By Bakari Kitwana

originally published July 15, 2013 on globalgrind.com

When I heard the not guilty verdict announced live, I was attending a national gathering of one hundred 18-30 year-old Black activists in the Chicago area organized by the Black Youth Project. The reaction of the young people in the room to the news that George Zimmerman would not be held accountable by the nation’s criminal justice system will forever be etched on my memory.

Most were shocked. Angry. Outraged. Disappointed. But their tears, outcries and rage were all accompanied with a clear and unflinching determination that this will not be the last word in the battle for justice for Trayvon Martin.

Their shock and surprised revealed that this was a profound generation-specific moment, a collective emotional response that connected to this generation in the way that the Rodney King beating affected an earlier generation—much like the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X stunned the generation before us.

The verdict didn’t come as a surprise to me. Living as a Black man in America has a strange and steady...

Rapper Lupe Fiasco made an impromptu visit to a Rap Sessions public forum on “Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama/Tea Party Era” in Philadelphia this past week, where panelists, moments before, had been debating his recent Twitter beef with comedian DL Hughley over the importance of voting.

The Chicago rapper joined the stage at the forum after seeing tweets about the discussion in progress while nearby in the city promoting his new album. He responded to DL Hughley’s claim that “when you vote or not vote, you are saying yes or no,” suggesting the rapper promotes political apathy.

Fiasco explained his belief that political engagement is bigger than the vote, and that during the Twitter exchange, he challenged DL Hughley to put his money where his mouth is and match funds to support a youth program to better the lives of rural and urban youth.

“Taking our community back is not going to happen without money,” Fiasco said reflecting on tweet discussion. “We don’t have to wait til November. We don’t have to wait to vote. Let’s put up $50,000 each right now,” he says he told Hughley.

He told the audience at Philadelphia...

Originally published on newsone.com

Political activists around the country are still absorbing the news of Geronimo ji Jaga’s death. For those of us who came of age in the 80s and 90s, the struggles of the late 1960s and early 1970s were in many ways a gateway for our examination of the history of Black political resistance in the US. Geronimo ji Jaga (formerly Geronimo Pratt) and his personal struggle, as well as his contributions to the fight for social justice were impossible to ignore. His commitment, humility, clear thinking as well as his sense of both the longevity and continuity of the Black Freedom Movement in the US all stood out to those who knew him.

I interviewed him for The Source magazine in early September 1997 about three months after he was released from prison, having served 27 years of a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. Three things stood out from the interview, all of which have been missed by recent commentary celebrating his life and impact.

First that famed attorney Johnnie Cochran was not only his lawyer when ji Jaga gained his freedom, but also represented him in his original trial. They were from the...

Originally published in the Huffingtonpost.com

As the 2012 presidential election ramps up, expect conservatives to keep gunning for black youth, in general, and hip-hop, specifically. Black youth showed significant gains in 2008, and now represent the group of 18- to 29-year-old who vote the most. Their ability via popular to inspire young voters -- who in 2008 voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a ratio of 2-to-1 -- poses one of the most viable threats to Republicans' aspirations to retake the Ppesidency. The recent national discussion surrounding the rapper Common's appearance at the White House is perhaps the first salvo.

What was quickly summed up as either an attempt to defend law enforcement or as an attack on the value of the arts does not get to the heart of what conservatives were really communicating to voters in the Common dust-up. That is, is there a place in mainstream American political life for young blacks, whose political views don't always fall within traditional mainstream conservative/liberal lines?

Black youth, particularly those who are poor and often ignored by politicians and lawmakers, are the men and women that the...

Originally published in the Huffingtonpost.com

As the 2010 midterm election season winds down, electoral politics experts agree that 18-29 year-old voters have a pivotal role to play on November 2nd. Anxiety among Democrats and Republicans concerning the way the political winds will blow the youth vote is crystallizing around the idea that over the last two years President Barack Obama did not fulfill his campaign commitments to the 14 million plus young voters so crucial to his 2008 victory.

Last week, the Houston, Texas local Fox affiliate framed the question like this: "Youth Vote: Obama Boost or Backlash?" or as reporter Greg Googan put it, "Twenty-four recession-racked months later, the question now looms: Is it still 'change' young Americans can believe in?"

When it comes to young voters, has the Obama Administration gone far enough?

University of Chicago Political Science Professor Cathy Cohen suggests in her new book Democracy Remixed, which should be required reading for any politician serious about the future of our democracy, that this sentiment taps into the reality staring young voters in the face everyday: failing...

Originally published in the Huffingtonpost.com

The decision by parents across the country to keep their children home from school today rather than have students listen to the president's stay in school address follows an ugly pattern that began to emerge in the months since the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Conservative opposition to Obama in elite political and media circles in recent weeks has turned into routine disgruntled post-election partisan bickering to vile anti-American and racist rhetoric.

From opposition to President Obama's push for an economic stimulus bill in February, and disdain for his selection of Sonia Sotomayor to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, to contempt for his current campaign for health care reform, this voice of unreason has grown louder and more belligerent. The decision by conservative leaders to encourage parents to keep their children home from school today under the auspices that the president's message is hellbent on socialist indoctrination, as Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer claimed, is the latest manifestation.

The National Keep Your Child at Home Day follows a trend that most...

Originally Published in the Huffingtonpost.com

With the national euphoria of inauguration, the multi-billion dollar corporate bailouts, and even the historic economic stimulus all recent memories, one untold story of the early days of Barack Obama's presidency remains-the advent of a concise, bold and fearless new racial politics.

"Subverting race," Jabari Asim, editor of the Crisis magazine, calls it in his important new book What Obama Means.

And President Obama's uncanny knack for it takes on even greater significance post election-not simply avoiding the predicable knee-jerk behavior of traditional politics that for too long has governed race business, but advancing a more enlightened, informed and balanced racial outlook that shifts the debate at the same time.

It's a new racial politics for a US president that, if maintained and amplified in the days ahead, will fly in the face of Barack Obama's predecessors.

Although there have been other sightings (Attorney General Eric Holder's statement in February that when it comes to race, America "is a nation of cowards," for example), mostly this new racial politics has come in...

Originally published on the Huffingtonpost.com

Dr. John Hope Franklin, the wildly accomplished historian who documented Blacks' place in the great American story, firmly believed in reparations -- the idea that the descendants of slaves in the United States should be compensated for the centuries of free labor that enriched slaveowners and their descendants and the American empire. It is a fact overlooked by the recent flurry of mainstream media coverage commemorating his life work. (He died at the age of 94 late last month.) But it is no small detail.

Consider his response in 2007 to state legislators in North Carolina and Virginia who balked at apologies for slavery introduced by their peers. For him a mere verbal apology wasn't enough.

"People are running around apologizing for slavery," he said. "What about that awful period since slavery -- Reconstruction, Jim Crow and all the rest? And what about the enormous wealth that was built up by black labor? I...