Through My Eyes
Censorship, whether by “our” side or “their” side, is still an infringement on freedom of speech, whether in Minneapolis or in Cairo. This occasional “State of the Community” column coincides with the “State of the World.”
As newspapers and TV news shows work against limits of time and space, websites have become important for more in-depth reporting and commentary. The Internet scares those who want to control others and deny free speech and free assembly.
Despite earlier meddling with parts of the Internet in China, Iran and Tunisia in terms of Google, Facebook and Twitter, now, for the first time, a government, Egypt, shut down the entire Internet on January 28. Completely. Opposing free speech and assembly in Cairo, the government forced the throwing of a “master switch” to “off.”
Egypt shut down free speech and commerce and people’s ability to easily communicate. Ironically, the U.S. Senate has recently introduced legislation that would allow the U.S. government to do the same thing in an “emergency.” I attended a June 2006 conference in Minneapolis dedicated to the fight to keep unfettered access to all kinds of Internet content.
Minneapolis. Cairo. The world. Let’s now turn to the Council on Black Minnesotans and the Urban League.
The Council on Black Minnesotans’ meeting of Tuesday evening last week, February 8, in St. Paul was one of the rowdiest in its history. The St. Paul Police Department had to be called in to restore order. People had to be escorted from the building. Witnesses indicate that it was a classic clash with the Black ecumenical community.
“Classic” because the preachers used scripture to justify their approach (differing from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolence approach). Unless there is significant leadership provided by the governor’s office and the legislature, this could spiral dangerously out of control.
That dangerous tendency was evident earlier in the day last Tuesday at a community center in the heart of St. Paul’s Black community. There an inquisition took place seemingly driven by the presence in our city of the National Urban League’s Senior Vice President of Affiliate Services Mr. Herman Lessard.
Mr. Lessard was here to discuss reorganizing the Minneapolis Urban League into a Twin Cities Metropolitan Urban League. It has been reported that heated exchanges and threats took place between the participants. Allegations of fraud, theft, and other transgressions seemed the order of the morning.
This comes at an awkward time for the Urban League in light of the question raised about a $240,000 grant to the Minneapolis Urban League from Homeland Security to participate in surveillance of the Black community’s “mental health.” Sources report that when the question was raised about this grant, the room erupted into turmoil.
I am puzzled by the Urban League’s lack of both transparency and full disclosure over this Homeland Security grant. If the federal government is telling the Urban League to conduct surveillance of the Black community, what are they hiding? Why is the Urban League playing Egypt to our Cairo?
The State of our Community so far this year has thus been difficult. The City, Inc. shut its doors, its demise sudden and without warning. Then a major TV station reported a break-in at City, Inc.’s Northside administrative HQ, in which financial records, computer hard drives and data discs disappeared.
Then word came out that City, Inc. bills and obligations cannot be met and checks, some for as much as $13,000, bounced due to insufficient funds. To this we might add that no information is available, as if a “no” master switch had been thrown.
The Star Tribune sits on the story while members of our community suffer the pain caused by conduct unbecoming those in positions of responsibility. There is now a certain uneasiness sweeping through our African American community.
People are hurt, threats made, leadership falls silent…and then more stories arise of more conflicts and threats, raising questions that those in positions of authority and responsibility refuse, so far, to answer. What has happened to our moral compass?
Recently, several columnists in this paper (for example, see last week’s ”The McAfee Ensemble and the Council on Black Minnesotans”) have raised serious questions about the hypocrisy and the collapse of alliances and associations that once were in place. They build upon the earlier warnings and investigative reporting of Booker T Hodges, president of the local NAACP branch, who has pointed out the inconsistencies and hypocrisy that have become all too commonplace among African American ecumenical “leaders.”
How tragic and ironic that much of this failure of Black leadership is happening during Black History Month. We should be celebrating the greatness of the legacy of our great people rather than destroying it.
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.