Hope vs. Optimism: Patience Does Not Equal Change

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By Kevin P Rucker

I recently watched a film with friends that inspired me to write this article. The film was a documentary called “Race War”, about the conditions of race in our country and how historically strategic decisions have created the oppressive environment that people of color (namely black people) live in and are affected by both mentally and physically. In one particular scene in the film, Ajamu S. Baraka, a renowned political activist and the former Green Party nominee for Vice President (on the Presidential ticket with Presidential nominee Jill Stein) in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election made a statement that did not sit well with me, after having an in depth discussion with my most revered elder coincidentally just a few days earlier. Mr. Baraka near the end of the film stated that as a self proclaimed revolutionary, he was by very nature an optimist. According to what I had recently been made aware of, that statement was inaccurate.

In the conversation that I had with my elder, he asked myself and another valued associate of mine which was more beneficial to the cause and plight of our people, and which had the most potential to create change; hopeful people or optimistic people. As usual, as I have learned to do with elder, instead of actually attempting to answer a question he asked (unless I am absolutely sure I am right) I simply let him know that I have no idea what the answer is and that I am listening intently to know the answer. My elder proceeded to tell me that in a revolution, a revolutionary must be hopeful, not optimistic. While they both have something in common, namely faith, they differ in terms of their level of commitment. A hopeful person applies action to their faith, and actually works directly to make change possible. A optimistic person is faith that things will change, but is unwilling to help orchestrate that change, and prefers to spectate instead of participate. After hearing this comparison, I immediately agreed with him, since I was able to correlate this view with an example that validated this notion; the campaign of the 44th U.S. President, Barack Obama.

Barack Obama’s campaign was based in one fundamental concept, hope. It galvanized the entire black community, and also galvanized other ethnic groups that were inspired with hope to participate in the most historical presidency in U.S. history. That is the definition of revolutionary hope. Obama’s supporters did not idly sit by and wish for his win but do nothing to make that win possible, they knocked on doors, made phone calls, organized and attended rallies, and raised campaign funds to ensure Barack Obama’s success and his presidential win. According to Mr. Baraka, in relation to my elder’s definition, none of Obama’s supporters would have done any of those things and would have wished him the best, but would have quietly sat on the sidelines and contributed no assistance whatsoever.

Optimism breeds cowardice. I recently heard a saying that although made me laugh, explained the mentality of a coward; “the coward lives to tell how the brave died.” While objectively this view sounds sensible, for a revolutionary it is impossible. To sit by and watch another take action that you should be participating in is according to my elder the definition of optimism and beginning of cowardly behavior. Of course, if you are not concerned with being a revolutionary, and if you are content in your position and do not wish for absolute freedom for yourself, your loved ones, and your community as a whole, then by all means stand on the sideline and watch. If however, you crave an existence that allows you to be all you can be, and live with your loved ones in a community that respects your ambition, creativity and free minded attitudes collectively, you must participate that, it will never be given to you. Mr. Baraka has the right motive, but the wrong strategy to achieve it. At least according to my elder, which is my view as well.

My elder has another saying that I have started to incorporate into my life, which is “it is better to be kind to someone instead of nice, because being kind means being truthful, regardless of whether the other person wants to hear what they are being told or not”. My mother had a habit of doing this, in a “tough love “ sort of way. She was not one to mince words, and she never told you what you wanted to hear, only what you needed to hear. That was her way of caring, giving you information that helped your life, not nice words that made you feel better. I have grown not only to understand but appreciate that approach, and I have incorporated that into my life. Some may not feel comfortable with that, but I guess that requires a bit of hope.

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Race War: The Importance Of Conflict

“Freedom is never given; it is won.” A. Philip Randolph

Politics is conflict. War is conflict. Life is conflict. People need to grow comfortable with conflict. “Race War” is a documentary by Black Channel Films, which explores the current racial tensions and conflicts in the United States since the election of Donald Trump, the events at Charlottesville and the ongoing police killing of black people. Conflict is the first step and element in the development of all cultures. “Race War” will explore the race conflicts which are so central to the fabric of real American culture.

