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By Mark Allen

Much banter is happening in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods about the prospects for the upcoming municipal 2015 elections. Specifically, people are concerned about “who will take out” Rahm Emanuel, who is own track to being the most hated local political figure since police commander/Black male torturer Jon Burge.
In February 2015 people will go to the polls to hire the mayor, clerk, treasurer and 50 council members. If no one gets 50+1 percent of the vote, the election moves to April. Either way, by June 2015, a new regime (or perhaps the old) will begin—again.
Emanuel took office in 2011 under the halo of President Barack Obama’s anointing. The two-time White House former chief of staff’s residency was challenged. His White House employee and congressional voting records were scrutinized and publicized. Oppositionists pointed out that he was behind the notorious 1994 Crime Bill that has sent more Black men to prison since Reconstruction. A few others pointed out he was among the authors of the notorious President Bill Clinton’s 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which deepened paternalism, set bizarre penalties in place for people living in public housing and made it harder for people to break the cycle of poverty.
His political opponents were ill equipped and ill prepared to handle Emanuel’s expansive and well-funded political machine under the guise of “a better Chicago.” And, Black Chicago presented no credible political threat to his rise to local power because key African American influencers, gatekeepers and sell-outs ensured his election. They were on the take. With so much money on the streets and the willingness of his secret allies to undermine, confuse and disrupt the collective campaign to “find and fund a Black consensus candidate,” it was inevitable he would become the next in line to rule the fifth floor of City Hall.
Rahm Black2-1
Since taking office, Mayor 1%, as he is called by the oppressed, has wrecked total havoc on the city’s Black and Brown neighborhoods. And, while he hasn’t been kind to the few predominantly poor and working-class White areas either, his vitriolic hatred of people of color is illustrated through his various policies and frequent missteps. In just a few years he managed to decimate social services, destroy mental health clinics, tear up 50 neighborhood schools in the Black community in one sitting, fire more than 3,000 teachers—most of whom are Black and over the age of 40–, attack the values of Black parents, consolidate fire stations, refuse to hire more police officers despite the spike in crime—all the while expanding economic opportunity, jobs and rewards to his base on the Northwest side of the city and LaSalle Street.
Mayor Emanuel is relentless on his attacks on working families. Though he reversed himself, he even tried to shut down libraries in the ‘hood. His administration has been swift to privatize jobs, thus removing the Black and Brown people from much-jobs that they didn’t lose under Mayor Richard M. Daley’s reign, the same ones they won and secured under the administrations of Mayor Harold Washington and Mayor Eugene Sawyer. While Daley systematically worked to return City Hall to its pristine whiteness, Rahm has worked like a power blaster and has all but removed many of the African Americans and Latinos who earned their positions through hard-work, advocacy and self determination. What remains is a cadre of mostly young, white, out-of-towners who don’t know this city and don’t give a damn about any neighborhood beyond Buck Town, Andersonville and River North.
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While people speculate about whether or not two high-profile African American women, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis, will announce their candidacy among a handful of other already announced lower-profile African Americans, very few citizens of Black Chicago have taken to the airwaves and social media sphere to discuss Black political self-determination and the city’s storied and torrid history of disrupting our progress.
Politics is a shell game.
Politics is about resources.
There are people who do not want you to have those resources. They want to covet them for their own interests.
There are people within your own neighborhoods who work against Black interests. Some of them have something personal to gain or to lose. Therefore they are caught up. Others simply hate themselves, could be the descendants of the slaves who wanted to stay on the plantation or of the ones who tricked on Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser and Harriet Tubman.
These influencers thrive on misinformation and disinformation. Because they look like you they work (in secret and sometimes not so much) to dissuade you from real participation in the political process. These folk discourage you from identifying the source of blight, poverty, crime and overall apathy. They encourage you to focus solely on hope and change—two generic terms that have dubious meaning and no actions set to them. They overwhelm you with statistics and factoids as they establish themselves as experts. A few of them align themselves with progressive causes and develop fake public personas in order to convince you of their authenticity. Some will throw in biblical and Quaranic principals to refocus your attention to “heaven” and still others will simply misled you altogether. They ask you to march on your block, but never on City Hall. They ask you to donate to “stop the violence,” but never to “stop the economic and political violence” that is persistent and thorough in its destruction. Then there are those who present illogical arguments and false choices.
Some will argue—wrongly—that it does not matter who is mayor of this city.
