Letting Go vs. Giving up: This water lives in Mombasa

This exchange between a mother and her son brings thoughts about my relationship with Cabral, my son. Shirley

andromeda“You get it. It’s a higher place, less crowded with idiots, acceptance of yourself, acceptance of others realizing finally that you don’t have to understand just accept. ” Susan

Above is one of my favorite paintings by Polish artist Tamara Lempicka. The painting is titled Andromeda. As part of a Greek myth, Andromeda was chained near the ocean to be devoured by a sea creature, but then saved by her future husband Perseus. In Lempicka’s Art Deco style Andromeda, she is also chained but her background is that of a modern city. One can only imagine what was flowing through Lempicka’s mind at the time of its creation.

The other night I was having a conversation with a friend. I told him that I had held a certain expectation of myself for many years. As these thoughts grew, they somehow dominated the very essence of my daily life and encompassed a way of maneuvering myself in the world. Finally, I came to the realization that I needed to change my way of thinking because these false expectations were indeed blocking other opportunities to surface. And so, I said to him, “I am letting go of it all…” He replied, “So, you have decided to give up?” “No, just decided to let it go.”

When we lock ourselves into expectation, we begin to live in an illusion, chained to a lie about who we think we should be- the ego indeed has taken control and we are simply blind to it. “Letting go” of the expectation/illusion creates an emotional freedom…a peace within…an empty space so that we may listen to inspiration. Our focus becomes what inspires us, not the compulsive thoughts of how we think we should live…simple, no?

When we decide to look at a continuing challenging situation in our lives and impose the words, “I give up”, we automatically look at the experience with the drama of defeat, the illusion of failure. We potentially create another drama for ourselves, which can carry us down a stream of bitterness, shame, blame, etc. We have only traded one emotional chain for another.

I am reminded of a scene in Sidney Pollock’s film, Out of Africa, when the rains arrived and flooded the damming of a nearby river for Karen Blixen’s coffee farm. She recognized the fruitless effort to control the damming and told the workers, “Let it go, let it go, this water lives in Mombasa anyway.”

So when we house and dam up negative thoughts or emotions, compulsive desires, fruitless goals, outworn expectations/ memories, etc. that don’t serve us, let them go…they don’t live there anyway.

Jeff Haskins

Tribute to Cabral: March 26, 1974 – September 15, 2015

Cabral Franklin March 26, 1974-September 15, 2015

Cabral Franklin
March 26, 1974-September 15, 2015

When we launched this blog in 2011, we collectively shared a politically progressive ideology and found a voice in sharing our views. Our editorial meetings were filled with robust debate and laughter. On far too many occasions Cabral pulled his mom and I off the proverbial political cliff. He was a sound and critical thinker who always knew more than he shared, but was careful to share exactly what he needed to.

There wasn’t a poll or interpretation of a poll that we did not rely on his expertise and insight. Many have called him a numbers man and he was; but he also translated what those numbers meant for everyday people. He will be greatly missed for his intellect, his judgment and his vision. Thank you for being you and I know that your soul is at rest and at peace.

We are sharing a few of his favorite blogs in his honor.  It’s the Message Stupid and No Alternative-Joe Paterno Should Be Fired. Rest well my brother.






Dorn: Donald Trump’s dog whistles

EDornBy Edwin Dorn – Special to the Austin American-Statesman

Donald Trump’s bombast boils down to this: “If you hate minority groups, you’ll love me, ’cause I’m gonna Make America White Again.”

Trump doesn’t use those specific words. Instead, he uses what University of California-Berkeley Professor Ian Haney Lopez calls “dog whistles,” phrases that perk up the ears of bigots. I am not saying that all of Trump’s supporters are racists; but a quarter of Republicans have responded enthusiastically to his dog whistles, so we need to be clear about what is going on.

