the other people took.

So it was a clear message to America that says: If you wanna fuck around in our backyard, we’re gonna fuck around with the people that think you’re gonna help them. Because at the end of the day, you’re not gonna commit troops to Georgia, that’s our slice.

When we went into Iraq, the French said, “We don’t wanna go.” Why, because Sykes-Picot divided the region like this: The Caucus region to Russia. Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, Jordan, would go to England. Now England brought in America as a Junior partner that’s now taken over. And France’s slice was Syria and Lebanon. Now if you remember, they said, “We don’t wanna go to Iraq.” Why? Because that’s not their slice. They didn’t give a fuck about that. So when they were gonna go to Iraq, people said, “Oh, the French don’t have the stomach for war.” How? They’ve been involved in every War since the very fuckin’ beginning. Get the fuck outta here.

Now if you think Sykes-Picot doesn’t affect things today, look at the reversal ten years from now. France is ready to go to war for Syria. Because it’s their slice. And who said No to war in Syria now? England. Because England’s slice is Iraq. England’s slice is Egypt. England’s slice is not Syria and Lebanon. So that little treaty that took place almost a hundred years ago still affects how European Powers see that zone today. And they say to themselves, “That’s mine, it’s always been mine. And the leaders will do what I say they need to do.”

And unfortunately, that’s why I tell people, “Don’t be worried about what the Patriot Act does today, be worried about what in a hundred years, they’re gonna use to justify it.

People tell me that I’m controversial because I discuss certain issues. No, I’m not controversial, those issues are controversial. If we say that we’ll attack people who use chemical weapons, and we still use, for example, depleted uranium that’s now caused more birth defects in Iraq than Agent Orange did in Vietnam, I’m not controversial for bringing that up. The United States’ government is controversial for having that in its arsenal.

If we’re talking about I’m controversial for bringing up the fact that there is a double standard on chemical weapons and there is a double standard on the way you mutilate and abuse your own people, and the way we didn’t pay any attention to the uprisings in Bahrain, and all these other places in the Middle East, and in Jordan, where people wanted the Monarchy the fuck out, because the Monarchy is the ultimate betrayal of Democracy, alright? That’s the most ruthless form of it. The most concentrated form of Oligarchy. If that’s the case, then are people not obliged to recognize that double standard? And I think that more people, when they’re doing that, really do awaken other people. Talk to people about it. Create a dialogue.

I know that everybody’s not on the same page. I know there’s some people out there, like I said, my friends, God bless ’em, I can understand yo, I can’t take anything away from your pain. If you legitimately had your family oppressed by that government, if you legitimately been disenfranchised by the al-Assad government and they’ve taken over and they’ve killed your family, I can understand why you would want him out. But realize that your movement has now been hijacked by people that will come in and will use you to say “We decide the future of Syria.”

And in my heart, I think the future of Syria should not be decided by a dictator, it should not be decided by Jihadists and paid mercenaries along with them, it should not be decided by Turkey and Kataar, and Israel and Saudi Arabia and America and France, I believe the future of Syria should be decided by the Syrian people.


Hard Knock Radio: The Plight of Florida’s Other Slain Unarmed Teen, Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis

HKR August 15 2013: Today on Hard Knock Radio Anita Johnson sits down with John M. Phillips the attorney for the Jordan Davis family. For those who don’t recall last year Florida had two 17-year-old Black teens who were killed by racist individuals using Stand Your Ground Laws. We all know about the murder of Trayvon Martin and how he was profiled, followed and killed by George Zimmerman but not too many know about Jordan Davis.

Several months after the Trayvon slaying in November 2012, a white man named Michael Dunn saw some Black teenagers in a car and felt he they were playing their music too loud. He confronted them, according to him, words were exchanged. Dunn said he felt threatened and thus emptied his gun into the car containing 6-8 unarmed teenagers. When the gun smoke cleared 17-year-old Jordan Davis laid dead.

We discuss the particulars of the case, what steps are being taken to bring about justice and how they compare to the Trayvon case.

Later in the show we hear a commentary from political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal and a riveting speech from Michelle Alexander the author of the book ‘The New Jim Crow‘.