It does matter. As Chicago’s chief executive the mayor is responsible for setting budget priorities, strengthening infrastructure and ensuring public resources (and assets) are equitably distributed and accessible to the public.
Some will argue—wrongly—that your vote doesn’t count.
It does count. Period. Only those who actually come out to vote can vote. Rahm Emanuel won ___ of the vote. But only ____ people actually bothered to cast a ballot.
Some will argue—wrongly—there aren’t enough Black people left in the city to make have a Black-voting bloc.
There are enough Black people left. Question anything ‘they’ tell you. African Americans have never been fully counted by the U.S. Census. And Chicago, Cook County and the state can’t seem to account for where the alleged 200,000 disappearing black folk went. Were they all living in public housing when the high-rises were torn down? No. Did they all get on a bus and just “go somewhere else.” Not likely. This smacks of being a statistical hoax and political propaganda designed to do exactly what it is doing—make people believe their political power has dwindled and is insignificant.
Black people don’t believe the government when they tell you to stand in line for a “swine flu” vaccine, then why would you believe nearly a quarter of a million men, women and children have vanished off the face of the earth? Further, the people they claim who left—mostly poor people—do not have the economic resources to re-locate to exotic locations across the county and state. Some left, yes. But not all. They are living ‘in the underground’—and you know it. You want to find the disappearing black people—go door-to-door. Many people know about blended households where Ms. So and So has lived someplace for 40 years and now her grandkids and their kids have moved in. We still have power of numbers. Register everyone over 18 years of age behind those doors to vote.
Some will argue—wrongly—nobody can beat him. He has too much money.
Black Chicago’s true political strength is that it has always been undercounted and treated with paternalistic gloves. If the base is motivated, he can lose at best, and be forced into a runoff against a single opponent at least. The $7.5 million (and counting) money he reportedly has can buy a lot of airtime, but it cannot predict how a motivated and oppressed people will respond. Too much TV—and people believe you have something too hide.
Too much media exposure—they believe the government is “in on it.” And, too much hype by a politician—turns the Black base against you.
Some will argue—wrongly—politics does not matter and that is why they remain apolitical.
Politics does matter. Politics is the negotiation and mechanism by which you receive your share of public resources and services. Your birth is political because you aren’t official alive until a political entity stamps your birth certificate and says you were born. You aren’t officially dead until a political entity stamps your death certificate and says you died. Politics and the legislative/legal process governs all of civic life and participation in America.
Your local politics matter. You have the power to put people into public office to represent your concerns. You also have the same power to remove them when they do not.
However, many oppressed people in Chicago confuse politics with self-determination.
No election can restore your dignity and self-worth. You must have it in place in order to exact change. Harold Washington, the beloved mayor of the people, was elected because Black people got sick and tired of being sick and tired. We had reached our “insult level.” We looked inside of ourselves, regained our collective dignity and self-worth and went to work to get someone on the Fifth Floor to represent our needs. That happened BEFORE Harold’s election. Not after. And, while there were other social factors at play during this time, the biggest actor of them all was black-self determination. Period.
No election process can make you self-determined and self-aware. The trick of a politician like Rahm Emanuel and so many others is that they are highly skilled at getting oppressed people to focus their pain inward rather than outward. It is easy to blame teachers for “losing their jobs,” rather than misguided public policy and immoral budget priorities for “taking their jobs.” It is easier to black poor parents for “failed schools” and “black on black crime,” rather than to identify and fight against bad public policy that refuses to give schools, teachers and parents the resources they need; and ones that criminalize and stigmatize Black youth without creating well-paying jobs, advancing social services, protecting affordable, quality housing, advocating for health and nutrition or going after gun and bullet manufacturers who distribute weapons in oppressed areas.
It is the oldest trick—to turn the mirror upon yourself rather than at source of your problem.
While those who can and will fight, work and advocate for Black political power (not empowerment, you got that through the vote), there are those who must organize and rally for Black self-determination—that is if we are to survive the current wave of sociopolitical and economic onslaught.
Paternalism seeks to give you something and help you manage your pain.
Black self-determination identifies the source of problems, develops a plan to eradicate (not live with or reform) that problem, and has a plan and democratic process in place to repair that harm.
Through paternalism your hand is out.
Through self-determination a hand is out,–but its holding upon another as you realize you got another hand and it is formed into a fist.
When you recognize exploitation you must call it for what it is.
When you recognize terror you must call it for what it is.
