Barackonomics – Are You Cashing In?
By: James Clingman
There was Reaganomics in the 1980's, and some of us
had the Reaganomic Blues during that time. Old Ronnie ushered in a
period of economic empowerment, for some, that is still remembered, by
some, as the best ever. To this day, the "Conservatives" are making
every attempt to reincarnate the Great Communicator, by holding séances
otherwise known as political debates, like the one we saw held at the
Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, during the Republican
primary. Those folks love themselves some Ronald Reagan - and they
Now we have Barackonomics. No, we have not seen the
result of Obama's economic policies yet, but the current environment is
rife with excitement, anticipation, and "hope" for the "change" millions
voted to see. We will soon find out what the big picture holds, but
even prior to the election, Obamania ushered in a
new language, a new zeal for politics, and a new economic arrangement
for Black folks, the likes of which I have never seen.
Always watching for the economic advantages available
to Black people, during the campaign I saw hordes of brothers and
sisters making money. Although it was reported
that the lion's share of the $650 million or so raised by the campaign
flowed into the dominant media outlets, Black owned media receiving very
few of those party favors, some of our more enterprising Black
entrepreneurs managed to hitch a ride on the Obama gravy train.
I attended one of the Obama rallies held at the
University of Cincinnati, during which I saw Black vendors - as matter
of fact, I saw only Black vendors selling everything from Obama Action
Figures, to Obama Bobble-Head Dolls, to glow-in-the-dark thingamabobs,
to placards, buttons, glasses, cups, banners, and T-shirts of all
designs and themes. Barack should have copyrighted his name and image.
My old friend and world renowned painter, Gilbert
Young, called me to announce his latest creation: a painting of Barack
Obama that Obama himself signed and endorsed. The painting is titled,
"History + Hope = Change" (www.historyhopechange.com).
Now you know there will be bushels of money made from that painting.
And, as they say, "It's all good!"
I can't recall seeing Black vendors selling Reagan
items, or those of the other 42 Presidents for that matter; no, not even
Clinton and Kennedy. (I wonder if Gilbert Young did a painting of
Reagan; just kidding, Gilbert.) So I was encouraged to see so many
Black folks cashing in on Barackonomics, at least as long as the
phenomenon lasts. It's about time.
It's good to see Black folks finally getting in on the
economic side of politics, especially the folks at the bottom of the
heap. Yes, big business got its share, as it always does; the
television companies and their affiliates, newspapers, radio stations,
and the major marketing and advertising firms received a windfall from
the Obama campaign. But, finally, thousands and maybe even millions of
brothers and sisters got in on the act as well.
My advice is for them to stay with Barackonomics as
long as they can. Come up with new ideas, new products, and new
services to sell. The ICE Supreme Man (www.icesupreme.com), Ashiki
Taylor, in Atlanta, has created a new flavor "Obama Medley;" Farley's
Executives, Raymond Wilford and Ricky Tillman have developed an The 1st
Family House Blend gourmet coffee featuring coffee from Kenya. I am
sure there are hundreds of other enterprising Black folks across the
country who are making money via Barackonomics, and I see no problem
I do see a problem with Black folks just settling for
the moment, however. We had better get a good understanding of the fact
that economics runs politics, and this time is no different from all the
other presidential elections when it comes to economics. Let's not
merely live for the moment and then go back to sleep in the next couple
of months. Let's take the small lessons of Barackonomics and do big
things with them. Let's support one another with the knowledge that
there is enough, more than enough, to go around.
Don't back off now; raise the bar even higher. Be
creative and innovative; devise new entrepreneurial ventures and
strategies to capitalize on Barackonomics. You can't pay your bills
with hope, history, or hysteria. Emotional investments do not pay
dividends. Euphoria is not bankable. Inspiration that is not followed
by perspiration - taking some action, doing some work - will be as
fleeting as a shooting star. If we don't turn, "Yes we can!" into, "Yes
we did!" beyond the election, beyond the inauguration, and beyond the
parties, then shame on us.
Allow your inspiration to catapult you to collective
economic empowerment by establishing equity funds, bartering groups,
urban gardens, food cooperatives, rotating credit associations, small
business associations, cooperative purchasing programs, youth
entrepreneurial training programs, and all of the entities we need to
survive and thrive in this dire economic environment. If we do these
things, and more, we will have justified our emotional euphoric response
to Barack Obama being the 44th President of the Untied
States. If we fail to do these things, we will miss out on the economic
benefits that always find their way to the "special interests." Aren't
we special? Don't we have our own interests?
