Speaking & Teaching

Jan. 18, 2019

Join me as I read cover to cover in one-hour chunks The Radical King on The Blackman Read Aloud Hour on Facebook Live. The Blackman Read Aloud Hour Project is my created reading program that illuminates the issue of black male illiteracy in our communities across this nation. It also illuminates the importance of providing read alouds on a daily basis in homes, centers, and places of worship and service. In addition, it provides the expansion of black historical knowledge to those to join my read aloud.

Jan. 18, 2019

 Detroit has more churches per square mile than any other city in the entire United States. Yet, Detroit has the highest crime, poverty, and unemployment rates. This irony begs the question: How can a city with approximately 3,000 churches also be known as the Murder Capital of the State of Michigan or the Murder Capital of the United States? Before I address this paradox readers must be reminded of certain historical experiences that affect the attitudes and conditions of many African American communities today. The period I reference spans three centuries,  dating back to the beginning of slavery in the United States from the early 16th century to the mid-1860s when legal slavery ended with the cessation of the Civil War.

            Before the abolition of slavery, the government passed laws that made it a capital offense for captured Africans to learn how to read, out of fear that education would liberate the minds of the captives and hence make our captured ancestors harder to control. However, the slave masters made a small exception: on each plantation selected slaves were permitted to learn how to read and preach the Bible; because those plantation owners felt that if the Bible was mistaught in a way that serves the interests of slave masters, the natural urge to resist oppression would be tamed if not outright extinguished. This allowance created an intriguing cadre of colorful pastors among the slave population. In fulfilling their important roles these preachers were rewarded with leniency and preferential treatment from slave masters and were given offerings from whatever fellow slaves could muster. 

When slavery was abolished, former slave masters still considered the pastors as representatives of freed slaves and African American ex-slaves continued to look upon Black preachers as their leaders.  This explains why even today our most prominent, influential African American leaders have predominantly been people with titles such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. TD Jakes, etc.  This also gives us an idea why Donald Trump sought and ultimately got, the approval of a group of African American pastors who were the first recognizable black community figures to endorse his 2016 presidential candidacy.

The problem with this legacy, as one pastor I privately spoke with pointed out, is that “many African American pastors do not belong behind the podium because they don’t have righteous intentions as a lot of sincere Christians believe." On the contrary, these opportunistic supposedly religious men are taking advantage of the fact that African Americans are, according to leading sociologists, the "most religious people in the world with very few elected officials they can count on.’ " In many of our communities whether urban or rural most African Americans still seek meaning and guidance almost exclusively from their church pastors. 

            Former pastor Jaumon Baker, Sr.,  explained it more bluntly. “These preachers have made themselves idols,” he told me. “They use the name and teachings of Jesus to get people to worship them.” In essence,  Jaumon Baker is saying that the motivations of those kinds of pastors are no different than politicians and another occupation that start with the letter p.  Specifically, they use (sell) the Bible for self-advancement and for fulfilling personal vanities that come mostly in the form of baskets of cash, exotic cars, pricey homes, elevated social prestige, and sex. These religious businessmen betray the interests of African Americans in many ways not limited to those highlighted below.

For one—because of the cost associated with such an endeavor--they choose not to leverage their enormous power and influence to help solve chronic problems ailing African American communities that these pastors are supposed to serve. I know not one Detroit African American pastor who has attempted to mobilize his congregation to publicly protest, for instance, how police have impounded the cars of thousands of mostly poor single parent mothers who were unable to pay extremely high car insurance premiums that Detroiters are forced to pay. (Detroit has the highest monthly insurance rates in the world. it is even double the rate of Chicago!)

In addition, many wonder why these self-anointed men of God are not demanding explanations from Mayor Mike Duggan and city council members about how government officials are enticing tens of thousands of out-of-state and suburban middle-class whites to move into downtown Detroit, and into targeted Detroit neighborhoods like Midtown and Corktown? It is a laughable secret among White Detroiters who boast that non-Blacks are offered incentives such as free rent and school vouchers, guaranteed employment, and lucrative investment opportunities to move into the city of Detroit.  Some Black Detroiters, on the other hand, living in these areas, tell me that their leasing applications were outright rejected or their lease renewal was raised so high that they were effectively “priced out the neighborhood.”

