Saturday, May 31, 2008
As a community activist who often deals with Durhamyouth, I am concerned about the pending Street Gang Suppression Bill that is scheduled to go before the NC House of Representatives. Although, there have been incidents of youth crime in the state, this issue hasbeen blown out of proportion by politicians.
Frankly, I think that many politicians have watched old gangsta movies like Boys in the Hood, too many times. The main failure of the bill is that it fails to clearly define what constitutes being in a gang. This lack of clarity leaves the possibility of "Hip Hop"profiling wide open. Since the typical Hollywood portrayal of a "gang" member is a young black male,the proposed law will, disproportionately, effect the black community.
This is especially troubling for a community not too far removed from Jim Crow Laws that made it illegal for black people to gather on street corners. The community must not cave into a bill that is based more on fear than reality.
To borrow from an old song by Buffalo Springfield"paranoia runs deep, into your life it will creep.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Dear Members of the North Carolina General Assembly,
As a community activist, I am opposed to House Bill 274 also known as the Street Gang Suppression Act. While I do not condone criminal behavior, I find several parts of the bill disturbing.
Primarily, the bill does not clearly define what constitutes gang affiliation. As you may know, mega corporations have glorified gang culture for the last two decades. Therefore, it is hard to tell where Hip Hop fashion ends and "gang" attire begins. Every teen that wears a white T-Shirt or has a tattoo is not a blood thirsty murderer.
Also, when one thinks of the typical "gang member," the image one gets is not of a middle class white child but a young black male from the so called "hood.". As an African American male, I know how it feels to be stereotyped as a criminal. I am no stranger to having little old ladies clutch their pocketbooks and cross the street when they see me coming in their direction. This bill preys are the fears of those who already have a false impression of black manhood.
Lastly, I come from a black community that is not too many generations removed from Jim Crow Laws and "Black Codes" which made it illegal for African Americans to gather on street corners during the early 20th century. Certain parts of this bill seem as though they were written in 1908 instead of 2008.
While solutions must be found to curb youth violence, We must not cave into the politics of fear.
So, I ask that you, please reconsider passing the Street Gang Suppression Act.
Minister Paul Scott
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
When Mayberry Goes Gangsta: Justice Southern Style
Min. Paul Scott
Don't trust your soul to no back street southern lawyerCause the judge in town's got blood stains on his handsThe Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia-Viki Lawrence
Summer time in Mayberry. Usually you can find Sherif Andy and Deputy Barney unarmed in the jailhouse playin' cards and just chillin'. Meanwhile, Aunt B and Opie sit on the front porch sippin' home made lemonade. But that was before "they" rode into town. Now Andy and Barney wear bulletproof vests. Aunt B carries a 45 in her Sunday purse, locked and loaded. And Opie is now "O dog" Main St assassin...
When most folks think of North Carolina, they think of apple pie, warm summer nights and college basketball. But like most places, the Ole North State has its share of crime. Some folks will warn you that if you see a kid dressed from head to toe in Carolina blue, he probably doesn't play for the UNC Tarheels.
Especially in my city, Durham, as for the past few years the so called gang problem has received national attention thanks to the media and documentaries.Durham hasn't always had the reputation of being the New Jack City of the South. But a few years back the local media began to do cover stories with gangsta's throwin' up gang signs and well, the kids that weren't quite smart enough to get on the A honor roll or couldn't catch a pass for a hundred yards every Friday night found that one way to get noticed was to go to the Dollar store and get a bandana, white T shirt and mimic BET videos.
To add to that, as in many cities, there is also the practice of gentrification. For those not hip to the term. When you find a poor neighborhood, label it run down, drive the people out, sell property dirt cheap and then rebuild the area...That's gentrification.What you have a self fulfilling prophecy..Tell the people they live in a "gang infested" area long enough and well...You know the rest.So how do my southern friends and neighbors deal with the plague of gang violence?Like folks in any other town below the Mason Dixon when they feel that their traditional way of life is threatened...They panic.
For the past few years, some NC politicians have been trying to pass tougher legislation to deal with gang violence. In 2003, to capitalize off of post 9/11 paranoia they tried to pass a Street Gang and Terrorism Prevention Act but since public anxiety had begun to die down, it didn't work.