You had better believe the "big guys" will capitalize
on their investment in Barack Obama. Question is: "Will we?" Let's
understand that part of the "change" we voted for is grounded in
economics, at least I "hope" it was. And let's commit that the "change"
we receive will be much more than mere "chump change."
By: James Clingman
Shame On Us
In my latest book, Black Empowerment with an Attitude, the
Epilogue discusses a person I call “The Tree Shaker.” Most conscious
brothers and sisters know at least one Tree Shaker, someone who is
always at the front of the line fighting for Black folks. Tree Shakers
are unapologetic and unwavering in their resolve to stand up, speak out,
and sacrifice their own resources for the betterment of the collective
of Black people. The Tree Shakers don’t cower in fear of white opinion
or get nervous at the thought of their actions being disapproved by
white people. On the contrary, they want to see that final nail driven
into the coffin that contains the “Negro,” the “Minority,” the
“Sellout,” and the “Traitor.”
How do we repay those who are always standing up for Black people? Do
we cheer them on from a distant sideline, only when we cannot be seen by
the public doing so? Do we slap them on the back when we see them, in
private of course, and tell them, “Keep on doing what you’re doing?”
Do we secretly deny them in our daily professional circles and corporate
environment? Do we support them in their efforts with our intellectual
capacity and financial resources?
Over the years we have seen so many Tree Shakers pass away, in many
cases leaving their families with virtually nothing, mainly because they
spent so much of their time fighting for us. I was saddened and
disheartened by a recent e-mail disclosing the death of a “Queen Mother”
in New York City. Elder Adunni Oshupa Tabasi, beloved and esteemed by
Black folks, died on January 7, 2008, and her home-going is scheduled to
take place on February 9, 2008.
The sad part is the scramble to raise funds for “embalming and … to rent
the Dempsey Center.” Despite the fact, as the news release states,
“Elder Adunni worked for over fifty years in the community, as she would
always say for ‘Free.’” Surely this Sister was a Tree Shaker. Surely
along her fifty year road of working for Black folks for “free” she
stopped and helped many. Surely she deserves a great deal more than a
solicitation campaign for donated funds to embalm her body and then to
“rent” a hall to celebrate her life, and then to have her body shipped
to Ghana for burial. Is this how we show our appreciation for Tree
When I think of Tree Shakers like Marcus Garvey, Amos Wilson, Ken
Bridges, and Muhammad Nasserdeen, just to name a few, it makes me
question the sincerity of the conscious brothers and sisters out there
who give a lot of lip-service to Black Consciousness, but little else of
themselves and their resources to further the cause of Black
Consciousness, especially when it comes to supporting the Tree Shakers
and their families.
Of course, the ones who really benefit from the work done by Tree
Shakers, the “upper economic people,” as opposed to the “lower economic
people” that Bill Cosby referenced when he took Black people to the
woodshed, are culpable as well. Each time I raise the issue of economic
discrimination and disparity against Black people in my hometown, some
elitist Black person gets a contract, without ever having opened his or
her mouth on behalf of Black people. Thus, the upper economic people
always benefit, while the lower economic people remain trapped in the
belly of a society that would only use them as cute rhetoric. Despite
the upper economic people having the funds to take care of some of the
Tree Shakers, thus assuring their contracts and opportunities keep
coming, most of them refuse to put their money where their mouths are.
During the Hillary/Obama Debate in Los Angeles, a person named Kim sent
a question in for Barack Obama. She asked him about the negative
effects of illegal immigration on “African Americans.” She specifically
asked Obama to address the question and she was very specific about whom
she was concerned: African Americans. Immediately Barack Obama started
answering the question in relationship to whites, Hispanics, Asians,
minorities, and then African Americans. He emphasized the other groups
and de-emphasized Black people. A slowly pitched softball was lobbed at
him and he chose not to swing on behalf of Black people.
Obama was presented with an opportunity to say something about Black
people only, but he felt compelled to include everyone else in his
answer, rather than deal specifically with the issue as it relates to
Black people, as Kim requested. Are the upper economic people so
constrained by their own fear of appearing “too Black” that even when
they are in a position to speak or act strictly on behalf of Black
people they feel obligated to include everyone else?
I don’t know why we are afraid of anything in country, after what our
people went through to help us reach the heights we have achieved. I
do know that we should take better care of the Tree Shakers and their
families by creating both local and national funds that can be accessed
immediately when needed for causes such as the one involving the “Queen
Mother” in New York.