Click the link below to download or listen to the HKR Intv

Click the link below to download or listen to the HKR Intv

Hard Knock Radio_August 15 2013

Controversial Video Re-Enacts Murder of Trayvon Martin, Demands We Oppose Stand Your Ground Laws

Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie in the rain..In the world of Don lemon and Geraldo, maybe He should've had an umbrella instead

Trayvon Martin

Below is a new video to bring attention to the horrors of Stand Your Ground Laws which now exist in at least 26 states.. This is an eerie re-enactment of what took place the night Trayvon Martin was racially profiled and later shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. It includes the infamous 9-11 call Zimmerman placed to police as well as words from witnesses after the shooting.

The PSA is from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence which is urging Americans to “Stand up to ‘Stand Your Ground'” laws many of which are products of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council ) efforts. ALEC in many places are heavily financed by the far-right wing Koch Brothers.

For more information visit to sign a petition to your state legislators calling on them to oppose “Stand Your Ground” laws.

President Obama’s Surprise Press Conference Addresses the issue of Race & Trayvon Martin

President ObamaThis morning at a press conference, President Obama addressed the issues surrounding Trayvon Martin… Many seemed to be happy that he went more into depth about his feelings around this and he acknowledged that this case was about racial profiling.. He also noted that work must be done so trust in the system can be regained… He raised the question as to how the outcome would’ve been different if Trayvon Martin was white..Obama noted that he would’ve been Trayvon 35 years ago..

He wants to figure out ways young African-American men can made to feel as if they a part of society. He wants us all to do some soul searching.. He doesn’t think its productive when politicians try to lead conversations on race..He feels it leads to stilted conversations..He also thinks race relations are getting better

Your thoughts on Obama’s remarks? How do those remarks square away with the fact that he is praising NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly for his work in New York.. Kelly who is main proponent for Stop and Frisk is now being considered to lead Homeland Security. One has to wonder if Obama spoke to this issue because this Saturday there are protests scheduled in over 100 cities..

Below is the full text of Obama’s remarks

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions, and is very much looking forward to the session.

Second thing is, I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues – immigration, economics, et cetera. We’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that’s obviously gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling.

I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

First of all, I want to make sure that once again I send my thought and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through and it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal – the legal issues in the case. I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.

The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries (sic) were properly instructed that in a – in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant. And they rendered a verdict.

And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.

But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.

And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a – and a history that – that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

There are probably very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator.

There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.
That happens often.

And, you know, I – I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.

And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.

The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact.

Although, black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that, some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country. And that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so, the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of Africa-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuses given, “Well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent,” using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African-American community is also not naive in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably, statistically, more likely to be shot by a peer than he was
by somebody else.

So – so folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it, or – and that context is being denied. And – and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

Now, the question, for me, at least, and – and I think for a lot of folks is, “Where do we take this? How – how do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?”

You know, I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests and some of that is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.

But beyond protests or vigils, the question is: Are there some concrete things that we might be able to do? I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government. The criminal code and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation, we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff, you know, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

You know, when I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped, but the other things was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias, and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.

And, initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that, it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them, and in turn be more helpful in – in applying the law. And, obviously, law enforcement’s got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear, if state and local governments are receptive, and I think a lot of them would be. And let’s figure out, are there ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and – and local laws to see if it – if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.

On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms, even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who – who resist that idea, that we should think about something like these Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Number three – and this is a long-term project – we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them, and values them, and is willing to invest in them?

You know, I’m not naive about the prospects of some grand new federal program. I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I – I do recognize that, as president, I’ve got some convening power. And there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes and figure out, how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that – and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed? You know, I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was, obviously, a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there’s been talk about, should we convene a conversation on race? I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when, you know, politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.

On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with – with the final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated.

But, you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country. And so, you know, we have to be vigilant. And we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our – nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions.

But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long and difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union, not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

All right?

Thank you, guys

Florida Gov Refuses Black Students Demands on Zimmerman Verdict: Tells Them to Go Home & Pray

Dream DefendersA couple of weeks ago I raised the question and concern about the lack of national coverage and space being given to local organizers in Florida around those seeking justice for Trayvon Martin. While it was good that those with national platforms help shine light on the situation, it was equally important that those who did and continue to the day-to-day work be highlighted and supported for their work…One such group is the Dream Defenders. Make sure you get to know them..