War and conflict are perpetual. The film draws from interviews with Ajamu Baraka, political activist and former Green Party nominee for Vice President of the United States; Brian Bentley, author and former LAPD officer; Bob Law, professional broadcaster; Cheryl Dorsey,former LAPD officer; Judge Joe Brown, attorney and television personality; Kaba Kamene, professor; Lee Merritt, attorney; Yusef Salaam, activist of the Central Park Jogger case fame; Mysonne, activist and rapper; Melvin Walker; Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute; and Jared Taylor, founder of the American Renaissance. The interviewees, which consist of a colorful and wide ranging scope of personalities, promise to deliver thought provoking dialogue and spark an ever needed discussion. Just as war and conflict is perpetual, the discussion as how to engage war and conflict should also be perpetual.

We recently had the opportunity to discuss “Race War” with Samuel Alarape, one of the producers, on our bi-weekly podcast “For The Black Of It”. Although, I believe the premise of the film to be too reactive, late action is far better than no action. Some elders in the black community have pointed out that we as a people have forgotten the importance of conflict and hence competition. When blacks enter non black environments, we are there to compete, not the get along. The environment maybe non-violent but, war and conflict exist and is present just the same. Whether at school, at work or in a casual setting, war and conflict are always present.

On Thursday Nov. 8th, at the historic Black Spectrum Theatre in Queens, New York located at 177-01 Baisley Blvd., you will have an opportunity to experience this product of black excellence and film making mastery. Tickets are $15 at the door and $10 in advance. Get your advance tickets here. The ancestors will be proud.

Oster Bryan

Anti-Destruction Is Not The Same As Construction: The Vote For CommUnity 1st And The Process of Community Building

“Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,- criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, – this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society” W.E.B. DuBois

Some extraordinary things occurred during the state primaries on September 13th, 2018, in Southeast Queens. First, we witnessed a viable campaign not centered on voting for an individual, but on voting for a concept and a philosophy. Second, we witnessed a viable campaign that didn’t focus on money, but focused on people. Third, we witnessed a campaign that resisted the rabid and persistent misinformation that is all too prevalent in black communities. The construction of a black community continues.

We ran a viable campaign void of the rampant individualism we see too often in society in general, let alone the modern political campaigns of today. With the simple yet powerful slogan of “Fighting For The Black Community” and campaign website domain name that focused on a group as opposed to the name of a single individual, we tapped into the subconscious of a community and people that feel so misused and ignored that apathy and mistrust are all but inevitable. A community to represent the community. The campaign made visible the members of Southeast Queens who wish NO LONGER TO BE INVISIBLE. In an age where we have plenty black politicians, but virtually no Black agenda, we started a needed conversation. The construction of a black community continues.

Not only did we not take or seek money on our way to almost 3,000 votes (unheard of, for challengers in State Assembly races in Southeast Queens), we turned away donations. The philosophy was “PEOPLE > MONEY.” People and their talents coupled with their votes win elections in a just democratic society, not money. The dependence on money is crippling our political system, because politicians are more concerned with who donates to them than who who votes for them. In order for alcoholics to beat alcoholism, they have to quit “cold-turkey,” the same is with our political system and the corrupting forces of money. Until we beat the dependency and disease we have to remove all money from politics. Hopefully, we’ve started the ball rolling. The construction of a black community continues.

During slavery, a slave learning how to read was an illegal act. Then from the 1860s to the 1960s, the educational system controlled what you read. A student could be suspended from school for reading certain books. Now in the modern era, we are given the wrong thing to read. We are miss-educated and misinformed. False information circulated about the unlawfulness of my ability to run for public office and concurrently hold the position of president of a 501(C)3, as I do serve as president of St. Albans Civic Improvement Association, even in the light of Robert Holden being President of Juniper Park Civic and running for NYC Council only 9 months prior. Fortunately, the black community resisted this miscarriage of justice and things have returned to normal. The construction of a black community continues.

When a parent does something good for his/her child, the parent is not doing something bad to someone else child. When we advance black community, we do not impede the progress of other communities. To promote construction of a black community is not the same as stopping the destruction of black communities. The former in proactive and the latter is reactive. Let us be proactive. If we cannot advocate for ourselves then we cannot advocate for anyone else. The construction of a black community continues.

Oster Bryan

Vote Oster Bryan for State Assembly & Dymitra Etienne for District Leader in NYS 33rd Assembly District

On Thursday, September 13th, 2018, the state of New York will hold its state primaries. You can support grassroots by voting for Oster Bryan for the New York State’s 33rd Assembly District and Dymitra Etienne for District Leader for Part A of the 33rd Assembly District. Our community needs advocates to PUT OUR COMMUNITY FIRST!!!