We can take the Cosby tact of blaming the lower economic people for not
holding up their end of the bargain, but we must also acknowledge the
responsibility of the upper economic people as well. It is
irresponsible, it is shameful, it is insulting and it is embarrassing to
all Black people, no matter what level you are on, to mistreat one
another the way we do. The work that needs to be done will never be
done if those who are willing to do it are not supported by those who
are unwilling but who also reap the benefits of that work. This goes
for the conscious and the unconscious. Shame on us!
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Big Oil Mission Creep Accomplished
Have you had enough yet? Are you convinced yet? Now that oil has hit
that magical price of $100.00 per barrel, are you finally ready to
respond with a strategy that makes sense this time? Or, do you want to
call for another Gas Out Day? Been there, done that, right? Although
we missed a great opportunity back in 2002 to show the oil thieves we
would not take being ripped-off lying down, now that we are paying
through the nose, and every other orifice, for gasoline and related oil
products, maybe now we are ready to strike back.
Bush, Cheney, Rice, and their international crew of oil thieves have
slowly but surely secured their futures and that of their families with
their shady deals and secret meetings with the oil barons. Under the
guise of developing an energy policy for the United States, “Darth”
Cheney, the guy who has given new meaning to the “Vice” in Vice
President, convened his boys and girls and has yet to divulge what went
on in those meetings. He also, as former Chairman and CEO of
Halliburton, negotiated pipeline deals for Chevron and, if you connect
the dots, you will see why he was and still is so adamant about
maintaining the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “There’s oil in them
there hills, boys!”
Condi, as she is affectionately called by George, gave up her seat on
the Chevron Board in 2001 when she was named National Security Advisor,
and Chevron changed the name of its oil tanker from the “Condoleezza
Rice” to the “Altair Voyager.” Maybe that’s why Rice was so supportive
of the war as well.
George W.? Well we all know his deal. He is just the puppet that keeps
us all laughing. He is the stringed marionette that dances across the
world stage, keeping us diverted from reality. He is the old-time
cowboy we liked so much in the “shoot ‘em up” movies. He is the village
idiot to whom no one really pays serious attention other than to keep
track of his gaffs and malapropisms.
Among the three of these characters and, of course, more second-string
players, such as Ken Lay (Is he still dead? Did he really die?), Daddy
Bush and James Baker with the Carlyle Group, and others, there must be
billions of dollars hidden in some international pipeline somewhere.
The stage was set even before Bush, Jr. became President, and now the
die has been cast. Think back to 1999; oil was below $20.00 per barrel,
and it was only after Saddam Hussein halted production late in 1999 that
it went to $27.00 per barrel. Then about a year later, around October
2000, Saddam decided he would take euros for his country’s oil rather
than the vaunted “petrodollar.” Uh Oh! All of a sudden, “Houston, we
have a problem.”
I say again, just connect the dots; do a little research and you will
see the “mission creep” that started with a plan to capture greater
control of the world’s oil reserves, in light of China’s burgeoning
society and its growing thirst for Black Gold. If you think this is all
happenstance, I would be happy to make you a great deal on some
beautiful ocean-front property in Kansas.
Now, what do we do? Having tried one-day boycotts and protests of big
oil companies, as if that would hurt them – they make billions of
dollars per quarter and pay their executives hundreds of millions
annually – it’s not likely that a one-day refusal to buy gas would do
anything but make them irritated to the point of raising prices, the way
they did on the last “Gas Out Day.”
I reiterate what I wrote in my last book, Black Empowerment with an
Attitude.” It’s not good enough simply to complain; heck, you can see
how much good that has done. We must “restrain and sustain.” Restrain
ourselves from frivolous driving; carpool, walk, scooter, or bicycle
when and where possible; and stop buying those gas-guzzling behemoths
that car manufacturers have convinced us we need to have. Finally,
don’t fall for the flowery, “we love the earth,” and “we are looking for
alternative fuels” advertisements that we see on television; big oil
companies are buying those ads to make us feel good, while they continue
to take us to the cleaners.
How stupid are we as consumers? Is there no limit to how much money
these thieves can steal from us, and how many times they can do it
before we wake up and decide to respond in kind? That’s where the
“sustain” part of the strategy comes into play. On a local level, we
must refuse to purchase gasoline from a selected few stations and
sustain that effort until either their prices fall or they go out of
business. I can hear some of you now. “Jim, that’s not fair to the
local dealer.” Well, whom do you suggest we mount our efforts against,
the $36 billion annual revenues of Exxon-Mobil, or maybe one of the
other four: Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron, or ConocoPhillips?” Fat
chance you’ll even get their attention.