Three years ago, Trump revived the dying “birther” movement. He probably didn’t really believe that nonsense, but he knew that many white Americans were angry and anxious about the election of a black man to the presidency. They needed a story to explain how such a thing could have happened — thus the fantastic tale about Barack Obama’s birth in Kenya. In some surveys, more than 40 percent of Republicans said they believed that story. This does not mean that 40 percent of Republicans are stupid. What it means is that many of them would say outrageous things to delegitimize Obama’s historic achievement.

Similarly, most of Trump’s supporters are not dumb enough to take his immigration proposals literally. They don’t believe that most undocumented immigrants are rapists and criminals, or that a President Trump would expel 11 million people from the country, or that he could make Mexico build a 2,000-mile wall, or that he could unilaterally reinterpret the 14th Amendment to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. However, they love to hear his dog whistle tweeting “We don’t want Mexicans here.”

“Chinese” is another of Trump’s code words. Few Americans are bothered by imports from China, which include everything from toys to iPhones to Trump’s own signature-label shirts. But for Trumpists, “Chinese” is another way to say “yellow peril,”reminiscent of the 1870s. What worries them is not China’s manufacturing capacity; it is Chinese immigrants. And for many Trump supporters, “Chinese” is an umbrella category for the millions of Asians – Vietnamese, Cambodians, Japanese, Koreans, even Indians and Pakistanis — who have immigrated into the United States during the past 50 years.

What solutions does Trump offer for the decline that he claims the United States has been suffering? How does he plan to “Make America Great Again”? By putting white men back in charge! Trump knows that he cannot reduce the number of blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans; but as president he could enhance the GOP’s voter suppression efforts. Reducing the voting power of minority citizens would help to restore what many Trump supporters believe to be the proper racial order.

A series of laws passed a half-century ago — the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1965 Immigration Reform Act — ended centuries of lawful white privilege. Then came the women’s movement. Men who thought they should be running things started to feel emasculated.

Trump is rich. He boasts that foreign leaders will do whatever he tells them to do — and one of his former wives has vouched for his sexual prowess. His phallic symbol is a long, sleek jet airplane. A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz posted a video of his own phallic symbol: a gun barrel wrapped in a strip of bacon.

Ridiculous as he is, Trump has helped to expose the breadth and intensity of prejudice in the GOP. The question is, do any of the other candidates have the decency and courage to stand up to their party’s bigots?

Dorn is a professor of public policy at the University of Texas. He is a former undersecretary in the Department of Defense and former dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Unlikely Alliances?

bondmuhKnown for his insight into the Civil Rights Movement and his understanding of seemingly strange alliances in the Movement, Julian Bond captured that in a 1996 column in the Chicago Tribune called, Now Let the Democrats Praise Elijah Muhammad. He tells a barely known complex story that even Julian couldn’t fully explain yet he reminds us of how unlikely alliances can change the course of history and influence movements.

The troubling violent images on the nightly news about police violence, domestic violence and the uptick in murders in over 30 US cities that was recently highlighted in the New York Times offers us a chance to try to understand the complex issues that contribute to changing policy as well as hearts and minds. Maybe a look at the past can serve as a backdrop to craft new solutions. Some say, these problems are new, while others say they are as old as the country itself. Whichever, is the case, we have to tackle these difficult issues by understanding the complexity of the people, leaders and challenges without fear of castigation, isolation or attack.

There is a saying that rings true, “If it were easy, someone else would have already done it.”  It is not a question of who is best to lead. But rather, that each of us does our part, personally and organizationally to address the challenges of our time. It is distracting from the formidable struggles we face in 21st Century to worry about who gets the credit or who gets the funding. We must do what each of us can do to expand the justice and equity to every person living in America. In my lifetime justice was expanded to include people like me and I benefitted.  It is time to pay it forward.


Now Let The Democrats Praise Elijah Muhammad

By Julian Bond.
August 23, 1996
Chicago Tribune  
(At the time Julian Bond was distinguished professor in residence at American University and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.}

Taylor Branch and I were walking despondently down a hot street in Chicago’s Loop in August of 1968, a week before the Democratic Convention began. With three others, we were the advance guard of the 60-plus member Georgia Loyal National Democratic Delegation to the 1968 Democratic convention. The Loyalists were a rump group set up to challenge the handpicked, overwhelmingly white, segregationist and overwhelmingly pro-George Wallace official Georgia delegation.

