Sunday, April 30, 2006

the Truth-Hamer Initiative

UP FRONT News April 13, 2006
Published by Tom Weiss Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”


Almost thirty years ago Jane Fonda and her husband at the time, Tom Hayden, came to New York to participate in a major anti-nuclear rally and to publicize their Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED). Through some media and political connections I managed to meet briefly face-to-face with Ms. Fonda in the room they had at the Mayflower Hotel. Aside from the ego boost I got when Ms. Fonda said that she remembered me from my having years before asked her a question following a passionately antiwar and anti-corporate speech she gave at Queens College, I related very closely to her message of economic democracy. Her point, convincingly made, that, without in any way denying or minimizing the importance of political democracy (voting, Bill of Rights), was that poverty is the enemy of freedom. I agree.

A similar message, albeit coming from a voter rights and education perspective, emerges from a project of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network known as the Truth-Hamer Initiative. The THI, whose Executive Director is Marjorie Fields Harris, Esq. is named after the African-American civil rights/feminist pioneer Sojourner Truth and poor people’s advocate and de facto radical democratic Democrat Fannie Lou Hamer.
It is focusing on vote registration and education campaigns in “areas that are traditionally overlooked, such as housing developments and homeless shelters.” I hope that this succeeds, especially since that should make it at least much, much more difficult to steal elections as happened in 2000 in Florida and 2004 in Ohio and elsewhere. And it could give Americans choices far more elevating and refreshing than for example the
threatened Hillary Clinton “vs.” John McCain match-up in 2008.

I attended the recent THI luncheon, a part of the National Action Network Convention at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, which honored, among others, the publishers of Ebony and Jet Magazines. Rev. Sharpton, in a frame of mind both relaxed and very serious, spoke on several related subjects, including hip hop and also, although not using Ms. Fonda’s term, full democracy. In commenting about role models and imagery, especially among African-Americans, he referred to the “50 Cent”-type rationalization for the violence glorification and sexism in gangsta rap, which suggests that the “music” is only a “reflection” of presumably deprived and violent environments. And then Rev. Sharpton produced one of his compelling punch lines. Using a literal mirror as his metaphor, he suggested that such an item is to be used not only for “reflection” but for “correction.”

That insight can be applied on a larger political level. If America looks into its mirror, we will see an enormously creative and yet partial democracy, a reflection. Taking into consideration the reality of poverty/homelessness, domestic (including child) abuse,
recurrent incarceration of the innocent and protection for the guilty, our historical pat-
terns of imperialism, our staggering levels of corruption, it is beyond doubt that much correction is needed. The Truth-Hamer Initiative and the principles of Economic Democracy should help.
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