When prices escalate the way they have since Bush and company took, and
I do mean “took” office, when the mere threat of a hurricane can cause
the price to rise even more, and when every station in your area gets
the same call to raise their price to the same amount at the same time,
you have to know there is some stuff in the game.
When stations start to close we will see a change. That’s it;
bottom-line. If we are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to
respond to the thievery of the oil barons, we simply need to shut-up!
Or, develop a good relationship with Hugo Chavez.
You can learn more about James Clingman and
buy his books by visiting his web site Blackonomic$.
to go there now.
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Aristocracy and Pauperism in the Black
I am reminded the fate of the infamous French Aristocracy, and its “Let
them eat cake” philosophy, when I ponder our current economic
situation. Wealth abounded in a few French families, but most other
families suffered in abject poverty. Is this what the United States of
Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, referred to this new
fashion of CEO’s making million dollar windfalls after laying off
thousands of workers, as “the disappearance
of the implicit social contract that used to bind companies with their
workers and communities.”
If he was correct, African Americans, especially, are in for a rough
ride. We will get attacked from all directions. Downsize government
(most affluent black people have government jobs); downsize companies
(you know who goes first); privatize the public sector (who will get the
lion’s share of the contracts?); eliminate all forms of affirmative
action (do you really know what a “colorblind” society will mean for
Black people?); and, build more jails (who fills them now?).
Change is here, right before our eyes. How are we reacting to that
change? Are we sitting back and buying the rhetoric coming out of
Washington regarding the economy, jobs, taxes, welfare, and education?
Are we being lulled to sleep by the “do-gooders” who would have us
believe that everything will be all right if we simply continue to let
“them” take care of us?
I sincerely hope not. If we want jobs we have to make some jobs. If we
want businesses we have to pool our resources and not only start them,
but we must also grow our own businesses. If we want charity, we must
first be willing to be charitable ourselves. And if we want our
children to be educated, we must first open our own minds and raise our
level of consciousness.
Corporate America is not the answer for the majority of us, and we must
not look to it or the government to solve our problems. They simply do
not care about us; that’s the bottom line. The important thing,
however, is how much we care
Doesn’t it make sense that the best way to eliminate the welfare system
is to create more jobs rather than wiping them out by the thousands?
Obviously the private sector is not interested in job creation, which
leaves our good friend, the U.S. Government, the largest employer of
higher income Black people, to pick up the slack. But wait -- they want
to downsize those jobs too. And then there are tax reductions,
abatements, incentives and the like, which don’t mean a thing, if you
don’t have a job.
So whom are they kidding? We are excluded from the so-called mainstream
economy and yet we are reluctant to build our own economy. What are we
supposed to do? I’ll tell you what we can do. Forget about them and
worry about us. Create and nurture genuine Unity in our
communities. Pool our resources and create our own businesses. And
while we are doing that, we must stop our feeding frenzy at everybody
else’s trough. Stop protesting someone else’s stuff, and get our own
The United States is rapidly becoming a two-tiered society, let alone
the latest “revelation” that there is more than one Black America. You
either have something or you do not. That’s a frightening scenario,
especially when you add our children into the equation. What are we
going to leave for them?
Jobs are very important, don’t get me wrong. However, ownership and
control of those jobs is even more important. How many jobs do we own?
The latest census shows that 1,197,000 Black businesses employ just
773,000 employees. We cannot increase our economic empowerment if we
fail to grow our businesses to the point where they can hire our people
– the way other groups do in this country. We cannot grow our
businesses if we, the consumers, do not support them, nor can we grow
them if business owners do not reinvest a portion of their revenues back
into their businesses.
I once heard a man say he’d rather control a million dollars than to
have a million dollars. Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac in this
country, and it is derived by accumulating and controlling economic
resources. We had better be about getting and retaining some for
ourselves, that is, unless we want to continue in the role of Pauper
rather than the Aristocrat.
Stop the bickering. Stop the hatred. Stop the jealousy. Stop selling
out. Stop back-biting. Start trusting. Start loving. Start
respecting. Start helping. Start building.
Black people can ill-afford to succumb to reports that we have
fragmented into at least two separate races, the rich and the poor, the
urban and the suburban, the sophisticated and the crass, the refined and
the coarse. That’s a trap and a death sentence. No matter where we are
in our individual lives, no matter what we have achieved, we have a
commonality that should never be compromised. Whether we want to admit
it or not, we do need one another.