When you recognize white supremacy you must call it for what it is.
All three of those things—exploitation, terror and white supremacy—manifests itself in political, economic and social policies.
There is nothing that stops you from organizing in your own community. Yes, this is hard, thankless work. But it must be done.
There is nothing that stops you from challenging influencers in your community who want you to go the way of paternalism and personal excuse rather than using their influence and authority to work toward self-determination and political and economic advocacy. Nothing.
There is nothing stopping you from creating communications networks and avenues to “get your message out,” in your own neighborhood—from the South Side to the West Side. Nothing stopping you from holding small meetings; block clubs meetings; BBQ’s where information is exchanged; cookouts; marches; and any other event that will bring people together to talk to each other. Nothing.
There is nothing stopping you from developing credit unions, various cooperatives alike grocery stores, farmers markets, vacant lot and housing developments, to secure, protect an advance your economic interests. These cooperatives will put your people to work. When people work their conditions improve. When their conditions have improved they will work to ensure they do not deteriorate. Nothing.
There is nothing stopping you from declaring your house, your block, your neighborhood, your community from being drug and violent-crime free. We must be honest. We must be willing to get to the root of violence in our community. We must demand resources to combat crimes. We must recognize the nature of violence in American culture and how it impacts urban communities. We must discuss why certain kinds of violence and crime are concentrated in certain places in the ‘hood. Why are some blocks safe and then one block over its hell? How does that happen? Ask the questions.
We must develop our own community policing strategies, demand funding to support our holistic tactics and hold law enforcement agencies accountable.
There is nothing stopping you from joining existing black organizations and working to strengthen them, change their focus toward black self determination and sociopolitical and economic relief. If your organization wants you to focus on self first and only—then get a new organization. That’s why we have churches, temples and faith-communities. Atone at church but advocate in your organization. If no organization exists you trust, you can find three people who identify with you and you can start your own. Organizations are created by organized people. People are organized according to self-interests. When you join a group or organization, instead of criticizing and waiting for a misstep, get involved, be vocal, use your money and skills to change its course for the better. Nothing is stopping you from doing this. No one.
No one is stopping you from turning off and tuning out the media, the music and the message that perpetuates negative, violent, ignorant and overly sexual stereotypes of our people. You have the power to turn off WGCI. You have the power to turn off Fox TV. You have the power to stop reading Time Magazine. You have the power to tune out any voice at any volume who does not recognize your rights as a human being, your rights under the U.S. Constitution, your rights under the Illinois constitution, your civil rights, your civic rights. You have the power. No one can make you believe anything you do not want to believe.
Black self-determination is rooted in the notion of participatory democracy, sustainable development and a solidarity economy.
It is not Rahm Emanuel’s job to make that happen.
It is not Barack Obama’s job to make that happen.
It is not Toni Preckwinkle’s job to make that happen.
It is not your preacher’s job to make that happen.
It is not your ‘leader’s’ job to make that happen.
We must first proclaim our own existence. Do I want the best for me and my family? Do I want the best food? Do I want the best housing? Do I want well-paying jobs? Do I want to own my own businesses an put people to work? Do I want quality health care in my neighborhood? Do I want quality food options in my neighborhood? Do I want to be safe in my own neighborhood? Do I want quality schools that my children can walk to in my neighborhood? Do I want quality, safe and affordable housing in my neighborhood? Do I want clean alley and walkways in my neighborhood? Do I want a variety of sit-down restaurants, pubs and other entertainment venues in my neighborhood? Do I want afterschool and youth programs in my neighborhood? Then ask yourself if you deserve these things.
If you say no, then beloved you have internalized self-hatred, cowardness and loneliness and you must work extremely hard to break these internal feelings. Forgive yourself of past transgressions and move forward. Do not stay stuck. Seek help and support. It is out there. Heal. Live. Move forward.
If you say yes, then recognize that you have work to do and that you do not have to do it alone. You must publicly program your human rights, and self-determination. You must identify and organize with others who share your values. You must keep the focus on bad public policy and evil personalities who seek to stop your efforts to obtain good and equitable things for you and yours. You must see yourself as community and not as an individual. You must make demands. You must work, work, plan, strategize, organize, communicate, and never stop. You must be consistent. Your vision must be sustainable and your goals obtainable.
It matters who is the mayor. But even if we have our best candidate in that office, remember the words of Frederick Douglas: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”
What will you demand? And, when?

IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.