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Brooks on Brooks! Part II

Henri Brooks_2_600During a meeting Tuesday (May 20th) afternoon with the editorial staff of The New Tri-State Defender, County Commissioner Henri Brooks addressed myriad issues – including her highly criticized move to "correct" a speaker who asserted that in Memphis Hispanics are the "minority of minorities." Here is Part II of that Q&A session.

The New Tri-State Defender: Is there a difference between minorities as it relates to the law?
Henri Brooks: Quite frankly, there's an unspoken rule. Ethnic minorities do not compare themselves. If you look at Title VI, you'll find that Hispanics are mentioned and blacks are mentioned as protective beneficiaries. It just says that we have suffered discriminatory expenditures of federal dollars. So we're both in the same group. Title VI protects us both. So there's no need to compare each other.

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Political candidates and ‘prophetic’ clergy – Endorsement or Empowerment?

revfisher 600Campaign season (which one could argue is endless) is always ubiquitous and duplicitous for me as a pastor. These moments are joyous; making ministry real! Election cycles remind us that those who have a theology or faith-based-belief that does not take into account political developments and social realities have signed a promissory note to ministerial irrelevance. Those who serve in the pastorate must constantly be mindful of how legislation and the appropriation of resources impact those who we are called to serve at a grassroots, neighborhood and living room level.

These same moments are frustrating. The tension rests in the requirement pastors have to calculate the best way to exert our pastoral influence. It has been common place for pastors to publicly endorse candidates directly and indirectly. This is commendable when it has been done through a thorough deliberation and discernment process and not merely to score points in the game of ministerial and political opportunism.

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The 60-year journey from ‘Brown’

J Malveaux_600Because I was a horribly ill-behaved child, I found myself shipped from San Francisco to Moss Point, Miss. in August 1969. My mother's plan was that I'd spend my junior year in high school there and live with my schoolteacher aunt, Annie Mae Randall, who was somewhat affectionately known as the "kid breaker."

It was legend that if you did not understand rules, she would beat them into you, but her method was unlimited interrogation, not physical correction (much). In any case, I landed in Moss Point 15 years after the Supreme Court ruled that legal segregation was illegal.

However, by ruling that the Brown decision should be implemented with "all deliberate speed," many towns in Mississippi saw this as a signal to "take your own sweet time." I ended up attending all-black Magnolia High School, while the all-white Moss Point High School was in rather close proximity. A year later, Magnolia became the town's junior high school, and Moss Point High was the school for everyone.

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Changing the attitudes of African Americans on green living

green living_600A record-high 356 temperatures were tied or broken across the contiguous United States in 2012, marking the warmest year ever in American history. Over that same period, widespread droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, snowstorms, and superstorms put a nearly $110 billion dent in the economy.

And according to environmental activists, that's something African Americans should be concerned about.

"If natural disasters happen, or heat waves, or prices go up for food and gas, then African Americans get the short end of the stick in those situations," explained Bruce Strouele, director of operations for Citizens for a Sustainable Future, a think-tank dedicated to improving quality of life for African Americans through sustainable development and environmental justice.

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We’re still living with the specter of Sam Greenlee’s ‘Spook Who Sat by the Door’

Sam Greenlee_600Sam Greenlee was underappreciated, disgruntled, professionally disemboweled and perpetually agitated.

His sudden death at the age of 83 offers opportunity for reflection on a man trapped in the suspended animation of one great work that briefly elevated, then haunted, him into his last days. An apprehensive and highly educated foreign service officer who abruptly quit the business of American global dominance in anguished pursuit of a lifetime in written word, Greenlee spawned like a lost child of Ralph Ellison.

He will not be forgotten, but he will also be remembered in the starting lineup of a tortured lineage of creative black literary minds way ahead of their time. From George Schulyer ("Black Empire") to Ellison ("Invisible Man") to Chester Himes ("If He Hollers Let Him Go"), hard shift to Greenlee and then John Edgar Wideman ("Philadelphia Fire"), to Brent Wade (the "Company Man" genius who just ... went missing) and now Todd Craig ("Tor'cha"), they and others are temporary flashes of a fire of brilliant black men's acrimony shared through risky, genre-bending books.

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