There had been no election of delegates in our state–Georgia’s party chair had simply handpicked them. Georgia’s rank-and-file Democrats–even then heavily black–had no say in who would represent them at the convention to write a platform and choose their party’s presidential and vice-presidential nominees.

Our group was integrated and loyally Democratic. While delegations from other states could look forward to open arms, hotel rooms, Chicago hospitality and transportation from hotel to convention hall, we had none of these things. And we had no money. We could not even afford to bring our delegation to Chicago.

A large black man, Walter Turner, recognizing me, stopped us and asked if he could help. We explained our dilemma, and Turner said he could get us rooms at a nearby hotel. When we answered that we had already been turned away from that place, he insisted on trying, and after a moment of secret conversation with the manager, told us we had the required rooms.

But how could we pay for them? How could we pay to bring the delegates who were to occupy those rooms to Chicago?

Turner suggested we ask his employer, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, popularly known as the Black Muslims. Taylor and I were incredulous. Why would the leader of America’s most prominent black separatist group, a man who forbade his followers to register and vote and who regularly castigated whites as “blue-eyed devils,” pay to bring a group made up of a majority of those devils to a meeting whose whole point was voting and political participation?

Nevertheless, Turner arranged for me to meet Mr. Muhammad in his Hyde Park mansion. I told my sad tale to him and an audience of Muslim men and women. He listened politely and asked me to return for a meal the following day.

At the next evening’s dinner, men and women sat at separate tables. He surveyed them before giving me an answer, asking the women first if he should give me a donation. Each one emphatically said no. “We don’t know this young man,” one said. “He’ll give all the money to the devils,” said another.

The men were less negative, but many said no as well.

Mr. Muhammad heard them out, and then said to me “Mr. Bond, in the Nation of Islam, we listen to the women, but we do what the men say to do.” He gave me $3,000 in crisp $100 bills.  That money brought our delegation to Chicago and helped pay our bills.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad helped the Georgia Loyal National Democrats force the Democratic Party to make good on promises it made in 1964–that delegate selection would be democratic, fair and open.

He literally changed the face of the Democratic Party, and I have wondered, from that day to this, why he did it.

Did he envision the eventual entry of the Black Muslims into politics? Could he have imagined that his successor, Louis Farrakhan, would register to vote in 1983 and place the nation in the service of a black candidate for the presidency of the United States?

Was this gift the small opening wedge signaling a transition within the Nation?

Or did he simply harbor fond memories of the Georgia he had left in the 1920s, the Georgia where he’d been born Elijah Poole? Or did he long for a Georgia–and an America–that might have been?

Only 3 percent of the delegates to this year’s Republican Convention in San Diego were black, a figure which says much about that party’s politics and their programs. Twenty percent were millionaires.
The Democrats who gather in Chicago in 1996 look much more like America, and in part, they have the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to thank for it.

Remembering Julian Bond

JBond987As many of you may know, I am a visiting professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas Austin. I have had the pleasure of hosting Julian Bond twice at the University. Once this February as the keynote speaker for the annual Barbara Jordan Forum at the LBJ School and last year at the Civil Rights Summit lecture in April.

Shirley Franklin, “His life’s work and writings serve as a blueprint for all who seek social justice and equality for all Americans and peace in the world. His sharp intellect and unflinching courage in the face of obstacles and ridicule inspire each of us to stand up, speak up and act up for the principles of democracy and justice.

Julian was an inspired teacher, committed human rights activist and a courageous spokesperson for peace, equality and justice for people of color, for women, for LGBT community, for immigrants and for all Americans and people around the world.”

One of the students, Virginia Cumberbatch introduced Julian Bond at the Barbara Jordan Forum this year and her remarks are included here as well as an interview that I conducted this week honoring Bond on the Boston NPR program, Here and Now.

