Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Norman Weekes”

Meet Lincoln Plair – Guest Post by Norman Weekes

I met a great kid earlier this week. His name is Lincoln Plair, a twenty year old from Richmond.

He’s the same age as my son. He works at Pogo Park, a non-profit in Richmond dedicated to rebuilding and restoring playgrounds for children.  He’s real popular and his personality attracts friends young, old, white, Latino, Filipinos and any type of human you can think of.  He was recently hired at Pogo Park after a year of volunteer service at the Elm Park play lot in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood.

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This is the perfect job for Lincoln because he loves working in his community. He loves the people of Richmond and it gives him the flexibility to be nearby to help his ailing father. This is good news in a place and time where good news doesn’t come easy.  Growing up he mostly remembers the good times with family and friends and the look back and laugh memories. Like the times his cousin would tattle to his Mom just to see him get a whupping, or the playful flirtations with real and would be girl friends, some more serious than others. While courting one of his paramours he helped her fall in love with the Lord and she now dedicates her life to making the community more peaceful through music and community activism.  One cousin always thought he was too soft for Richmond, a tough town where non-violence seems like the road less traveled.  She begged him to toughen up, take a harder line even with his own family if necessary. Lincoln would stand his ground saying, “I’m not trying to fight my own family.”

You don’t hear a lot about the 99% like Lincoln in Richmond’s Iron Triangle – the toughest hood in one of the toughest cities in our country. Young people like Lincoln who graduate high school, say no to the drug industrial complex and simultaneously avoid police and gangs while trying to climb up the ladder one rung at a time.

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Regretfully I met Lincoln through the stories of family and friends at his funeral.  He’s the grandson of one of the deacons in my church. On a Monday afternoon this March Lincoln was shot and killed while washing a car. Witnesses at the scene say he saved two little children from the spray of gunfire. The community was shocked by this senseless murder. 

One of his friends said when you hear about something like this it’s often expected and not a surprise. But this one was a shocker. Lincoln was not involved with the wrong crowd, not someone with known “affiliations”.  He was not a usual suspect.  At the funeral his family called for peace in the streets, for an end to the killing. His sister pleaded for no retaliation because Lincoln wouldn’t want that.

There was coverage of his murder because of the senseless nature of the crime and the quality of the victim. Documentary filmmaker Mariel Waloff  took footage during the funeral. The film will tell of the struggle to make positive change in Richmond. Lincoln’s positive life spread love and hope in twenty short years. One can only wonder how much better off we all would be if he’d have just another twenty.

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On Sunday after church Lincoln’s grandfather walked up and handed me a thank you card. A feeling of unease came over me.  It felt all backwards. I should have had a thank you card for him for the opportunity to meet Lincoln Plair.

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Norm Weekes lives in the East Bay and volunteers with non-profits working in social justice and digital literacy. He is a volunteer at The Mentoring Center and Oakland Digital.

Shaft Strikes Again – Norman Weekes

There are things we whisper to each other when white folk are not around.

Yes it’s true. When two or more Black folk stand by the water cooler we talk in-house. Most of it need not be shared. ‘They’ wouldn’t understand. It would take hours, maybe years of context to not be misunderstood. But at the risk of having my “Black Enough” card revoked, I’m going to share one of these secret communiques. For about two years now, ever since Obama started getting his ass kicked on every meaningful issue of concern to the Black community I’ve heard this or something like this:

After checking the room, looking over both shoulders one of my beloved – brothers or sisters will lean in and say  “Just wait until the second term. Then we’ll see the real Obama!”
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The hope is that unencumbered by re-election politics he’ll transform from Urkel to John Shaft. Maybe even Dolemite. Something other than what he’s already proven to be. The guy we wanted. Not the guy he is – Benson. I can hear the First Lady screaming “Benson! Oh no you didn’t!” Obama’s recent open mic gaff to Russian President Medvedev gave hope to the fantasy. Never mind he was referring to foreign policy and stating the obvious.

I understand the desire to believe that the conformity, reserve and caution is just an act until he’s free to be the real Obama. After all, we’ve done this everyday for hundreds of years. It’s a coping mechanism that has served us well in a persevering kind of way. At the same time we desperately want to believe Obama’s just waiting for the opportunity to “stick it to The Man” even if he is “The Man”.

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This theory ignores a cardinal rule of being Black in America. If you get in don’t f-it up for the next brother. The next Black president is alive today. Obama knows this. He may hope the next Black president is living in the White House today. If he is a Super Negro waiting to emerge, checks and balances will temper Obama’s second term. The Republican House and/or Senate along with conservative Supreme court justices who obviously sold their souls for eternal life will keep him in “check”. Wonder if Satan tried to return those souls after a quality check. Caveat emptor Beelzebub.