            The biggest tragedy of many Detroit churches is how they misappropriate or mal-distribute the literally millions of dollars they receive weekly from black and brown churchgoers.  Instead of recirculating or investing some of the money into the community to help create Black entrepreneurs, they prefer to deposit those millions of dollars they receive every Sunday in tithes and offerings into white-owned banks on Monday morning.  Rather than using a portion of the basket of money to benefit Black communities in need, the pastor often uses the ‘tithes’ in the following ways:

1)   Build a larger church

2)   Buy expensive cars for himself, first lady, or his children

3)   Buy a posh home in the suburbs

4)   Take luxurious vacations and fabulous trips

5)   Celebrate the birthdays or marriage anniversaries of either the church's pastor or church's first lady.

Since Black churches enjoy tax-exemption they don’t have to pay taxes like other businesses. They also have the luxury of hiring volunteers to administer the church. This allows the pastors to pocket more disposable income because they do not have to pay salaries to a church official and even that church's choir singers. In all fairness, this article is not suggesting that the Black community would be better off if there were fewer churches in Detroit. I am aware that religion is an important component of a peoples’  identity and culture and serves as a bonding agent. Many churches are instrumental in motivated people to register to vote. To be sure, a nun recently told me that “there are many pastors working in the spirit of Jesus Christ who deserves applaud. “But,” she cautioned, “they are not present in every church you visit. Rather, a few are sprinkled here and there. You will notice them without them telling you who they are.”  In fact, this article is written to inspire good-intentioned people to not be afraid to ask their pastors questions about issues affecting African Americans. 

Start asking your pastor why isn’t your church taking action to improve conditions in society, or helping church members start their own businesses with just a portion of the billions of dollars they collect every Sunday. Just imagine the thousands of good paying jobs these black pastors would create if they each invested in the same communities their churches are located. This will enable paid employees to pay rent or bills. Since African Americans are not investing their money but giving it to the churches, non-Detroiters have come into the city and in less than twenty years own ninety-eight percent of the businesses. Concerning this, an immigrant told me that his people smile every time another church is built because this gives them another opportunity to open another grocery store or gas station.

In closing, if this surplus amount of churches were good for our people we would have plenty of positive correlations to point to. In fact, my research shows me that these churches have absolutely no measurable impact on key social indexes that reflect the well-being of the respective communities they are in.  Furthermore, I compared unemployment and incarceration rates in selected zip codes and neighborhoods of mega-churches with that of lesser known churches and discovered that the crime and poverty rates are the same. These social indicators will always be detestable—in part--as long as our churches remain socially neutral and squander the tons of cash they receive from their black religious believers.

 

Dennis S. Boatwright II/dsboatwright43@gmail.com

(The Center for Pan-African Studies)

 

