The Greatest

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                           Muhammad Ali (l.) and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (r.) in Louisville                                 (AP Photo via The Nation)

“Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali! Mainstream media continues to revere him for his extraordinary achievements as an athlete and his influential oratory style (How many of us have alleged to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”?).  However, Ali is beloved to the progressive community and the African diaspora for his candid criticism of racial discrimination and poverty as well as his refusal to be inducted in the US Army during the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs.  Ali could have exercised his class privilege, entered the army and fought entertaining exhibition bouts without ever being in any physical danger.  Instead, he chose to take a principled stand which in the short run cost him millions of dollars and some of his peak years as a boxing champion.  In the long run, Ali’s example made him a legend.

To learn more about Muhammad Ali, see the Academy Award-winning film When we Were Kings, or read this Dave Zirin article in The Nation.

After the Verdict: “Where do we go From Here?” Black Studies For Everybody

Black Studies protest, May 1968 University of Washington.  Image by Steve Ludwig. Courtesy of Antiwar and Radical History Project.

Black Studies protest, May 1968 University of Washington. Image by Steve Ludwig. Courtesy of Antiwar and Radical History Project.

Some people can’t understand why people concerned about racism—especially African Americans–are so upset about the George Zimmerman verdict.  Some folks think that there is no evidence to suggest that Zimmerman’s even a racist since he is Latino.  These misunderstandings reveal there remains an empathy gap when it comes to White understanding of Black experiences.

George Zimmerman is a White, second-generation Hispanic who felt empowered to racially profile Trayvon Martin.  His light skin, accent-free English and fear of Black men inspired something in the millions of white Americans who reached out to support him during the trial. His acquittal stunned us because it highlights how some people of color embrace anti-black racism.  Zimmerman’s privilege allowed him to disavow the idea that race was involved in the shooting at all.

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A Letter from Birmingham Jail

Happy birthday Martin Luther King, Jr. Your courage, faith and activism continues to inspire us today.

Happy birthday Martin Luther King, Jr. Your courage, faith and activism continues to inspire us today.

16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

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