Second term Presidents rarely get wild and crazy in their second term. Nixon and Clinton were impeached and I’ve had the entire Bush 43 presidency erased from my memory. I don’t think his second term was very memorable but you can look it up.

In the final analysis the Obama we have is way better than any alternative. You know it, I know it, and the American people know it. As William DeVaughn reminds us: Be Thankful for What You Got.

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Norman Weekes is a volunteer in social justice non profits and occasional political activist. 

 

Obama and the Arc of Hopelessness – Norman Weekes

From Alon: I met Norman Weekes over the summer. He is a thoughtful, erudite man. I am very happy that he will write a  couple of posts a month for Left Coast Voices. Welcome aboard, Norm.

Norman Weekes

Norman Weekes

Obama and the Arc of Hopelessness

“He’s a nigga! Are you a nigga???”

I thought about my brief phone bank exchange with a voter from the Sunshine State while I watched Obama address the Grant Park crowd on election night at the Marriott in Oakland. I phone banked for Obama a few days before and thought about calling my Florida friend. It was a fleeting thought. This was a time for pride and promise.

I didn’t really know Obama then. I didn’t know his rhetoric concealed the fact that he has the guts of Urkel, the bravery of the Scarecrow and would lose a fist-fight to Betty White.

Why resort to name calling and personal insults you say? Why disrespect the man and the office like that? Don’t forget he inherited the Bush economy and the Republicans are bad people blah blah blah. Why? Because I have every right. I’ve been disrespected by Obama’s substitution for rhetoric over action. Name calling? I’d rather be called a punk than be called unemployed (which I am).

Personal? Long term unemployment is very personal. So don’t tell me about being too hard on the President. If you’re still hesitant to criticize the President you may believe OJ was set up and all the Jews working at the World Trade Center called in sick on 9/11. If so, I can’t dialogue with you. We can exchange food recipes but not talk politics.

A couple of weeks ago Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind started his book tour promoting Confidence Men, a behind the scenes look at the Obama Economic team. He had access to the team, interviewed the president and reported on the organizational interaction and leadership arc of Obama and his economic advisers. Suskind, a self proclaimed Democrat has been derided by the White House for his reporting and analysis. According to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner the book is filled with “sad little stories” that do not resemble the reality of the time.

Confidence Men

One sad little story is the response by Obama to the banking crisis. In the fear filled days of the crisis the Obama economic team debated as to how to deal with the banks. After listening to his team debate Obama concluded the government needed to take action to boost confidence, hold banks accountable and take control of toxic assets. To simplify, the choice was to act like the government of Japan in the 90’s or Sweden in the same decade. Obama choose a more Swedish like approach and decided to break-up Citibank, at that time the weakest of the” too big to fail banks”. He ordered Tim Geithner, who disagreed with the President to draft a plan to break up Citi.

A few weeks later Obama asks about the plan at a follow up economic meeting sans Geithner. He was told by Christina Romer, Chair of his Council on Economic Advisers there was no plan. Obama replied, “Well there’d better be!” (Goshdarnit!). Suskind says Geithner “slow walked” the policy. Washington is paralyzed but is still great at manufacturing euphemisms: slow-walking a policy, re-litigating policy, uneven policy implementation, etc. Here on Earth it’s called insubordination and regular folk get fired for it every day.

Last I checked Citibank is still Citibank, toxic assets are still on bank balance sheets and Tim Geithner is still treasury secretary. The banks and their investors have still not suffered the consequences of risky investment strategies. It’s mind-blowing Geithner has the balls to blow off the President of the United States. It’s even more amazing he’s still on the team. How arrogant do you have to be to ignore the President on a policy difference rather than resign? What does  that say for Geithner’s opinion of the President? How conflict adverse do you have to be to not fire someone who openly ignored your order?

I’m beginning to understand why single payer disappears, financial reform is weak, job stimulus is loaded with tax cuts (which don’t create jobs) serious job creation is ignored, Bush-based foreign policy continues and Obama gets rolled by Republicans on the debt, tax cuts for the rich and program cuts for the poor and middle class. Obama allows this by not fighting back. It’s that simple. My son asked me a couple of weeks ago why Obama’s getting all this heat. I told him, “Obama’s the guy on the basketball court you can push around and elbow all day long and nothing will happen. People just want to see him fight back.”

Is it his expression or the grey hair?

Erudite criticism is ignored. Criticism from people who use oligarch in everyday conversation is not working. When he has an opportunity to acknowledge he tells the Congressional Black Congress to “stop whining.” There’s no fight in this guy. It’s as if he never had to turn back and fight the bully at school than take an ass-whipping at home. I’m past frustrated and angry.

Hopelessness in Obama is on the horizon. I cried the night Obama was elected. I’m still crying now.

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Norman Weekes is a volunteer in social justice non profits, account executive looking for work and occasional political activist.

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