The last few years have been hard for us: record foreclosures, high unemployment, drastic cuts in social services, and government actively doing the bidding of big business at the expense of regular people.
With a combination of bewilderment and frustration, concerned global citizens had asked one question over and again: when and where are people in the US going to rise up and take to the streets?
Turns out, the answer was September 17, 2011 on Wall Street.
Of course, for all it’s simplicity and elegance, that answer is not entirely accurate. Communities of color, albeit in smaller numbers and with less media, have taken to the streets for years around issues of police brutality and the impacts of the economic crisis, particularly gentrification, foreclosures and evictions.
The modern era of gentrification, starting approximately in mid 2002 and ending abruptly towards the end of 2007, is possibly the most extreme- and brutal- since the term was coined in England in the late 1800s. In June 2005, The Economist magazine, widely regarded as the world's most respected financial periodical, argued, with documentation, that never in history have home prices rose so high, for so long and across so many countries, bestowing upon the “housing boom” a more appropriate moniker: "the biggest bubble in history." A significant and integral component of that bubble was speculative gentrification.
The social justice movement in the United States proved woefully ill prepared to counter what became a national crisis with devastating impacts on the local communities the movement serves. Consequently, many organizations and activists entered the gentrification game well in the fourth quarter, down by too many points to compel meaningful compromises from the forces of capital dictating and profiteering from gentrification.
In a move designed to garner headlines instead of results, municipalities across the country, including the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners (BCC), propose criminalizing, albeit without penalties, the use of the n-word. Like so many other acts debated and passed by government bodies, this one will take up time, space and public interest, but will have no beneficial impact whatsoever on the lives of poor, black people.
... Lot by the corner of NW 17th Avenue and 62nd Street in Liberty City. Max Rameau is holding court on a couch so miserably stained and full of holes it looks like the ground itself belched it up. Surrounding him are a disheveled group of squatters, and their sturdy little pallet-walled shacks. As a scrim of smoke from a nearby cooking barrel veils the twilight sky, Rameau appears like some millennial Homer stalking the campfires outside Troy. Given that he is, at this moment, briefing his troops, er residents, at this impromptu shanty-town about an imminent raid by the City of Miami, the more conventional simile would be Hector on the walls looking morosely at the marauding Greek armies. But anyone with knowledge of Rameau and his saboteur instincts knows that the offensive belongs to the solidly-built Haitian-American with a round belly.
Free the Liberty City 7
On June 22, 2006, the FBI arrested seven Black men, based in the Liberty City section of Miami, Florida, charging them with various counts of planning acts of violence. What distinguishes this case from the myriad of other Black men arrested in poor, oppressed communities is not that the men had no weapons to commit the acts of violence or even that they clearly lacked the capacity to advance the plot ascribed to them, but that in the arrests, the U.S. Government invoked the 't' word- “terrorism.”
In this politically charged atmosphere, speaking “terrorism” is not unlike the charge of “communism” during the McCarthy era in that all logic, question of authority and presumption of innocence is diminished. The Liberty City 7 (LC7) are being rail-roaded by the government, with the gleeful support of the media and the deafening silence of the majority.
As the shock from Art Teele’s dramatic suicide begins to fade and details of his final thoughts emerge, an entire community is compelled to confront and come to terms with some uncomfortable realities. Some issues are already in the throws of heated debate, however, there is one issue which looms large, but speaks quietly, as if still hiding in the closet: Homophobia.
More than a month after the elections, to those in the Black community and elsewhere, deflated by the return of GW Bush to office after a rancorous, at time brutal, high stakes campaign, I say: get over it, we have work to do.
Lost in the near euphoria following the recent Supreme Court decision is a harsh reality: the new version of affirmative action has absolutely nothing to do with either the redress of past wrongs or a policy designed to advance the chronically underdeveloped Black community. In fact, the Bollinger decision ushers in a new era in which affirmative action exists not for the purpose of advancing the Black community, but to better provide for whites.