Jan. 17, 2019

The Greatest Of All Time A Poetic Tribute
Muhammad Ali
HAPPY 77TH BIRTHDAY CHAMP

In 1960 Clay made his mark
Many in Rome thought Clay was simply a lark
Clay ran through his opponents never receiving a mark
Clay was pretty so quick as panther’s prowl
Those quick hard jabs caused many to throw in the towels
Clay's quick movements were meant to arouse
In 64 the entire boxing world feared Liston’s the most
Sonny made Floyd looked as weak as milk toast
He hit Floyd so hard it was easy for Sonny to constantly boast
People thought he'd turned Floyd into the New Jersey ghost
So when Clay turned his eyes to Sonny’s mean glare
Everyone in America thought Clay needed some divine prayer
Heck Clay even called Sonny Liston a big old ugly bear
Ain’t no damn way this bear could catch the Clay the hare
Cassius was headed straight into Sonny’s mean lair
So in the heat of Miami on that warm winter’s night
Sonny Liston’s championship crown was about to take flight
You see Cassius Clay never showed any sights of pure fright
He plays with Sonny as one would play with a kite
Even though Sonny swung with all his damn might
Cassius Clay was about to rise to the greatest of heights
He and his nation were hellbent to fight right
You see it was on the night that he blew into that Miami ring
In all our black communities the black youth started to sing
You see this black man was not going to be pulled by any government string
Nor would he allow anyone to put his mouth a sling
He was seemingly Cassius Clay for only a day
You see Muhammad Ali and the Black Muslims put that Clay name away
Then if his opponents refused to honor name Muhammad Ali
Muhammad made sure that his fists would make them pay
You honored his name or you became his hard straight jabs prey
While Ali fought in the ring to earn his payday
His real work was spent honoring and praising Allah
The Nation of Islam was Muhammad Ali’s true great calling
For once Muhammad Ali committed to his cause he’s never again be caught crawling
Fighting for justice left most of his sworn enemies sprawling
One day in Houston he refused to go fight in the Army
You see to Muhammad Ali the nation’s cause was quite alarming
America snatched up his crown and convicted him quickly
Heck most of White America viewed Ali quite damn sickly
How dare that he reject America’s demand
Who cares if this war was not part of his religious command
No way that this man would take this hard stand
So everyone in the white press called for his ban
For more than a 1000 days he would wait
Never once did Ali breakdown and cut bait
You see justice was entirely greater than great
Ali stood tall and many others would fall
This epic battle would not be his downfall
He came to the ring with an absolute vengeance
Fought many a fight against foes near and far
Ali would become an international star
Heck I think Ali could have been elected czar
Following Ali was like always being in an Arabian bazaar
He fought through the ’70s some said he should stop
You see no boxer ever has beaten the body’s time clock
This man who was ever so brash, bold and defiant
Was headed straight to be a full-time medical client
Ali who spoke with such vigor and vim
Ali who could put words together with ease
Ali who could make rhymes dance off his tongue like a breeze
That Ali was left in that boxed boxing ring
The new Ali now was maintained and hamstrung
You see this Ali had seeming lost his great tongue
No more could he chatter
No longer the mad hatter
He still, however, had that dynamic gray matter
However, without that bold voice did it all really matter
For almost three decades he was with us after his voice had taken flight
For those who had loved him, this was no a great sight
However, we will always love him with all of our mightiest might
You see Muhammad Ali stood for everything being righteously right.
He was indeed the greatest of all time and I hope that you all
will appreciate my last rhyme
Happy Birthday To The Greatest Boxer of All Time
The ultimate warrior in and out of man's ring
For all Muhammad Ali wanted was for the truth and justice bell to ring, ding, ding, ding

JoeSmokeBlackThoughtsJAN172019

Jan. 16, 2019

As the Civil War was concluding a path to black equality had to be paved. Millions of former slaves needed to get a start towards being able to fend for themselves, take care of their families, and continue to help build our America. So on January 16, 1865, William T. Sherman who had historically marched from Atlanta to the South Carolina coast delivered a proposal that would give former slaves an opportunity to build their own nation within a nation.

Field Order #15 approved by the Secretary of War Stanton, most likely approved also by the Secretary of State Seward, signed by the President of the United States Abraham Lincoln and issued by General William T. Sherman was the historic Field Order #15 was supposed to be the initial distribution of land to the recently freed black men of United States. On January 16, 1865, the initial allocation of 40 acres of tillable land. The mule came in another Field Order, yes 40 acres and a mule for more than 2 centuries of slavery. Guess you know the rest of the story, Black America is still waiting for that check stamped insufficient funds to be paid. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of about that bouncing check of justice on August 28, 1963, 98 years after General Sherman's proposal for black American reparations.

The United States has continued to historically pass the proverbial buck administration to administration for the past 150 years, our government has paid reparations to many races, and creeds during that period of time. Yet black Americans whose ancestors faced and received the most atrocious, terrorized treatment for more than 4 centuries have seen their pleas ignored. Even though the United Nations in 2017 recommended​ black citizens of the United States of African descent get substantial reparations. Even when though for eight years (2009-2016) the United States had a black man housed in ​America's house, the leader of our nation, people of African descent in this country​ didn't get as close to receiving reparations as they did when General William I Sherman issued Field Order #15, 154 years ago today.

