Saturday, April 4, 2009

Malik Rahim - Black and Green

Former Black Panther - Malik Rahim - speaks softly.
His gentle words were delivered with a jolly smile punctuated by serious pauses to a group of quiet listeners at the Matter Book Store in Fort Collins, Colorado on April 2nd.

He talked about his experience fighting in Vietnam, his participation in the Black Panther movement, time served on death row, and his perpetual activism for environmental peace and justice. Born in Algiers, Louisiana, Malik witnessed first-hand the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina and watched in horror as a whole segment of the US population was decimated by a lack of response on the part of the U.S. government.

He co-founded the relief group "Common Ground" that provided clean water and supplies to victims of the hurricane which later expanding to provide further assistance to those displaced by the disaster.

Mr. Rahim spoke with a twinkle in his eye that resides only in those with the best of intentions. He strove to emphasize the issues front and center in his mind, and those issues were clear. Clean air and clean water. He pointed out that with all the worry and talk about everything going wrong with the economy there are not enough people engaged in the conversation about what is going right. That the movement toward green energy and environmental sustainability should be in the forefront of world discussion. That no matter what political affiliation you have you and your offspring will perpetually need clean air and clean water. He urged that we as a nation move beyond partisan differences to a conversation where tolerance reigns and cooperation converges on these issues.

He also spoke about the status of Martin Luther King's dream; the perception and the reality of that dream. Mr. Rahim fears that having a black president merely represents the facade of the dream realized. He speculated that the dream would not be truly realized until "content of character" above all is used as the measure of elected officials, not the color of their skin. He gave a brief history lesson as well while telling the story of FDR and Upton Sinclair.

"A lot of people have been saying that Obama is the modern incarnation of FDR. Well I sure hope he is not."

At this point the crowd looked confused as their progressive hero from history was being questioned. Then he filled us in. In the 1934 gubernatorial race in California the Pulitzer prize winning author Upton Sinclair was running as a DEMOCRAT with the platform of ending poverty in California (EPIC). For purely political reasons Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to California and campaigned for the REPUBLICAN rival Frank F. Merriam. Sinclair lost and the race went down in history as one of the most propaganda-filled elections of all time.

The point Mr. Rahim was making was this; by allowing a leader to become too heroic, the citizenry looses sight of a leader's motives and is unable to objectively judge their character. This is no way to have a functioning democracy. He followed by saying that "a weak people need a leader, a strong people need a representative."

"Mr. Obama doesn't have no magic wand, but we do. Obviously you all are awake because you are here tonight. Now go wake up others."
And that is why I share this with you.

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