Scott Sisters, NAACP, Black Bloggers and Lessons Learned

The Scott Sisters where released and no one should have a doubt that the victory was inspired by black bloggers, black internet activist and blogtalk radio host.  But more importantly it was inspired by the Scott sisters mother, Evelyn Roscoe, who fought for 16 years for their freedom.

Let's not forget Nancy Lockart, a black woman who many are calling a mordern day Harriett Tubman, who lead the Internet grass root effort for the past 5 years, day and night working to educate the public about the Scott Sisters while the NAACP ignored their plight for over15 years.

OK, there is a lot of conversation across the black side of the internet about the Scott Sisters being freed and how the African American Internet helped in getting the story of the Scott sisters known. There is a learning curve for people from the right, left, and the middle of black political thought

The fact of the matter is there is a changing of the black gate keeper guard. There was a time when the NAACP gate keepers were old house negroes, now it's young house negros. A new face with the same old game. Supress black activism, and when black activism works, claim it as thier own. No matter what pictures you may see with NAACP President Ben Jealous standing behind the Scott sisters, in a photo op, remember this...

The NAACP can afford to jump on a plane to Mississppi, because of it's white benificators, and say they were ALWAYS behind the Scott Sisters. Yet the fact is, they were Johnny-Come-Lately, to Free the Scott sisters movement.  They can also "style and profile" with the Scott Sisters and probably set up a fundraising effort like they set up with the Jena 6, and steal as much as they can, saying it is administrative cost. Be warned my good friends... The NAACP speaks with fork Tongue. As Yobachi from the blog Black Perspective.net noted the NAACP is looking  to cash in on the Scott Sisters Plight. Check out what Yobachi had to say:

"The NAACP is ratcheting up their personal publicity machine. Actually they’re providing more publicity to the fact that they showed up on the scene at the last minute after more than a decade of local grassroots organizing, and 2 years of blog based advocacy, then they ever did in favor of bring the Scott Sisters plight to the American consciousness in an effort to free them. 

One of BlackPerspective.net’s sister blogs, The Jena 6 Blog, got mentioned in a couple of different places in the past few days regarding a post I did in 2008 about NAACP swooping in to collect money on behalf of the Jena 6 when it started to become a popular story, then spending half of the money on themselves. This was after the NAACP demanded that the rural town with a population of a couple hundred black people, including children, first start a dues paying NAACP chapter before the NAACP would even begin to help." More HERE

But, there are some people who have a different few.

Take for instance Internet Blog Talk Radio host Black Achievement USA who talks about The Scott Sisters Are Freed: Now What Are The Lessons. He writes: I wish the Scott sisters all the best as they fight to re-acculmated themselves to "free" society. The homecoming is a major adjustment for the Scott family as well as the Scott Sisters. Basically, the Scott sisters have fierce battle for a good life. I would like to say that some of the people around the Scott Sisters did them no good and we on blog talk must not create an atmosphere that is not helpful. The Honorable Governor Haley Barbour and the good people of Mississippi must be respected and thanked for their decision to grant the Scott sisters "an early parole."

AAP says: The NAACP is under a microscope regarding their bogus last minute attention to the Scott sisters freedom movement. Take for example black bloggers, including Jill, over at the blog, Jack and Jill Politics, who has experessed concern at the way the NAACP has dissed black Bloggers over Scott Sisters and Haley Barbour ... 


Candidly I have questioned the motives of the Johnny-come-lately national office of the NAACP. It's interesting that the national office of the NAACP knew about the Scott Sisters for over 15 years, and did nothing until after the mother of the Scott Sisters, along with Nancy Lockhart, built a national and internatioal movement to free the Scott Sisters, then about 6 Months ago, the national office of the NAACP found a way to try to be the national spokes people for the Scott Sisters. Claiming all sorts of victories, although they were not actually "pardoned" and they will be on probation for life.

It's candidly amazing how the NAACP and others have bought into the new form of  Jim Crow Justice. You know what I'm talking about, The  type of  "Debt to Society" and the New Jim Crow justice that James Ridgeway wrote about in his article in the Mother Jones. He writes: "The Scott sisters will have to pay out money to maintain their freedom. Rather than pardoning Jamie and Gladys, Barbour suspended their sentences. According to Nancy Lockhart, a legal advocate who played an instrumental role in the sisters’ release, each will have to pay $52 a month for the administration of their parole in Florida, where their mother lives and where they plan to reside. Since they were serving life sentences, that means $624 a year for the rest of their lives. Both women are now in their thirties; if they live 40 more years, each will have paid the state $24,960."  Read More HERE

The fact is a number of black folks, like Verite Parlant is Nordette Adams, a reader of the blog Electronic Village made some interesting thoughts about the NAACP when he wrote:

"I think the NAACP suffers from the curse of many older heralded institutions, old blood and lack of vision. They have a tendency to see themselves as the big star and others as the little twinkles, and so they cripple themselves by an unwillingness to embrace new ideas and people and form the alliances that will be critical for power in the coming age. They persist in functioning like gatekeepers more than community collaborators."