In 2007, they are trying to sneak it under the public radar in the form of the Street Gang Prevention Act courtesy of House Bill 274 and Senate Bill 1358.But the obvious question is, if it is such a darn good idea, then why hasn't it become law, yet?Now, I like to take an afternoon walk to the mailbox without worrying about becoming the victim of a drive by as much as the next guy but using draconian methods to deter crime just doesn’t strike me right.The main controversies surrounding the bills are how do you determine who is in a gang and is being in a gang illegal?
The intro to House Bill 274 says that:"The General Assembly, however, further finds that the State of North Carolina is in a state of crisis that has been caused by violent street gangs whose members threaten, terrorize, and commit a multitude of crimes against the peaceful citizens of their neighborhoods. These activities, both individually and collectively, present a clear and present danger to public order and safety and are not constitutionally protected "
******Note to Gang members "clear and present danger" is the ultimate diss because once you get that label on you. You have no rights and mama can’t save you*******
According to the bill a "criminal street gang" is defined as:"any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, which engages in a pattern of criminal gang activity as defined in subdivision (2) of this section. The existence of the organization, association, or group of individuals associated in fact may be established by evidence of a common name or common identifying signs, symbols, tattoos, graffiti, or attire or other distinguishing characteristics"
Translation: Anyone who dresses like the rapper lil Wayne.I think that it is safe to say that most middle class white folks don't know how it feels to be stereotyped.
I still have a not so fond memory of while attending a summer high school honors program, standing at a bus stop dressed in my freshest 1984 Hip Hop gear only to have a Winston Salem bus driver decide that his half full vehicle suddenly ran out of room and slam the door in my face.Also according to the bill "criminal street gang activity" is a:"Pattern of criminal gang activity" means the commission, attempted commission, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation, coercion, or intimidation of another person to commit at least two of " a whole bunch of offences.
"I'm not quite sure how you enforce "attempt and conspiracy to commit a crime."Maybe I should turn myself in now for that cup of coffee I was thinking about swiping from the counter at EZ Mart last week.Lastly, the bill calls for the heavy prosecution of 12 year olds. I've met some rotten little brats in my day but I wouldn't really consider a 6th grader another Al Capone.The companion bill Senate Bill 1358 is only slightly more politically correct.
Yes Virginia, there are real gangs in the Bull City and it is not a utopia. But Durham ain't Compton either with its generations of gangsterism. This isn’t an overly crowded city and the same kid who is P-Rock on Saturday night is Lil Pookie who sings in the youth choir on Sunday morning.In other words..It aint' that deep.We have not reached the point yet when we should consider performing social retro abortions on twelve year old kids.Already they are developing projected budgets based on the new residents that will be headed to Hotel Hoodlum.
The prison industry is big business and who am I to knock the hustle. So if your no good, lazy cousin in Alabama is looking for a good paying job, he might want to hop the next Greyhound to North Carolina.The bottom line is in 2007, we should be able to come together and think of more innovative solutions to saving our children than the usual lock em up and throw away the key.And that ain't just whistlin' Dixie...
Min. Paul Scott is a writer and activist based in Durham NC. His blog is http://www.nowarningshotsfired.com To reach him contact (919) 451-8283 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Black Power Man vs Captain Capitalism:
Are Conscious Folks Just Heroes For Hire?
Min. Paul Scott
Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician, there?
Why then is not the health of the daughter ogf my people recovered.
Back in the day, I used to read comic books about this dude named Luke Cage aka Power Man, "Hero for Hire." While Captain America was out saving white folks out of a deep sense of moral obligation, Cage would charge folks a grip just to get a little girl's kitten out of a tree. In the real world, Cage's "forget you, pay me" attitude is not much different than that of many of our Afrocentric scholars, professional activists and other smart black folks who charge for their knowledge by the drop. Even though this generation is facing destruction, "Black Power Man" is still a hero for hire.
As we , continuously, debate the condition of Afrikan people in 2008, the question that is never critically answered is: "with all the enlightened people which we have in the Black community, why are our people walking in perpetual darkness?"