Apart from serving as the First VP of CommUnity First (southeast queens activist group), Oster Bryan serves as a Civic Leader for the longest standing Civic Association in Southeast Queens. He holds leadership positions with a professional development organization in Southeast Queens, a Southeast Queens-based theater group, and the Green Ready Alternative Energy Program (GRAEP) (a STEM program for school aged children).

He was also honored to be an organizer for the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March (Justice or Else) for Southeast Queens. Out of this endeavor, www.queensblackdollars.com was created in conjunction with Josue Merisier. QueensBlackDollars serves as a business directory to encourage putting local talents to the service of local community.

Every Thursday, from 9pm to 11pm EST, he can be heard on www.onthewakeupradio.com, on “For The Black Of It” with Marcia Bois or “The Appeal” with Jonathan Logan and Jason Logan (on alternate weeks and both programs are produced by Sindy Ashby and engineered by Ra Williamz).

Oster Bryan attended Hillcrest High School, Baruch College, and Fordham University and holds a BBA and MBA in Finance. Additionally, he is currently employed as an adjunct professor with a Flushing-based institution. He can be reached by text or call at 347-433-6833, email at ogbryan@gmail.com or via twitter @theozlife

Dymitra Etienne serves as Recording Secretary for CommUnity 1st. Ms. Etienne is Vice President of the board of Blanche Community Progress, a South Queens, childcare institution. She is Co-founder and Co-President of the Cambria Heights Neighbors, Friends and Families Association. Ms. Etienne served as a budget delegate for the City Council District 27 Participatory Budget committee for New York City. She also ran for Democratic county committee in electoral district 57 in 2012 and 2014. Ms. Etienne continues to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life of people in her community through education on civics and by focusing on empowering women and children.

Dymitra Etienne earned a BA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the City University of New York at York College. And a Masters in Urban Policy from the New School for Public Engagement, Milano School of International Affairs, Urban Policy and Management. Currently, she works for a major managed care organization as a Senior Clinical Quality Analyst. She can be reached by email at DymitraEtienne4districtleader@gmail.com or via twitter @DymitraE

The Or Else

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”

Frederick Douglass

By Oster Bryan

On 10/10/2015, there was a great Black migration to Washington D.C. for an event called “Justice or Else”, which embodied the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. The event was spearheaded by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Events such as these are rare in Black life. Where other communities celebrate their oneness on a regular basis, celebrations such as these have eluded regular Black life over the past half century in America. The event had the express intent to demand justice for past and current abuses and neglect by the government of the United States. Other groups have been made whole after their abuse, so in order for every group’s humanity to be realized every group must be made whole.

In 1942, the Executive Order 9066 required the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camp until 1946. The order was enacted due to the paranoia of World War II era America. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided $20,000 for each surviving detainee. Not that a price tag can be placed on suffering, The Japanese-American community fought to address the wrongs done to the previous generation of Japanese Americans.

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From 1941 to 1945, the Jewish genocide widely known as “The Holocaust” occurred. Jewish people were systematically exterminated over this four year period. By 1951, a deal was reached with Germany for the amount of $845 million to be paid to Israel for the rehabilitation of 500,000 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. In 1988, Germany allocated another $125 million. In 2012, Germany paid another 772 million euros in reparations to Israel . In 2014, A French state-owned railway company paid $60 million to American Jewish Holocaust survivors. The Jewish community has gone through great lengths to ensure the wrongs of the past be addressed.

The enslavement of Africans in the Western Hemisphere began in the early 1500’s. In contrast to other systems of slavery, slaves in America were systematically kept in ignorance (it was illegal for slaves to learn to read), were denied humanity (slaves were legally 3/5ths of a human) and were stripped of their names, religion, language and culture. Although slavery officially came to an end in 1865 in America, second-class citizenship continues to present day. No wrongs have been meaningfully addressed.

If all humanity is not respected, then no humanity is respected. The Justice Or Else movement allows victims of abuse to request that they be made whole. In doing so, they position themselves to demand justice from those who wish to strip them of what they deserve… and they will get what they deserve “Or Else”.

