Archive | June 2009

Blogging While Brown treat: The JOBA Group

What’s up fam,

You will be getting slightly dated feedback/analysis from yours truly regarding the super excellent Blogging While Brown Conference that took place in Chicago about a week and a half back. As stated in my title, one of the real gems from BWB was one Curtis Baker, founder of the blog (and movement) known as The JOBA (Joint Organization of Black America) Group: a group of progressive Americans seeking to organize on a national scale for the benefit of our institutions, communities, and families. I met Curtis over lunch and we broke bread about the dilemma regarding how expanded broadband access is useless unless people (Black people) learn to use the internet as an educational and professional tool and not just to check social media/gossip sites. We talked about other things as well but I don’t want to scoop myself or him over future posts. Just know that he is a good brother and he is in a word…sharp. Here is an excerpt from the blog, Brandon w/JOBA group shirtPhoto 8 Read More…

A better way to talk about prison reform

…an expensive way of making bad people worse.

Behind bars…sort of is one of the best descriptions of the myths of our modern imprisonment model I’ve read from traditional media.

The questions posed are ones that are raised by activists and those opposed to how our criminal justice system operates. Sadly, these questions rarely get substantive answers from policymakers.

  • What’s the point of prison? (Punishment? Rehabilitation? Humiliation?)
  • How do we define & measure a prison’s effectiveness?
  • Has increased imprisonment lead to improved quality of life for those not in prison?
3 R's: Reduce, Remove, Remake

3 R's: Reduce, Remove, Remake

Re-framing the debate: Reduce, Remove, Remake

Americans are viewing more and more issues through the lens of their wallets. Perhaps this can work for rethinking prisons too.

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, made progress on prison reform in his jurisdiction in large part by framing sensible incarceration policy as a matter of fiscal responsibility. The premise is that a city needs a consistent tax base to function, and people who are being warehoused are not paying taxes. It’s a great example of using a seemingly centrist frame (“fiscal responsibility”) to execute on a progressive agenda (“prison reform”). Prisons like the one featured in this article cost no more to construct, yet they save the cost of inmate humiliation & dehumanization. Those of us not in prison feel in that cost terms of recidivism.

Perhaps this can work on a broader scale if this is adjusted slightly. Instead of focusing solely on “let’s quickly make them productive taxpayers again,” we should broaden that to the following “Reduce, Remove, Remake” approach:

As a society responsible for the protection of its citizens, we will raise everyone’s quality of life by insisting that we reduce the motivations for crime, remove the policy loopholes and resource lapses that allow crime to persist, and remake our prison system into one that benefits society more than it costs it.

Doing this takes political courage on behalf of citizens, activists, and policymakers, but it can be done. Let’s transform our system away from being “an expensive way to make bad people worse” into “an investment in our shared security and well-being.”

One Love. One II.

Photo Credit: photoaskew on Flickr

Blogging While Brown – Branding workshop

Personal Branding Workshop at Blogging While Brown

Hajj Flemings (presenting and also from the D)

A brand is a perception, or emotion or experience

3:19 Your personal brand is what other people say about you. What do people think about when they hear your name?

3:25 Grustle is your grind and your hustle

3:22 Builders, grustlers, leapers (work for someone else, hustle, pure entrepreneur)

3:27 Don’t put your 1.0 junk into a 2.o world.

3:32 73% of internet users read blogs and 78% of people trust the recommendations of other consumers

3:33 Outliners by Malcolm Gladwell (10,000 hours is the amount of time it takes to become an expert in any given field)

3:35 Do you have a mission statement for yourself?

3:38 Use a consistent avatar across networks. Make sure photo is professional.

3:40 I need to use slides (slideshare sp?) for a visual resume and allow for it to be shared with others

3:44 Personal Brand Footprint (digital v human)

3:48 Business cards with picture and all 2.0 access points

3:50 Key strategy for writing a book. Write an outline first and add content

3:51 The time to do x was last year, the best time to do x is right now

3:54 Who cares if you have tons of friends if you don’t have any value add?

3:57 Create content that is factually tight

The pros and cons of worldwide net activism

I also posted this at the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate. I serve as Senior Policy Analyst for Technology for the Institute.