Although, in Afrocentric folklore, there exists a might cadre of FREEDOM Fighters who are more than willing to sacrifice life and limb to save Afrikan people, the reality is much different. Surely, there have always existed those who are willing to go all out for the people but that is the exception to the rule. For the most part, to borrow a phrase from Hip Hop, just like there "gangsta rappin'" counterparts, they are just "tryin' to eat."
Capitalism by its very nature produces a self-absorbed survival of the fittest mentality.
(How many times have you seen the most black unity type, otherwise conscious Brother almost come to blows with another Brother who video taped his lecture.)
While it is an unfortunate fact of life that we all have to hustle to pay rent and a car note every month, this is often over exaggerated by those who make a living by claiming that their sole purpose in life is to save Afrikan people.
Back during slavery times it was understandable for Bro. Nat Turner Mustapha to travel from plantation to plantation, meeting clandestinely with enslaved Afrikans who gathered at midnight in cornfields to plot insurrections. Also during the Garvey through the Black Power period it was necessary for Brothers and Sisters to travel from city to city in order to mobilize the masses. It can even be argued that during the 80's and early 90's Afrtocentric scholars had to travel from college to college in order to educate a rising intelligentsia whose task it was to place the capstone on Afrikan LIBERATION.
However, with the coming of the Internet, web cams, DVD burners, etc, the old ways of getting the "word" out have become obsolete and cost wise, ineffeciant. Now, anyone with access to a computer can reach thousands of people instantaneously.
Although, ideally, the elder scholars are supposed to have a teacher/student relationship with the youth, the young Hip Hoppers have far surpassed the elders when it comes to cost efficient message distribution.
While there is no stream of conscious information flowing through the hood, the "gangsta's" have thousands of promotional CD's floating around black communities, worldwide. Also, although ever aspiring "Soulja Boy" has a "Crank Dat" video on youtube.com which can have thousands of black children doing the latest dance over night, there are very few "straight to youtube" videos to teach our children their history and survival skills.
The reason is simple. It is the same reason that corporations don't produce light bulbs that won't burn out or tires that will never go flat; there is no profit in it.
One question that is never answered when asked by aspiring young activists is how can one be "conscious" and help his people but still feed his family ?
Although some of the elders are quick to lecture the Hip Hop generation about not being "black enough," the dirty little secret is that no one comes into this world Afrocentrically conscious. And many of today's most die hard Afrocentric Black militant scholars received their Ph.D's in Black studies courtesy of Richard Nixon's education initiatives of the early 70's. Seems that Tricky Dick thought it was better to have black folks in classrooms instead of rioting in the streets. Also, many black business owners actually got their start when Nixon developed "Green Power" to counter the Black Power Movement.
But with the depoliticizing of black consciousness and the threat of a mass black uprising no longer taken seriously by the powers that be, the need to pacify black youth with government programs has dwindled. So it is not fair to place unfair burdens on the youth without an Afrocentric economic program.
So, in 2008, just as the Black Panther Party demanded that those businesses that profited from the black community gave something back in the 60's, we must appeal to our scholars to give some of their wisdom to the hood.
With the current condition of our people, it is not enough to come to a town, do a lecture, sell some books and CD's and then bounce. They must do more to organize and educate the people who support them.
While it is definitely wrong to bootleg a Brother or Sisters work for profit, we must come to a consensus as to whether it is worse to put someone's research on youtube or burn it on DVD and hand it out, freely to the masses or to horde information that you constantly tell us is critical, life saving information as you pimp your latest book for 29.99. After all, didn't the scholars of today get their information and inspiration from the elders who sacrificed their lives, yesterday?
There must be some compromise.
One suggestion is that Afrocentric scholars follow the lead of Hip Hop artists and activists such as NYOIL who just released a free downloadable mixtape on the internet (NYOIL vs 9th Wonder) or Dr. Jared Ball who produces Free Mix Radio mixtapes to be freely distributed across the globe.
It is a shame that while some Brothers and Sisters like those mentioned are working tirelessly to raise the consciousness of our people, Black Power Man is busy trying to put the new version of Paypal on his website.
Min. Paul Scott represents the Messianic Afrikan Nation. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 email@example.com