Jan. 16, 2019
Provoked Thoughts
The Radical Martin King
 
Dr. Martin Luther King's last great struggle was the battle for economic equality in this land of supposed prosperity. As a manner of fact, many intellectuals believe that this economic objective for parity was the primary reason why Martin King was targeted for assassination in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Martin King asked that the institutional powers that controlled the wealth distribution in this country be truly held accountable for ensuring that each American, no matter their race, creed, religion, or color have ample opportunities to enjoy fully the fruits of their labor. Martin King also wanted the doors of opportunity opened that had been closed to a vast majority of America's poverty-stricken citizens.
 
 
Martin King was never able to see to the final climax of his effort to illuminate poverty in April 1968 that would culminate as his Poor People's Campaign. It was Martin King's intention to press the visibility of America's forgotten poor during this campaign that would put a bright shining light on the darkness of inhumane justice, economic deprivation, and social inequality. This was Martin King's aim as the radical voice for a true reawakening of the preamble of the American Constitution that guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness along with the promise of equality across the board for each and every American. Martin King's true purpose for this convergence in our nation's capital was to cash that promissory note that had been neglected for almost three and 1/2 centuries. Martin King wasn't just concerned about America's promissory note but Martin King was also calling for an international payment due to the multitudes of suffering peoples throughout the world.
 
As Martin King told Andrew Young and Harry Belafonte in New York in late 1967, "I have led my people through integration into America's burning house of injustice, and economic inequality", his project related to the Poor People's Campaign was to develop a nation of firefighters willing to put out those fires that had burned so long that hope was on a cliff waiting to collapse. So, Martin King proposed a series of direct mass action non-violent demonstrations in which poor peoples of all colors and creeds would speak directly to the forces of power in the world's most nation. This wouldn't be a day-long demonstration like the one that occurred on August 28, 1963, Jobs and Freedom March. The participants would set up a village, a mini-city on the Mall in Washington, DC and stay until the principle issues were addressed.
 
Dr. King also planned mass demonstrations in major urban cities across America, the movement would also include demonstrations in areas where poverty was concentrated. Martin King wanted these demonstrations to provide a voice to the voiceless, and power to the powerless. You see Martin King mind, the Radical King, the dream he spoke of on that August 28, 1963, was a distant memory. One that captivated an audience but had been ignored because the essential elements of the speech had been ignored.
 
 
The Radical Martin King understood that the economic inequality or economic gap that had existed between the many poor and those few with the real economic power in this nation and the world had to be addressed and eliminated. It was Martin King's drive to lessened that economic gap that threatened the institutions of white supremacy and thus put a direct target on the chest of Dr. King. Over the past 50 years (1968-2018) in America the wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots has continued to widen tremendously; with no signs or hope of any meaningful way to bring that gap to any positive solution. This week as we continue to salute the Radical, not the Homogenized Martin Luther King, we should understand that the drum major principle is still needed for our America to truly prosper. In a world where only "eight men" have more economic worth combined than 3.6 billion of the world's population. It should be disconcerting to every person that such an economic disparity can and still exists.
 
Had Martin King lived beyond April 4, 1968, you have to wonder if even he would have been able to carry off his proposed Poor People's Campaign? You see nearly 1/2 of Black America in 1968 had stopped listening to his message of direct nonviolent action to solve the racial problems that beset our America. One thing I know for certain is that the Radical Martin King would've continued to demand solutions to this troubling economic equation. Martin King wouldn't be bowing down attempting to meet with an individual whose sole purpose was to widen the income gap not level it off or lower it. He wouldn't be running to White House for photo ops. Nor would the Radical Dr. King be housed in a majestic building counting his parsonage tithes. Martin King would have stayed on our streets working for change. The Radical King is what is missing now in our communities, The RadicalMartin Luther King that scared the absolute shit out of J.Edgar Hoover.