Black Lives: Agents of Change, Failing Schools vs Community Education in America
The fifth episode of Black Lives contrasts failing public schools in New York and Philadelphia ghettos with community education efforts by Black Lives Matter organizers.
Due to systematic defunding, African American students attend schools with as many as 40 kids in a class. With no time to correct it, some teachers have quit assigning homework.. At the same time, many “underperforming” (ie underfunded) schools in African America communities have been closed to redirect public funding to privately run for-profit charter schools.
Most of the film centers around efforts by Black Lives Matter organizers to teach Black teenagers gun safety (via the Black Guns Matter program) and community organizing skills. They learn how to organize protest marches, send out media releases and lobby officials at all levels of government.
While Black Lives Matter has come under criticism for its failure to bring about any genuine policy changes, their community education efforts seem to offer Black teenagers good male role models, as well as an attractive alternative to drug dealing and gang banging.
Black Lives: Trap, Why Civil Rights Aren’t Enough to Make the American Dream Come True
This video is the second of a series of nine exploring life in inner city African American communities. The first looked at life in Ferguson Missouri four years after the police murdered Michael Brown – which sparked the formation of the group Black Lives Matter (see Still dreaming of racial justice in St Louis Black neighborhoods). Clearly little had changed.
The rest of the series looks at other decaying urban ghettos, as well as examining problems unique to poor African American communities (the absence of decent jobs or housing, failing schools, teen pregnancy, gangs, and drug dealing). My first reaction on viewing the series was to question why the US media rarely reports on these issues – or efforts by local African American leaders to address them.
The second film focuses on poor Black communities in Baltimore and Washington DC. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, the bleak living conditions poor Black Americans endure remain virtually unchanged.
The most interesting interviews in this episode are with two activist religious leaders organizing their communities to improve living conditions..
One makes an interesting observation about the determination of the FBI and CIA to infiltrate and destroy any grassroots movement that takes serious strides towards improving African American living conditions.*
He also believes the two major political parties exploit racism to win votes. Republicans provoke anti-Black and anti-immigrant sentiments among white males who feel excluded from the massive economic transformation occurring in industrialized society. Democrats use racism to line up black votes, while making notoriously empty promises to improve their lives.
*Which corresponds with my experience in Seattle’s African American community, while working with a prison reform committee and Seattle’s African American Heritage Museum.
This documentary, filmed a month before the 2016 election, explores the life circumstances of a cross section of Trump supporters, referred to by Hillary Clinton as “deplorables.”
Commonalities shared by this demographic are
recent personal or family experience with job loss, bankruptcy or foreclosure.
strong feelings about Wall Street outsourcing manufacturing jobs to third world countries.
strong feelings about US politics being a “crooked” system set up to destroy the middle class.
strong opposition to their perceived corporate control of the two major political parties.
a perception that Trump, unlike other politicians, “can’t be bought.”
When answering filmmakers’ questions about Trump’s perceived racism and xenophobia, their replies vary. Some (especially women) feel that Black Lives Matter activists have a point about the abysmal way Black people are treated in the US. Others claim that Black people (and women) are demanding special privileges not enjoyed by white men.
Most deny that Trump is racist, claiming he only wants to prevent terrorist attacks by banning immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. They agree with his proposed wall because they believe his claims that most illegal Mexican immigrants are drug dealers and rapists. This flies in the face of research indicating undocumented immigrants (who are loathe to draw attention to themselves) commit far fewer crimes than either legal immigrants or native born Americans.
For Martin Luther King day, the Garfield High School Black Student Union held a panel discussion on Seattle’s burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement. In their first major protest, thousands of Seattle students walked out of their high schools when the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
The keynote speaker is John Carlos. Carlos is the former track and field athlete whose Black Power salute (along with Tommie Smith’s) during the 1968 Olympics caused massive international controversy.