Julian Bond Introduction by Virginia Cumberbatch

2015 Barbara Jordan Forum

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

The University of Texas at Austin


Julian Bond and LBJ student Virginia Cumberbatch

Good afternoon, today I have the honor of introducing a life-long advocate, activist and an architect of civic engagement in America. As the country engages in important conversations on civil rights and human rights, the voice and virtue of Julian Bond represents a model of advocacy and activism that stands to forge connection between

legacy and momentum. The life-long work of Julian Bond should not only impress us, it should also inspire us to sustained and meaningful action, as his leadership stands as a blueprint for social advocacy. As a student he challenged the status-quo through the work of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, as a politician he advocated for the voiceless, as a teacher at some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions he models the principles of conviction, as a thought leader he’s created new paradigms of engagement through his governance of the NAACP and today Bond stands to deliver a message of equality, freedom, and justice with a renewed sense of relevance.

In the past year The University of Texas and the LBJ School have reengaged the civil rights legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Civil Rights movement at large – reminding us that we cannot forget the past, as it plays a vital role in informing our future. Representative John Lewis reminded us at last year’s monumental LBJ Civil Rights Summit, that “we can’t re-remember things incorrectly, or past hurts and misguidances will continue to lead us.” Such words ring true in the wake of the national headlines that continue to shake the American conscience. Likewise, these words evoke a pivotal sentiment for the millennial generation. Although decades removed from the impetus of Civil Rights moments like the Selma to Montgomery march or the March on Washington we cannot continue to live in naivety, failing to recognize that such historical travesties are indeed a part of our current realities.

As students, community members and leaders in the 21st century, we find ourselves in the crux of past and present, but Julian Bond demonstrates for us all a pivotal balance between mere historical reflection and celebration AND vigilant observation and engagement in facing current challenges of equality, access, and social justice.

Whatever the human rights issue Julian Bond has advocated for fairness and inclusion. He has been steadfast in his fight to make real the American Dream and the principles of equity and equality promised in the U.S. Constitution. Such responsibility should still rest on the shoulders of us who call ourselves policy students, community leaders, and human beings.

On behalf of my generation, thank you, Mr. Bond, for demonstrating time and time again that we cannot and must not be silent in the face of prejudice, inequality and discrimination. May today’s conversation reengage us, reinvigorate us and redirect us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me welcome the 2015 Barbara

Jordan Speaker, the Honorable Julian Bond.

Boston NPR’s Here and Now 


Post Katrina Leadership Emerging in New Orleans

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, three New Orleans businessmen and civic leaders, Gerry Barousse, Mike Rodrigue and Gary Solomon, teamed up to play an inspirational role in the rebirth of their beloved city. Their effort to rebuild New Orleans through the creation of the Bayou District Foundation led to demonstrable results in the standard of living and people’s lives. They are part of a new, emerging brand of leadership that we should applaud and support nationally.

Two months after the storm, many people doubted whether certain parts of their city would ever recover. Gerry, Mike and Gary believed otherwise. They decided to focus their attention in the former St. Bernard public housing development, which was largely destroyed by the floods. They created the Bayou District Foundation, a nonprofit that served, to use a football metaphor, as a “community quarterback” for one of the greatest rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. Working with Columbia Residential as its development partner and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, they contacted displaced residents in New Orleans and across the country, engaging those who wanted to shape the new development with their input.

The three men were inspired to take on this enormous challenge after visiting the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta, where businessman and philanthropist Tom Cousins championed the revitalization of one of the most dangerous and under-invested parts of the city. What the three men saw at East Lake provided a vision for what was possible: a revitalization that could have impact far beyond neighborhood boundaries.

Gerry Barousse, Mike Rodrigue and Gary Solomon understood the potential for a better future for New Orleans that could be accomplished through civic and business leadership. Over the past nine years, the Bayou District Foundation, with Columbia Residential, has led the development of 685 new, high-quality mixed-income apartments at Columbia Parc. Now it’s a fully leased development that is a safe and welcoming environment full of families and individuals spanning a wide range of ages.