“Fiduciary Obligation to the Public”

By Donnie Whitehead & Oster Bryan

When a man or woman gives birth to a child, he or she gains the title of parent. However, if their participation in the child’s life ends at that point, society (and history for that matter) will not deem him or her to have been a “good” parent. Active participation in and throughout the child’s life is required to achieve the ranking of a “good” parent. Citizenship is no different.

Just as being present at birthdays and other milestones and taking an active interest in the child’s life is a requirement of the fiduciary obligation to parenthood. Active participation in one’s own governance is required to fulfill one’s fiduciary obligation to the public. By its very nature, government as well as civilization is nothing more than the combination of its parts. Its parts are the citizens.

The specific obligations of a citizen of the United States are as follows:

1) Vote. It is the basis of our democratic system. We know that people died for the right to vote. But, we should also consider the other people killed to prevent you from voting. Why do you think this would be the case? History has taught us that we cannot stop at this point. If we were all angels we wouldn’t need government, so we must go a few steps further.

2) Serve. You must serve jury duty is a requirement of citizenship and with good reason. The law is like an elastic band the serving on juries allows you to participate in exactly how much or how little it is stretched.

3) Participate. You must participate in the public discourse by taking an active role in your block association, civic association, local social organizations and other groups. In doing so, we gain insight into the issues that affect the community and aid in developing group solutions to group problems. You must know your neighbor.

4) Hold. You must hold those your elected official accountable. You must support the candidates who will advocate for the public good. Once he or she is elected you must continue to apply force to ensure the campaign promises are not neglected. Community good must come before personal good. In following this principle we avoid corrupt practices. Government must function for the masses not the few. Lyndon B. Johnson was a segregationist. Yet, Martin Luther King was able the pressure him the sign the civil rights act of 1964 and the voters rights act of 1965.

5) Run. The last and most important step is running for public office (in the purest sense only). If you can find no virtuous candidates and you see yourself as fit and qualified to do so, it is your obligation to running for public office. You’re decision to run should never be based on likelihood of being elected but to simply serve the public good by giving the public a choice and an additional way the express the public sentiment. William Jennings Bryant ran for president of the United States on three occasions. Though he was never elected, he had a larger impact on the history of this country than many of those who were.

The government can only work as well as its citizens are willing to make it work. As an individual, this program will not work. A collective or group approach is required to encourage government to function. The collective’s effort will be greater than the sum of its parts (exponential growth as opposed to mere addition). If the society isn’t meeting the needs of the masses, it is the obligation of the masses to force it to meet those needs. Good parenting is challenging but good citizenship is even more challenging.

“What would MLK say if he were here today?”

By Oster Bryan

As we continue to celebrate Martin Luther King and as we start Black History month of 2015, we want to consider Dr. King’s take on the current events of the day. History does repeat itself and we see that Dr. King faced many of the issues we do today. Ever the philosopher, Dr. King thought long and hard on these issues and recorded his thoughts for prosperity.

On the issue of war (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran,…)

“I knew that I could never raise my voice against violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world – my own government”

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”

“They applauded us when we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters. They applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation

“There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say. ‘Be non-violent {segregationist sheriff} Jim Clark’ but will damn you when you say, ‘Be non-violent toward little brown children.’ There’s something wrong with the press.”

“I speak t against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in y heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”

“We must find a alternative to war. In a day when…guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere and napalm flames destroy God’s green earth and his children, no nation can claim victory in war.”

On the issue of rioting in Ferguson (and elsewhere)

“…a riot is the language of the unheard. And what America has failed to hear – it has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last twenty years, that the promises of justice and equality have not been met, and that large segments of whit society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

On the issue of police brutality

“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”

On the issue of racism and equality

“We want ALL f our rights, we want them here. And we want them now.

On the issue of poverty and equal wages

“What does it profit a man to be able to have access to any integrated lunch counter when he doesn’t earn enough to take his wife out to dinner? What does it profit a man to have access to the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities and not earn enough to take a vacation?”

“The lives, the incomes, the well-being of poor people every wherein America are plundered by our economic system”

It appears the issues we faced 50 to 60 (even 100 to 200) years ago aren’t very different from the issues we face today. We need to study our history as to not fall victim to some of the pitfalls of the past. Martin Luther King, ever the visionary and the thinker pondered and experimented with many solutions, now we only need to continue where he and others like him left off, so we won’t repeat the errors of the past.

Oster Bryan