Collective economic self-sufficiency is the only way Black people will
move forward in this country -- this capitalistic society, in which it’s
not about Black people even eating cake, let alone bread. Crumbs will
be the only items on our menu if we do not change our minds toward one
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The Great Debaters – A Message In The Movie
Having seen one of the best movies I have ever seen, namely, The Great
Debaters, and having read a piece in The Wall
Street Journal by Abigail and Stephan
Thernstrom, titled, Separation Anxiety,
I thought of the ironies of so-called HBCU’s and the issues they face
today. I thought about the students these schools have graduated and
the professionals they have produced. I thought about the 13th
14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and
how they were expressly written for Black people but have, over the
years, evolved into laws that some believe, and others profess, to have
been written for “minorities.” I also thought about the trick-bag we
have found ourselves in because many of us have all but given up on the
very educational institutions that did more than any other elevate Black
people in this country.
irony of a Black College like Wiley, home of the Great Debaters, not
being one of the top schools in this country is interesting to say the
least. The school at which James Farmer studied and Melvin Tolson
taught should be on a very firm foundation by now. Morris Brown,
Central State, Prairie View, Grambling, Barber Scotia, and now even the
iconoclastic Fisk University, as noted in the article by the Thernstroms,
along with several other HBCU’s, have either closed their doors or are
fighting for their lives.
irony of thousands of graduates, diplomas in hand, many of whom would
not have had the opportunity to attend college were those schools not
available, now having turned their backs on their alma maters by
refusing to help them financially, is a sad commentary.
now, the greatest of ironies is the fact that many HBCU’s are portrayed
as segregated institutions because they want to carry on their
traditional approach to educating Black students. My, how the tables
have turned and how they keep turning, not to the benefit of Black
people, but to the benefit of minorities and others.
Great Debaters movie illustrated part of the proud history of Black
people in this land; it also displayed part of the seedy side of
American history. In full context, the movie illuminated the value of
Black colleges and universities, not only in their ability to educate
and graduate outstanding young people, but also in their dedication and
determination to see that Black students attain the kinds of values and
insights that will carry them to and through their chosen fields of
movie is not mere history, brothers and sisters; the same thing is
occurring right now – to this day – at Black colleges and universities.
So the logical questions that follow are these: Why are our Black
colleges falling by the wayside? Why are so many of them financially
strapped? Why are so few of their alumni giving back to their alma
maters? Where are the billion dollar endowments for Black schools of
Something to ponder, especially during this time of uncertainty, is the
attack on HBCU’s from without. Painting them as bastions of segregation
and discrimination, and insisting they be brought down from their
previous lofty position among Black folks, are part of the latest
strategy to turn us into a non-people. Is there anything Black people
can and will have in this country that will not carry the connotation of
separatist and discriminatory “in reverse”?
not suggesting that others cannot or should not attend HBCU’s. I think
they should, but not to the degree that the tradition and culture are
lost in bureaucratic red tape and governmental intervention. Black
schools are our beacons of encouragement, bastions of pride, and havens
of concern by teachers who sincerely want each student to be successful
and will do what needs to be done to make that a reality.
don’t be lulled to sleep with yet another ploy to reduce Black folks to
an even lower point of identity in this country. Support HBCU’s with
your money and your intellect, much of which was obtained on an HBCU
campus; and even if it wasn’t, you should support HBCU’s anyway. Heaven
knows, we need something we can call our own, and we need to continue
the line of Samantha Booke, Henry Lowe, James
Farmer, and Melvin Tolson, all
characters in The Great Debaters.
we so scared of being proud of who we are? Why are we so reluctant to
fight for what our forebears worked so hard for us to have? How are we
so easily swayed to believe the nonsense of reverse discrimination,
especially when Blacks have been the most tolerant, patient,
accommodating, open, and accepting of all ethnic groups in this
country? It seems we can be intimidated by just about anything that
is promulgated by outsiders as “divisive” or “separate,” as in the case
of Africa Town in Detroit. HBCU’s are among the few traditions Blacks
have left in this country; we’d better hold on to them and stop settling
for statues and street names.
Thernstrom article aptly and rightly pointed to the fact that,
“In a free society, many private and
public institutions will have a distinctive profile. Group clustering is
not necessarily unhealthy; indeed, it's an inescapable feature of a
multiethnic nation. No one worries that there are "too many" Jews at
Yeshiva and Brandeis, "too many" Catholics at Notre Dame and Holy Cross,
"too many" Mormons at Brigham Young. And so it should be with Howard,
Fisk and Mississippi Valley State. That's what democratic pluralism
live HBCU’s. Thanks to the many who contribute their time and money to
HBCU’s. And, kudos to Oprah and
Denzel for making The Great Debaters. It
was a pleasure. When you see it, please don’t miss the message.
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All articles copyright by
James E. Clingman. All Rights Reserved.