Before the storm in 2005, the St. Bernard public housing development was only 72% occupied, according to the Housing Authority of New Orleans, due to the deteriorating condition of the buildings. In addition, it was an unsafe environment for families and children. From 2001 to 2005, there were 684 felonies and 42 murders within the 52-acre site.

Today, crime is virtually nonexistent. All residents of Columbia Parc are either employed, in school, in a vocational training program, or retired, and incomes of residents represent a healthy mix, from low income to those earning six-figure salaries. It is a community where people want to live that offers paths out of poverty for the lowest income residents.

The Bayou District Foundation also partnered with Educare to create an early childhood education center on the campus serving 167 children ages 0-5; created a health clinic with St. Thomas Community Health Center which serves more than 300 patients per month; and will break ground on a new K-8 charter school in 2016.

The leaders of the Bayou District Foundation are taking risks and making long term commitments, tackling issues that have bedeviled American society for generations. They are investing their reputations, connections, political capital and even their philanthropy in neighborhoods that have long suffered from the effects of concentrated poverty. Neighborhoods like this exist in just about every city across the country. The question is, why would leaders like this want to invest in them, and to what end?

The answer is that these leaders care about people and results. They believe that if given the opportunity to grow up and live in a healthy community, every child can succeed in school and achieve their full potential. It sounds idealistic, and it is, but there is now a track record of work in several fields that demonstrates this is no pipe dream.

At Purpose Built Communities, we are looking for more leaders who are not afraid to embark on a difficult path working with the community to transform neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, change lives, and ultimately, create a better country. We should all recognize and support this brand of leadership that can make a real difference in urban areas across the country.



Voice of America highlights Atlanta’s role in Voting Rights

VRAProtecting voting rights of all voters is as important today as it was 50 years ago when the Voting Rights Act was enacted.  In Georgia African Americans represent 30% of the state’s registered voters,60 Georgia state legislators are African American and of Atlanta’s 59 mayors, five have been African American (1974-present). Atlanta colleges have offered higher education opportunities at historically black colleges to thousands of Georgians since the early 1880’s so there is certainly no absence of educated, civic-engaged African Americans that has caused the paucity of African American elected officials prior to the Voting Rights Act. Jim Crow laws, discrimination and fear tactics kept generations of exceptional African Americans from running and serving in public office. Voice of America has a captivating documentary on the Voting Rights Act and Atlanta was featured as part of its series, it is well worth reviewing the link.



We Will Not Be Fine – Stop the Devaluation of Black Womanhood


Sandra Bland

By Christina Perry

On July 9th, Sandra Bland left her home in Naperville, IL en route to Prairie View, Texas. Sandra, 28, had recently accepted a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.

On July 10th, just miles away from campus, she was stopped by a police officer for allegedly failing to use her turning signal when changing lanes.

The seemingly routine traffic stop escalated as video of the incident shows two police offers forcibly restraining Bland on the ground near her vehicle. She was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer.

On July 13th, she was found dead in her jail cell.

We can honor her life — and the lives of countless other Black women killed during police encounters — by disrupting the narrative around police violence in this country and demanding equal protection of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies from state violence.

We know that Black women are being victimized as the result of state-sanctioned violence. We know that this often gender-specific violence takes many forms and extends beyond the use of excessive and lethal force.

We know that Black women and girls are consistently rendered invisible in the discussion surrounding police brutality. Black women are hyper-visible; however, in the movement to address and reform the systems of oppression reinforcing state violence against communities of color.

However, Americans continue to dissect police brutality and state-sanctioned violence almost exclusively through the frame of Black maleness and the use of lethal force.

Enough is enough. We must be emboldened to disrupt the narrative. Yes, we must protect Black men and boys. We must encourage each other to be our “Brother’s Keeper”. But, Black womanhood must be valued and protected with the same vigor.

The devaluation of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies through state-sanctioned violence and sexual assault is not a modern phenomenon. Black womanhood in this country has been irrevocably shaped by the collusion of two distinct forces: sexist oppression and the realities of racism. In order for Black women to be fully protected by any policy reform, this intersectionality — and how it informs police interactions with women of color — must be recognized and affirmed in the public conversation surrounding police brutality.