He went on to say, "Nevertheless, I believe there was some grandstanding and opportunism involved. I suspect that after the Shirley Sherrod incident, they began to listen to some of the criticisms thrown at them which are that they let women do much of the grunt work but tend to make men their causes celebres. That whole incident caught them with their pants around their ankles."

AAP says: Yes, I agree with those comments by the reader at Electonic Village, the involvement of the NAACP in the Scott Sisters effort was to bolster there own image.

Lessons Learned

The NAACP is no longer the big star while black bloggers the little twinkles. The Internet has provided an equalizing of the playing field. Yes, the NAACP can run from city to city like Jesse Jackson, 10 years ago, but this that leadership or stylin' and profiling? 

The new big stars, black bloggers, blogtalkradio host, and black internet activist are working for positive progressive change.  They have taken activism to the next level, with the help of two strong black women, Evelyn  Roscoe and Nancy Lockhart. Two women who could see the possibility in spite of the NAACP. Nancy Lockhart and Evelyn Roscoe knew that they didnot want to cripple themselves by an unwillingness to embrace new ideas and people and form the alliances that were to obtain the Scott Sisters Freedom. They persisted, even when the old school gatekeepers called the national office of the NAACP wanted to be less than community collaborators. I'm Done!

But Johnathan Farley has more to say about the NAACP. He says:

"Thank you, NAACP!" Demophilos says from across the table at Starbucks, smiling. "The governor of Mississippi pardoned the Scott sisters." When he sees your expression, his eyebrows arch questioningly. "I'm uncomfortable with black groups campaigning for common thugs," you begin slowly, "when there are so many completely innocent people rotting in prison, to say nothing of political prisoners. But people like Kemba Smith, who carried drugs and guns for her boyfriend – they paid or are paying for real crimes, not for stealing bread." "Are they paying, or are we?" Demophilos says, with fire. "In urban America, besides the burned-out husks of buildings that were never rebuilt after the riots of the sixties, stand only taxpayer-built sports stadiums – and jails. More and more of them private. Corporations profit; we pay." Demophilos sits back in his seat, now seemingly exhausted. "You don't have to convince me," you say, defensively. "Listen, I still remember where I was when Geronimo Pratt was freed. I was on College Avenue in Berkeley outside my local bank. I looked at the headlines of the newspaper in a kiosk and started to dance.
"The bank's security guard, an African-American woman in her 40s, asked me what I was excited about.

"'Geronimo Pratt is free,' I said, out of breath. As you know, Pratt's conviction had been overturned after he spent 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, more time than Nelson Mandela.

"'How much time did he spend in jail?' the woman asked me. 'A year?' "My rush ended. I realised that, though we were only miles away from where the Black Panther party had burst into life, this black woman had no idea who Geronimo Pratt was. "But she knew who OJ Simpson was, and probably cheered, later, when Kobe Bryant was found not guilty."  Your small coffees arrive. "That'll be $10.95," says the barista.

When she leaves, you say, "The NAACP has finite resources, and the public has a finite amount of empathy. So, why is this being wasted? In 2005, when Crips founder and multiple-murderer Tookie Williams was facing a death sentence, the NAACP staged 'die ins' to protest the execution." "Stop," Demophilos pleads. "The NAACP is not 'celebrating criminality' by calling for the release of blacks who received harsh sentences. It's fighting injustice."

"And an injustice anywhere, blah blah blah." Read MORE


                          ***
Cross posted on African American Pundit

African American Pundit is publisher of the blog African American Pundit, he is a nationally recognized moderate independent African American blogger who addresses black American politics and social issues. He served as a credentialed blogger at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He can be reached at AfricanAmericanPundit@gmail.com 

Being Uncomfortable with Power

I have been thinking about writing this diary for a while now. Since Obama's swearing in I have noticed that the rift between right and left has been growing significantly, but much more disturbingly I have noticed a growing rift within our own ranks. I am not speaking of the same rift that existed during the primary, which was certainly a bitter rift from which the wounds have not completely healed, but something different that has happened in recent months.