As new tools of civic and civil protest evolve – as in Iran, where protesters are using social networks to keep the rest of the world apprised of the response to that country’s recently held elections – they present both new opportunities and new challenges for freedom of speech.

Protesting using Twitter

Protesting using Twitter

Twitter has been singled out as the key communication platform for protesters and those watching them since last week’s election. It has enabled people around the globe to read real time accounts of the happenings.

It has also enabled people around the globe to participate in the protest in ways some have never seen before.

Such armchair activism has included setting up proxy servers to help Iranian tweeters get around government blockades of the site.

Another example was the attempted DDOS attacks on Iranian web servers from abroad (DDoS stands for Denial of Service, a method of hacking that involves sending lots of web requests every second with the hopes of overloading a web server and rendering a website unusable/unavailable).

Principally, the inclusion of non-Iranians in these protest efforts is a good thing. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. However, these particular actions raise serious ethical and legal questions that must be thought through.

As interested activists and citizens, we must be prudent in our actions to ensure they help more than hurt.

For instance, are we comfortable with the idea of private citizens using private networks to engage in network “warfare”?

By doing so, do we make our civilian network infrastructure a valid target to an adversary? What risks are associated with a group of private citizens sending an unintended message to a potential adversary in the form of a coordinated network disruption?

Perhaps we are, but I don’t think that’s the case.

Earlier this year, Russia basically did this to Georgia, and caught a lot of flack for it. This sets a precedent that is dangerous, especially if we don’t understand its consequences.

Another question: if the attacks were actually successful, wouldn’t we be destroying the only portals we have into the very place we’re so interested in?

After all, foreign journalists have been banned from covering the demonstration, and many have been jailed and/or beaten. To choke off an authentic supply of information would be strategically foolish.

Technology is an increasingly powerful and important part of our society and our culture. As it expands to touch more parts of our lives, we must be ever-mindful of its drawbacks as well as its benefits.

One Love. One II.

Bipartisanship and Real Health Care Reform

Read a great piece today by EJ Dionne from the Post where he talks about the current health care debate and how bipartisanship is weakening the prospects for real health care reform.

From the article,

“Where did we get the idea that the only good health-care bill is a bipartisan bill? Is bipartisanship more important than whether a proposal is practical and effective?…

Most Democrats believe that fixing the system will require increased government intervention to guarantee universal coverage and to contain costs. Most Republicans oppose an expansion of government’s role and believe an even more market-oriented system would pave the way to health-care nirvana. Trying to achieve full bipartisanship by squaring those two views is a recipe for incoherence.”

What I dislike about bipartisanship is that while it is a noble goal, politicians have sorely abused it in the worst way. During the campaign trail, bipartisanship is often trumpeted as one way to get approval of what is considered the Holy Grail of American politics; the swing voter. Once candidates become elected, their almost certain decision to stand for re-election impacts what policies they choose and how their method of attack. Here again, bipartisanship is noted as a key goal of any major policy push. In this way, politicians have political cover if something goes wrong, said politician can say, “Now wait a minute, this bill was even supported by my friends from across the aisle.” (e.g. the vote to authorize force in Iraq) Which to translate means that because everyone is wrong, no one is wrong so chill out with this accountability. Read More…

SuperSpade in Chi-town at Blogging While Brown

Yes, I am corny for trying to make the title rhyme but I wanted to share with you all that I will be at Blogging While Brown this weekend in Chicago. From the website

The purpose of Blogging While Brown is to give Bloggers of Color an opportunity to meet each other for the first time, discuss current issues affecting Bloggers of Color, and learn about the latest technology that will assist them with publishing their work. Blogging While Brown was created in response to widespread dissatisfaction with the amount of diversity in some of the largest blogging conferences. A critical mass of Bloggers of Color has yet to attend these established conferences, however the initial response from Bloggers of Color to the idea of holding their own conference has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Bloggers of Color are excited about a conference, for, by and about them and look forward to moving beyond the single panel or discussion focusing on diversity that are typically featured at some of the larger blogging conferences.

The first conference was held in Atlanta, GA in July 2008.  The second conference is being held in Chicago, IL on June 19-20, 2009.