Shortly after Trayvon was murdered and many of us had no idea this took place a group of Black college students started organizing and making a lot of noise.. Calling themselves the Dream Defenders, they did a 40 mile walk from the state capital to Sanford, Florida to bring attention to Trayvon’s murder and since then have been quietly but steadfastly growing and organizing.

Currently they have members all over the state.. They have been organizing in different communities around key issues impacting everyday Floridians.. Those issues range from ending voter suppression, ending the school to prison pipeline and making sure there are improved economic opportunities for folks..

Shortly after the Zimmerman verdict, Dream Defenders went to Florida Governor Rick Scott‘s office and started sitting in and spending the night. After 3 days of protests they had a meeting with the governor late last night. He listened to the Dream Defenders and turned down their demands one of which included him calling a special session to deal with the important issues around Stand Your Ground. They informed the governor that they intend to stay until he agrees to what they have laid on the table..

Dream DefendersEarly this morning, we did an interview with community outreach coordinator for the Dream Defenders, Jabiri Mickles. He gave us the full breakdown of the sit in and the overall political climate in Florida. He said for the most part things are very tense with many fearful that they are not able to protect themselves from George Zimmerman types.

I asked Jabari whether it was feasible for Black folks to arm themselves and under Stand Your Ground laws  start fighting back so one doesn’t meet the same fate as Trayvon Martin and most recently Jordan Davis. Mickles noted that less than 3% of Black folks get off using Stand Your Ground defense. That’s problematic and reflects the inadequacies of Florida’s justice system.

During last night’s meeting with Governor Rick Scott, when asked whether or not he would repeal the Stand Your Ground, he told the group to go home and pray. Mickles noted that they have prayed and now its time to go to work and get things changed.

He also went on to note the importance of not only getting the law repealed but also strengthening the political landscape. He went into detail as to how voter suppression is being carried out in Florida even before voter restriction laws were put in place. he noted that in many places there is a harsh climate of fear with many feeling there will be physical payback if they speak out.

Dream Defenders signs We also talked to him about the Dream Walkers which were undocumented Latino students who made national headlines a few years ago when they marched from Florida to the White House and literally sat in president Obama’s office demanding immigration reform.

Jabari explained he wasn’t sure if the Dream Defenders had hooked up directly with the Dream Walkers even though they both used the word Dream in identifying themselves. He did note that immigration reform is a big part of what they organize around and a number of immigrant rights organization work with and have members who are rolling with the Dream Defenders. He noted that folks should keep in mind, in Florida the face of the immigrant under siege is Black and not just Brown and  Mexican which how many around the country have come to know the battle around immigration. In short undocumented Black folks are being hunted down by ICE trucks and wannabe Minutemen types and vigilante border watchers..

Below is our Hard Knock Radio interview w/ Jabari Mickles of the Dream Defenders

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HKR-intv w/ Jabari Mickles of the Dream Defenders

Boots Riley of the Coup Speaks on Zimmerman Verdict & the Tone of Recent Protests

Boots Riley of the Coup

Boots Riley of the Coup

HKR 07-17-2013: Yesterday we caught up with long time activist and artist Boots Riley of the Coup and had a great dialogue on Hard Knock Radio about the George Zimmerman verdict and the subsequent demonstrations that have kicked off all over the country in the aftermath.

Boots laid out his thoughts on this and connected it to larger pictures that are in play all over the planet.. We talked at length about the protests and the tone they have taken and how they compare to protest in other parts of the world. We also talked about what should be some possible end goals especially if one perceives the justice system to be beyond repair. Boots of course noted the importance of not seeing the issues around seeking justice for Trayvon Martin in isolation, but instead as something that is systemic requiring us to have deeper analysis and long-term goals for fundamental change.

We also talked about Boot’s new album ‘Sorry to Bother You’ and his upcoming shows in the Bay Area this weekend..

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HKR Boots Riley-on Trayvon and Demonstrations