I have watched and listened as much of the progressive movement, or the left fringe of the party, or whatever term is applied to it by the person speaking, has become increasingly distrustful of, and angry towards, President Obama. I worked for SEIU during the campaign, working seven days a week for months on end, to see Obama win; and I will be the first to admit that my perception is colored by that.

Lately, I have been increasingly angered myself about the attitudes of some on the left whose bitterness seems extreme to me; also, I have become concerned by those who do not show much bitterness but seem to be increasingly cynical that any of the changes we have hoped for and worked so hard for will come to fruition. I myself have some concerns about the way the administration has handled certain aspects of their agenda but I am even more concerned about the direction we, as a party and a movement, may be heading.

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I'm doing a series of articles on the nature of the political blogosphere, the first of which deals with the behavior of commenters at the conservative blog Protein Wisdom, where I've been debating for about two years now. Though he originally cooperated with me on the article just two days ago, PW founder Jeff Goldstein has since publicly attacked me as a "whore," among other things. This is fine, as Goldstein is a notoriously emotional fellow and must be permitted to vent. But he has also changed something he wrote yesterday that I had subsequently referenced in one of my articles, apparently in order to avoid embarrassment.

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Building the progressive economy

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The key weakness within the progressive movement's business plan (forgetting, for a moment, that the progressive movement isn't a single, cohesive organization, and that many organizations within the movement don't have anything like a business plan in any case), is that a large part of our revenue relies on donations.  In a recession, voluntary donations are the easiest things to cut from a household budget.  A further weakness is the massive amount of money that leaves the progressive ecosystem.  In five years, ActBlue has raised $88 million; some of that has gone to necessary expenses in progressive campaigns and is money well-spent, although no doubt a significant part of that money ends up in the pockets of anti-progressive political consultants.  And some of that money does return to the progressive ecosystem, in the form of advertisements in progressive blogs, for example.  But on the whole, the progressive blogosphere leaks donations like a sieve, meaning that even the flush years don't leave us with a lot left over for recessions.

Fortunately, I believe it is possible to address these weaknesses, and to help keep the lights on during the recession.  Conceptually, it's fairly simple: diversify our business plan beyond donations, and design mechanisms to keep recycle more money back through the progressive ecosystem.  The particulars are a bit more tricky, but below I'll outline a few possibilities for implementing these high-level solutions.  Other ideas are certainly welcome; feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Blog-based project groups and Drupal

This week, Paul Benson posted an interesting diary at OpenLeft about supporting project groups on progressive blogs.  The basic idea is fairly simple: quite often, progressive blog readers want to get together to collaborate on a project.  Projects can range in nature and scope widely, and they can have a fixed goal (like producing a catching YouTube video) or an ongoing set of goals (like promoting progressive legislation).  But they all seem to share on common characteristic: they are poorly served by the recommended diary section of most progressive blogs.  Paul lists only two examples of projects that were successfully organized via diaries - YearlyKos and the Gannon investigation.  There are probably a few more we could add to the pile, especially if we reached into the archives of local and statewide blogs, but I think the point stands.  Blogs are a great way to share news and opinions and to incite activism; they are not a great way to organize activism.

Paul sketches out a quick-and-dirty example of what a progressive project organizing platform might look like, and I think it's a reasonable first start.  There are certainly other online project management tools available, ranging from dotProject to 37 Signals's Basecamp.  I would also add that Paul's critique only underscores a point I've been making here in recent weeks: that the progressive blogosphere could be exceptionally well-served by an open-source platform, especially one like Drupal.

There are a couple of Drupal modules which are particularly well-suited to the sort of project management Paul is referring to: Organic Groups and Project.  The former allows any Drupal site to be subdivided into a number of workspaces for interest groups.  The form of a workspace can itself be flexible - it can be a wiki, a blog, a document-sharing space, or a combination of all of these.  The Project module is used to keep track of projects, subdivide them into tasks, and monitor the progress on each task, using a lightweight project-management paradigm.  Project was written to support bug tracking for Drupal modules and themes, but it can also be adapted for other purposes. While I have not yet had the chance to incorporate them into the Drupal-based blogging platform I wrote about last week, it's clear that the ability to add these modules easily to any Drupal site is a major advantage to using Drupal to power a progressive blog.

There is also, I think, a larger point to be made about the use of open source software to power the progressive movement.  There are many similarities between the progressive movement and most open source software project.  They are both decentralized, made up of many independent actors with similar goals.  It's no accident that they are both likely to run up against the same kind of collaborative challenges, which is, I think, yet another reason that the progressive movement should build upon the progress made by Drupal.

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Diaries

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