If the impetus for policy changes is defined by a male-specific frame, Black women will remain vulnerable to continued violence.


Misty Opens Doors and Hearts

As we contemplate how much progress we as Americans have made in human relations we are reminded of those who have come before us, who mistyhave sacrificed and struggled to achieve their dreams and make others possible.

As a young ballet student, I attended one of only two Philadelphia dance academies open to African American children, the Marion Cuyjet School of Dance. I dreamed of a career as a principal dancer with one of New York’s most famous companies. On television I watched with awe as a woman of color, Maria Tallchief, captivated the television audience. Tallchief was tall, beautiful, graceful and elegant. In my eyes, she was the luckiest woman in the world, she was following her heart and achieving not just her dream but also mine. It seemed so far fetched that I would ever be that accomplished and fortunate, but her appearance on television gave me hope. Years later one of my ballet school classmates, Judith Jamison, would wow the world as the principal dancer of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. She was no doubt inspired by the numerous African American dancers who visited the Cuyjet School and by the gifted Marion Cuyjet who led the school. Now the world knows another phenomenal dancer, Misty Copeland, the principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater.

In today’s New York Times we get new insight into the challenges African American women and girls have faced in pursuit of their dreams of dancing on the world’s stage. The NYT piece is written by former dancer and college instructor Laurie Copeland, who superbly captures the glory and tragedy of African American ballet dancers and Misty’s story

Perhaps Misty’s assent will not only open doors for dancers, but open hearts and minds to the potential of all young people who have aspirations…..to dance, to sing, to invent and to lead. Our grandchildren are counting on it.


Taking the Flag Down is a First Step, Not a Giant Step for Mankind

SCflagOn Friday, the Confederate flag waved a final goodbye in the wind as it was lowered from a pole on the South Carolina statehouse grounds. But it was not without ceremony and controversy. An estimated crowd of over a 1,000 people gathered at the site and cheered the removal of the flag to its final resting place in a museum. Even as the flag removal was being streamed online and broadcasted live, the commentaries of “so what” were making headway on the information highway. There is nothing wrong with presenting multiple sides of an issue. This post is not a criticism of the dissonance but an observation of how some first steps have helped to advance our understanding of the incredibly complex issue of race in America.

History has aptly documented that legislation and legal authority do not change hearts and minds.

—The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery but did not provide citizenship nor equal rights.

—The 14th Amendment granted African Americans citizenship but not civil rights

—The 15th Amendment said that race could not be used to deprive men of the ability to vote yet voter suppression continues

—The Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson confirmed the principle of “Separate but Equal” and sanctioned Jim Crow laws

—The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered the desegregation of public schools yet 61 years later segregation is still commonplace for many American school children

We know that neither the South Carolina legislature nor the US Supreme Court can order the end of hate. And as other states examine their collective responses to the removal of racist and offensive monuments and images around the country, the debate will continue. Some will argue it is not enough to simply remove these images that honor intolerance and bigotry. We agree. More must be done to begin the long overdue journey to eradicating racism. But it is important to remember historic first steps that help make the journey possible.

With all deliberate speed has not worked in the dismantling of discrimination. The removal of the Confederate flag is merely a first step— it is not a giant step for mankind. It is a subtle reminder that first steps make impressions in the sand, no matter how long the journey. Without Jackie Robinson’s first step, there might not have been a Hank Aaron; without Althea Gibson, no Serena Williams; without Benjamin O. Davis Sr., no Colin Powell; without Gwendolyn Brooks, no Toni Morrison; without the first African American Senator Hiram Revels, no Barack Obama. So while there will be no victory battle hymn sung for the removal of the flag, it is worth honoring a first step in the march toward justice and equality. This is as good a time as any for people of goodwill and earnest hearts to recommit themselves to achieving fairness and opportunity for all Americans and immigrants whose contributions are essential to America’s future.