I was upset that I wasn’t able to make it out last year but fortunately, I was able to kick it with Gina from What About Our Daughters (AN INCREDIBLE BLOG, BTW) who originally came up with the concept of Blogging While Brown. Gina was on my panel, Black Blogging Beyond Obama at Netroots Nation last year and I don’t say this often about people but Gina is the truth. I will be live blogging and providing new insights for my SuperSpade family. And if there are any SuperSpade family in Chicago, leave a comment and let me know what’s happening.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

Where did I put that public option?

President Obama, bi-partisanship is over-rated. I understand you want a bi-partisan health care plan but as you often point out, “We shouldn’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.” Well here is the thing, many of us support single-payer but let’s not be crass here and pretend like a public option is perfect and therefore has to be off the table.

President Obama, Republicans and other special interests will not give you health care on a silver platter. Having said that, it is disconcerting when the bulk of your supporters want to see a public option when the public option was missing from the first draft of health care legislation coming out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee (HELP).

The fight SHOULD NOT BE, “How can we lower costs if we can’t get a public option,” but rather, “This is the public plan and we want your input on how it should be implemented.” I understand some of the Democrats timidity when they were in the Senate but let’s not play the sixty-vote game. If Republicans want to filibuster health care reform in this economy, because of a public option, I say LET THEM DO IT!!! I know you care about bringing together and you should continue to do so but this is a time to fight!!!!

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

Not dead…

This is a public service announcement. Michigan is not going to die. Despite all the negative publicity Detroit and Michigan are receiving, we will rise.

Yesterday, I attended my cousin Cortni’s graduation from Mumford High (a Detroit Public School) and it was held at Chene Park. For those that don’t know, Chene Park is a concert venue off the Detroit River that is outside and covered by a giant tent. So during the entire graduation, it is pouring down raining and it is cold. So much so that the rain started to come in sideways and if you didn’t have a warm coat, you were probably miserable.

For a period of time, I was fascinated at how the wind and rain chopped up the river. And when I looked up to my right, I noticed the Renaissance Center where General Motors is headquartered. I almost didn’t notice the large GM sign through the clouds and rain. And the reason why Detroit (Michigan) will not die because there is a huge swath of people that live here now whose parents, grandparents or great grandparents came up from the South to make a living to make life better for their offspring. They didn’t come to help out Detroit but that’s what they ended up doing. The ship is making the necessary turns but it is only because the same drive that drove people to move up North is the same moxie that keeps Detroiters and Michiganders smiling amongst so much despair.

Stay up fam,

What Makes a Black Man?

I penned an article for the Rising Oak Foundation Newsletter that was published this week called “What Makes a Black Man?”

It’s the first of a two-part series on the topic. Here’s an excerpt:

The responsible man is always accountable in everything he engages in. The responsible man has a sense of accountability that actively denies hypocrisy wherever it tries to creep in. The responsible man is healthily consistent in his worldview, while be sensitive and introspective enough to realize that he may need to update his view from time to time.

Rising Oak does a lot of great work around the country empowering communities and organizations that focus on strengthening the quality of the lives of Black boys.

Enjoy the piece, and stay tuned for part 2.

One Love. One II.

Hate rises up

I find it ironic that the tragedy at the Holocaust museum took place after Homeland Security Napolitano was under enormous pressure to denounce her report that warned against an uptick in activity amongst White Supremacist groups. We know from this country that with great progress comes intense backlash.

And if there is still any doubt, we do not live in a post racial society. “But Brandon, that guy was crazy and was on the fringes of society.” This “he was crazy” argument doesn’t cut it with me. The killer (I refuse to his name) may have some warped views on our society but crazy, he is not. And the more we try to sweep issues like this under the rug, the more we delude ourselves of the need that dealing with hate must be done by us and some other representative.

And like the report from Homeland, some on the Right will respond by saying that “We denounce violence and never condone this sort of behavior. He acted alone and none of this can or should be connected to any conservative leaning commentators, so we shouldn’t over react here. I should also mention that there are some left-wing radicalas out there too, so we have to watch everybody.” In other words, “Things happen.”

So for all the people that praise the killing of George Tiller as saving babies, what will be the line for Stephen Johns? Better yet, I don’t want to know but do know that for as much as you claim to love America, America is not God. And please note Hebrews 10:30, “Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.”

Stay up fam,

Our sincerest condolences to Stephen Johns family and friends.